Friday, October 21, 2011

Don't mention the civil war!

Just about caught up after a fortnight in Andalucia and ready to start blogging again. Andalucia is everything on expects from the guide book: wonderful scenery, centuries of architectural history reflecting that southern Spain was territory contested between Christian and Muslim worlds.

With my interest in more recent territory, I looked out for signs of commemmoration of the Spanish civil war. I realised, however, that since the return of democracy the so-called 'pact of silence' has meant there is little recognition by public bodies of the legacy of the war. Avoiding raking up its poisonous legacy was no doubt intended to help embed a new democratic system.

So I was surprised to see engraved on the facade of the Sagradio church in Granada the name Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, a Falangist leader, who might have become a rival to Franco for the leadership of the nationalist causes, but who was executed by the Republican government in 1936. Around the inscription red paint has been splattered on the wall to symbolise blood.

I ask the guide of our walking tour about this. She tells me that recent legislation (presumably passed by the current socialist government) requires the removal of Francoist memorials from public buildings. But the church is exempt from this. It has clearly been unwilling to remove the de Rivera inscription and this has, quite rightly, led to protests.

While I knew perfectly well that the Roman Catholic Church aggressively supported the nationalist side in the civil war, one might have hoped that today it could be a focus for reconciliation, but evidently not. I ask the guide to what extent the church remains a right-of-centre political force in Spain, in a way that is not really the case in Britain. Diplomatically, she says: 'The church is still very powerful in Spain, and has plenty to say about Spanish society.'

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