‘Artistic’ fascist symbol saved from scrapheap

The Spanish government has refused to remove an emblematic shield of the Franco dictatorship from a Bank of Spain window in Alicante because of its 'artistic value'.

'Artistic' fascist symbol saved from scrapheap
The obligation to remove public symbols of the dicatorship in Spain's Historical Memory law does not apply in special cases. Photo: -/AFP

Under Spain's Historical Memory Law, governments around Spain are obliged to remove symbols of the dictatorship of the right-wing leader Francisco Franco from all public buildings and spaces.

Franco ruled Spain from the end of the country's civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975, but his leadership caused deep divisions within Spanish society.

However, the window in Alicante was described by the government on Tuesday as being one of the most important pieces of Art-Deco from the 1945-1947 period , according to Spanish daily 20 Minutos.

Any modification, according to a parliamentary statement by the ruling Popular Party (PP), "would undermine the integrity of the whole" and would constitute a "risk" to its conservation.

It pointed out that the Spanish Historical Memory Law, which was introduced by the Socialist government in 2007 to give rights to victims of the dictatorship despite fierce opposition from the conservative PP, does not apply in cases of special "artistic, architectural or artistic-religious" value.

It went on to note that the obligation to remove the shields and emblems of the Franco government is overruled by this 'artistic value' clause.

The parliamentary statement was made in response to a question from United Left congressman Ricardo Sixto.

The government also gave the opinion that the window with the Francoist emblematic shield could serve as a historical record "to help future generations reflect on the period of history in which it was made in order to better pass on democratic values."

As such, it was decided that the 1981 Shield Law should also be applied, which orders the conservation of emblematic shields in buildings declared as historical monuments or in which the removal of the shields could damage the building's structure.

A number of precedents were cited to support the government's decision.

The United Left had asked the Bank of Spain last year to take advantage of renovation work in the building to remove the controversial decoration "once and for all" from the window of their trading floor in Alicante. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a special fund to exhume graves at the Valley of the Fallen, where thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictator Francisco Franco are buried.

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen
Women hold up pictures of their fathers and relatives, who were condemned to death during Franco’s dictatorship. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The Socialist government said it had set aside €665,000 ($780,000) to exhume some 33,000 victims whose remains lie behind a vast basilica near Madrid.

Franco was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975 but his remains were removed in 2019 and transferred to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montera told reporters that more than 60 families and international institutions had called for the exhumation of the victims to give relatives who suffered during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship “moral reparation”.

Campaigners estimate more than 100,000 victims from the war and its aftermath remain buried in unmarked graves across Spain —- a figure, according to Amnesty International, only exceeded by Cambodia.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works carried out by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid, in a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were dumped during the Spanish civil war. Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP

Built between 1940 and 1958 partly by the forced labour of political prisoners, the imposing basilica and the mausoleum of the Valley of the Fallen was initially intended for those who had fought for Franco.

But in 1959 the remains of many Republican opponents were moved there from cemeteries and mass graves across the country without their families being informed.

The crypts and ossuaries where some of the victims are buried are inaccessible as they were walled off at the time.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

As well as the Valley of the Fallen, his government is also focusing on identifying remains founds in mass graves across Spain.