For years the heirs of El Caudillo have resisted calls to open the Pazo de Meirás, a mock-fortress on the northern Galician coast outside the town of Sada, to the public, claiming it was an invasion of privacy.
But now the National Francisco Franco Foundation (FNFF) has taken over the management of the property and will throw open the doors to those who want to share in the “memories of Franco’s life and work”.
The statement issued on Monday describes the sumptuous turreted Pazo as “the most important unofficial residence of Franco” that today remains “one of the most emblematic places in Galicia, that is world famous, thanks in part to the glory of he who lived in it; probably the most important Spaniard since King Felipe II”.
The palace was built in 1893 by the writer Emilia Pardo Bazan but was ‘donated’ by the people of A Coruña to General Franco, a native of Galicia, in 1939, the year that he won the Spanish Civil War and began a 36-year dictatorship.
In truth, a voluntary 'popular subscription' was held to buy the property as a gift for Franco but those who failed to contribute risked being labelled as 'reds' or enemies of the state.
Whatsmore, dozens of local families claim that they were kicked off their farms when Franco decided to expand his hunting ground around the Poza, and in recent years there have been several unsuccessful attempts to claim back the property for the people.
Franco's widow and daughter file past his open coffin in November 1975. Photo: AFP
When Franco died in 1975, the country pile was left in the possession of his wife Carmen (who died in 1988) and only daughter, also Carmen who is 91 and is still a regular visitor the property to this day.
The sumptuous, turreted Pazo de Meiras castle, built in 1893, was given as a gift to the dictator by his own regime in 1939 at the end of the Civil War. Now the property of his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, 80, it was declared part of Galicia's cultural heritage in 1991.
The property was recognised as a site of special interest in 2013, a status that legally forced the owners to open the property to the public at least four days each month.
After initially refusing to allow public access and faced with fines of up to €60,000, the family relented. And have now handed over management to the Foundation, whose president is Carmen Franco Polo.
“This is an excellent opportunity to show the good public the greatness of the figure of Francisco Franco, to enhance tourism to Galicia and to promote Galician heritage across the world,” the Foundation said.
Left-wing parties are demanding that the Foundation to be removed from managing the site and guided tours.
“They cannot be allowed to transmit a manipulated version of history that causes great offence to the victims of Franco,” said a statement from the Galician Nationalist Bloc, a coalition of left-wing Galician nationalist parties.
The local A Coruña branch of the Association of Historical Memory (CRMHAC), a nationwide group that campaigns for justice for the victims of the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, has spoken out against the latest development at the Poza.
“It’s a disgrace that the Franco Foundation can use guided tours to a cultural site as an apology for the Franco regime,” said Goretti Sanmartin of the CRMHAC.
“Such things are not allowed to happen in other nations that suffered dictatorships…,” he said. “It would be unthinkable in Germany to honour Hitler as it would be in Italy with Mussolini.”