At Spanish Mausoleum, a New Move for 'Justice'

Body of fascist leader Primo de Rivera will be removed from Spain's ex-Valley of the Fallen
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2023 7:54 AM CDT
4 Years After Franco Was Exhumed, Another Big Dig
A friar walks in front of the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum, on the outskirts of Madrid.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

In 2019, Spain exhumed the remains of dictator Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum outside Madrid. Now, a second controversial name, tied to a fascist movement that supported Franco's regime, will be removed by his own family from the mausoleum and brought to a new resting place. The nation's presidency minister called the move to exhume Falangist founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera—also the son of dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, who ruled over Spain from 1923 to 1930—"another step in the resignification of the valley," per Reuters. "No person or ideology that evokes the dictatorship should be honored or extolled there," Felix Bolanos said on Friday.

Tens of thousands of people are buried at the basilica, renamed last year to the Valley of Cuelgamuros—many of them victims of the Franco regime who were disinterred from across Spain and brought to the mausoleum, where they were buried anonymously. The renaming came last year as part of the nation's "Democratic Memory" law, brought into play by Spain's current Socialist government and meant to bring "justice, reparation, and dignity" to those who died in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39 and Franco's dictatorship afterward, per the Guardian.

The family of Primo de Rivera, who was executed in 1936 after being accused of conspiring against Spain's government, says they decided to exhume his body Monday and rebury it in the San Isidro Cemetery in Madrid, rather than wait for the government to do so under the new law. "The exhumation process should, and will, remain a strictly private family affair so that it doesn't become a public spectacle that could lead to confrontations between Spaniards," the family said in a statement, per Spain's ABC.

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The news has proven frustrating to family members of others buried in the basilica, some of whom have been waiting for years for their own exhumations. "It's all been little steps—unless you're the family of Primo de Rivera, in which case, you ask for it and you get it straight away," Purificacion Lapena, whose grandfather and granduncle were buried there without their families' consent after they were executed in the early part of the civil war, tells the Guardian. (More Spain stories.)

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