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09 Nov 2012 11:56 PM by eggcup Star rating. 567 posts Send private message

Am I alone in my experience regarding the subject of Franco being completely taboo?  So much of the explanation of how Spain is what it is now, is based on history and obviously not just by what Franco did to the country, but he obviously had a massive impact.  So why is it that we very rarely hear him mentioned?  Apart from my husband's beloved barber, who told us some gruesome tales of what went on in the Civil War and its aftermath, absolutely no-one we know speaks of it. I think this is very different to how the German population dealt with Hitler, as they really tried to come to terms with their history by bringing it all out into the open.   Is this reticence regarding Franco peculiar to my Spanish friends, who are not intellectuals, or do others find this is also the case?  Can we talk about it?



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10 Nov 2012 1:09 AM by tamaraessex Star rating in Colmenar, Malaga. 508 posts Send private message

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It's known as El Pacto de Olvidado".

Zapatero began to break the pact, and supported (and funded) disinterrment of unmarked graves. That has now slowed again. Read Jason Webster's "Guerra" for a very readable, enjoyable (yes really) and well-researched account of the war and the period since.

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10 Nov 2012 7:43 AM by scubamike Star rating in Murcia province . 219 posts Send private message

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Another good read on this subject :-

Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past   by Giles Tremlett
 

Available as an Amazon download





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10 Nov 2012 8:04 AM by gill556 Star rating in orihuela. 69 posts Send private message

I once asked my Spanish teacher if we could have a lesson about Franco, just the 2 of us in my own home and he whispered, 'we don't talk about him', this was after looking out of the window to make sure nobody was coming to the door.





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10 Nov 2012 8:48 AM by tamaraessex Star rating in Colmenar, Malaga. 508 posts Send private message

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Yes ScubaMike - that's the one! Giles Tremlett is a genius -that book was superb! In fact l think that's the one l was thinking of, for a really good understandable analysis. Jason Webster is good too, and perhaps an easier read.

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10 Nov 2012 1:46 PM by eggcup Star rating. 567 posts Send private message

Thanks Tamara and Scubamike.  I've just ordered the Giles Tremlett book from Amazon (£3.27 including postage), so thanks for the recommendation.  In terms of the 'agreement' not to talk about Franco and what happened in the Civil War and its aftermath, I wonder if the Spanish or German method is best.  Psychologically, denial is seen as something negative that stops you from dealing with things, and I think this is a sort of national denial, by brushing it all under the carpet.  It's easy for me to say, not having gone through it, but what about all these other scandals, like the stealing of babies?  This carried on even after the Franco days.  Perhaps by not dealing with bringing things out into the open (now that a good length of time has passed), negative aspects of the culture are destined to continue, like the corruption, for one.  Look at what happened to Balthasar Garzon.



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10 Nov 2012 3:09 PM by Roly2 Star rating in Almeria. 646 posts Send private message

 It is not just the Spanish who don't talk much about the Civil War.  Until very recently, it was not a much discussed topic in universities anywhere - maybe subsumed by WW2?     I do think though that there is a growing interest in it, and that the Spanish will open up.  Films such as El Laberinto del Fauno and the recent debate over Lorca's body is definitely opening things up.   

Civil Wars are always the worst to come to terms with, and it is still very raw for a lot of the Spanish (remember the reaction when Alex Ferguson referred to Real Madrid as Franco's men).





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10 Nov 2012 3:26 PM by eggcup Star rating. 567 posts Send private message

Yes, we have the Guillermo del Toro trilogy of Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone and Cronos.  I've only seen Pan's Labyrinth once (a few years ago) because although it is a brilliant film you have to be in the right mood to watch it.  We saw The Devil's Backbone two nights ago, which is what got me thinking about the Civil War.  It was also brilliant.  Hopefully I won't wait another couple of years to see the last one. 

I was thinking the same about Civil Wars versus other wars, but there was an element of Civil War in WW2 in terms of the Holocaust and they did still manage to tackle the issues very publicly after a certain time had elapsed.  On the other hand, given all the other problems Spain is going through, maybe this won't be first on the list, although an understanding of history is critical I think as an aid to moving forward in a more positive way.



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29 Jan 2013 9:48 AM by amogles Star rating in El Campello (holiday.... 174 posts Send private message

I don't think you need to look just at Franco or the Civil War to understand Spain today. On the contrary, many things that happened before Franco and many things that happened since have had a far more significant influence. But Franco kindles people's imaginations in that caricaturesque way that more mundane influences don't and people attribute things to him that he merely made use of, or were merely around in his time, but that he didn't cause or invent. To see the footprint of history on modern Spain, you can for example look at the burocracy and heavy hand that once ruled an empire that included most of South and Central America, and built at a time that they didn't have telegpahs and railways as the British Empire did. There is a Russian saying that says "The skies are high and Moscow is far far away" and I think that was true for Spain too. People started interpreting the emperor's orders creatively and that is how corruption began, and little kingdoms sprouted that showed one face to the higher authority and another to its own people. And then imagine what happened to that when said empire collapsed and many of those civil servants returned home to Spain. If anything, my personal studies of history and (peacetime) Franco suggest that in comparison to earlier rulers, Franco did very little, and apart from the Civil War, there is little he changed or achieved, apart from just keeping the mills rolling and at best following trends that other countries were also going through (that is on the social and functional level, of course if you were on the wrong side politically, you wouldn't see it that way). And maybe this is the big difference between Spain and Germany, and explains why many people don't think there is anything needing to be talked about.

Having said that, many Spaniards i know do talk about Franco and have a lot to tell, including a lot that you won't read in history books. Only they don't mention it publically.





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29 Jan 2013 10:10 AM by tamaraessex Star rating in Colmenar, Malaga. 508 posts Send private message

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I agree Eggcup that it's hard to get more than a shrug when Franco is mentioned. One remnant of his influence is, I think, strong in many small villages .... the mystery of the two shops! My ex lives in a very small village, about 60-70 houses, with one shop near one end and another similar shop near the other end. But people don't go to the nearest. The older folk walk past the nearby shop and all the way to the furthest shop. Because back in the guerra, the grandfather of the people running one shop was on one side, and the family of the people running the other shop were on the other side. And eventually I worked out that the people who hang out Barça flags on football nights, all go to the shop at one end, whereas the Real Madrid supporters all go to the shop at the other end. Finally it all made sense.


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29 Jan 2013 4:49 PM by mac75 Star rating in Valencia. 412 posts Send private message

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When I discovered this thread today I was quite surprised as it isn’t normally a topic of discussion amongst expats but I too feel it is of great importance when getting to understand Spanish culture and society. It’s no surprise that the Spanish don’t talk about Franco, well in fact they do but within the family and behind closed doors not normally to strangers, well at least the really personal stories. My wife is Spanish and I have been listening to stories from the civil war and post war for over 10 years. Stories that would rip your heart out and tear it to shreds. Stories that even to this day fill their eyes with uncontrollable tears of pain and compassion. The suffering was so much and so difficult for so many that it is impossible for it not to shape the fabric of modern day society.

However I wouldn’t compare the Spanish to the Germans. The way I see it the Germans had to come to terms with the terrible crimes of genocide carried out by Hitler and his regime and actively acknowledge to the world all the pain and suffering that had been inflicted on others throughout the Second World War. The difference lies in the fact that when the war ended, Hitler died and so did his regime, opening the door for a fresh start and a new Germany. In Spain the civil war ended in 1939 but Franco ruled until his death in 1975. The civil war and the post-war period were times of real hardship and pain. Taboo? It was more a question of sheer panic and the fear of being overheard by a nationalist than not wanting to talk about it. This 'forced silence' was inbred for decades due to the fear of repercussions. I have heard so many stories first hand that you really get an idea of what Spain was like then and I can assure you it is no surprise they don't talk about it much nowadays. I think it would be great if all these stories came out as they are not in the history books and they would certainly give another insight into why the Spanish are what they are today.  It was such a terrible period for so many families. It is no wonder that the Spanish are one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to donating and helping people in need. Their family union and need to help one and other just to survive is still very present in the minds of the elderly, which is probably why they don’t think twice when children and grandchildren have to return home when they do not have work or any income. If it weren’t for the retired pensioners keeping families afloat in Spain, the country would be in an even more catastrophic condition. Children that were heroes at the age of 8 are once again heroes at the age of 80. My wife’s family went through incredible hardship and injustice, losing many family members to executions, torturing and other acts of abomination. My mother in law when she was 8 witnessed along with her brothers and sisters terrible scenes, watching how a Nationalist 'neighbour' from their village laughingly kicked her father’s mutilated body after a public execution into a mass grave full of corpses.  The stories are spine chilling and just the thought of living with fear for so, so many years it's hardly a surprise they don't talk about it much. 


This message was last edited by mac75 on 29/01/2013.


This message was last edited by mac75 on 29/01/2013.

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29 Jan 2013 4:57 PM by Roly2 Star rating in Almeria. 646 posts Send private message

 I am sure you are right in every thing you say.  But what really interests me is why there has been so little interest in the Civil War outside of Spain.  It seems that it is only now becoming almost fashionable for academics to look at it and discuss the implications and the long term effects. 

To get a sense of the suffering of Spain, you only have to look at Guernica.  Picasso got it right, and I cannot look at it without my eyes filling up.   I hope your wife and family continue to come to terms with it.





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29 Jan 2013 5:29 PM by mac75 Star rating in Valencia. 412 posts Send private message

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 Hi roly I believe they have come to terms with it, they have a strength and a resilience to be proud of, time heals or at best, conceals most wounds and now I would say there are just sad memories.

Maybe there has been so little interest the civil war outside of Spain due to the fact that Franco ruled for so long after the war ended, so freedom of speech was not a possibility hence blocking international knowledge of what was going on and maybe it has just been 'forgotten' with time, while at the same time, it is still too recent for historians and journalists to dig deep into the subject matter without it backfiring on them, as it did with Garzon. So it is still a very 'delicate' topic which is why many shy away from it. However I get the feeling that more and more people are prepared to talk about it now.



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29 Jan 2013 5:47 PM by amogles Star rating in El Campello (holiday.... 174 posts Send private message

Well, you've got to remember that Franco was a political cameleon if ever there was one. When Nationalism was the in thing, he was first among the nationalists and friends of the greatest of them. In the post-war period he managed to keep a low profile and when being anti-Communist became the in thing, there he was holding hands with Nixon and praising the free market. He did a de Gaulle on Spain's colonies when he realised that having colonies was out of fashion. And of course when he was old he slipped more into the role of a kindly father-figure and let others run the country and take the blame for unpopular decisions. So all in all there isn't really  a "the Franco" but more a succesion of different Francos meaning you can always find one to despise but another to agree with. That's why you can't really comare him to Hitler or Stalin. He's just too elusive. I only know one person well who is old enough and to have any clear memories of the Civil War and that person is a bit evasive, although I understand he was a POW. Of the other Spaniards I know well, they only remember the Franco of later years and although they will mumble something about having had it tough back then, they don't criticise him outright.





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29 Jan 2013 7:23 PM by Johnmcmahon Star rating. 335 posts Send private message

 [IMG]http://i50.tinypic.com/2w6tef7.jpg[/IMG]

 

this is in Glasgow

we celebrated our surviviors from the quinta brigada a few years ago

 

no passerant

better to die on your feet than to live forever on your knees





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29 Jan 2013 7:26 PM by Johnmcmahon Star rating. 335 posts Send private message

29 Jan 2013 7:33 PM by Roly2 Star rating in Almeria. 646 posts Send private message

 Radio 4 have been doing quite a bit in their homage to George Orwell - interesting stuff.  I think we do forget how many people from the UK were involved.   

Fantastic statue - I have never seen it.





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29 Jan 2013 8:24 PM by eggcup Star rating. 567 posts Send private message

Thanks for reviving this thread, as I obviously think it's an important subject.  As a foreigner, people never say much to me about the subject.  My husband's old barber was an exception and told him about a pregnant woman being shot on the church steps in town.  And Tamara, there is exactly the same situation with the two shops in our village - I always wondered why a friend would walk to the other side of town for her cigarettes and suspected that there was some historical cause.  The Barca-Real Madrid division also fits in with this.



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30 Jan 2013 1:03 PM by maddiemack Star rating in Grantham, Lincolnshi.... 194 posts Send private message

Oh what a great thread!  I am just about to order the recommended book and we have watched the two films you mention, Eggie, and will be on the lookout for the third.  We recorded Pandora's Box as one of the best films we have ever seen and we will watch it again when, as you say, we are in the mood.  It was difficult to watch.

We met one of our dearest friends in Catalunya when we lived there.  We had been told there was an 'odd' Englishman living not far from us with his English wife and, one day when we were walking past his house, he came out to say, 'Hello' and invited us in for a cup of tea.  Paco was the most informed person we had ever met concerning events in Spain during the wars and we learned much from him.  We have never seen so many books on the subject in one house!  Yes, we did find him a rather unusual character compared to most of the other expats we met.....and we loved him for it!  

It transpired, although he was born in Derbyshire and lived there up until he moved to Catalunya in his forties, he was actually Catalan by birth.  During Franco's reign, Catalan was forbidden to be spoken (unbelievable!) and anyone caught speaking it was punished.  Paco's mother was imprisoned when she was 'caught out' and she would have died there if her husband (Paco's father) hadn't planned her escape with friends and got her out.  They managed to get to the UK, where Paco was born.  

Once we knew Paco was Catalan by birth, all the 'odd' characters made sense....his wonderful sense of humour, his way of shrugging when things didn't go according to plan and saying, 'Never mind', also his absolute refusal to see things any other way than his own....even if it didn't do him any good!  

Paco is also one of the kindest people we have ever met and, incredibly, he is very trusting.  He rarely talks about his parents, who died when they were relatively young as 'They had such a hard life' but their stories affected him deeply and he tries to understand what happened to his parents and why by reading about it. Sometimes he is just 'sad' and we leave him be until he feels more like his usual, happy-go-lucky self.  Paco still lives in Spain with his new partner (his wife never did understand him) and we'll be visiting him again this year. Mi casa es su casa...



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