It is 33 years since General Franco died and now the regional government of Melilla has stated that its bronze statue of the dictator will be removed within the next 15 days.
Once the statue of Franco comes down there will be no more commemorative figures left in the nation’s streets to the man who ruled the country from the end of the Civil War in 1939 and his death in November 1975. The last statute on the mainland, in Santander, was removed last December.
Daniel Conesa, spokesperson for the Melilla regional government, said the statue would be kept in storage then transferred to a military museum.
The North African enclave of Melilla is removing the statue of ‘El Caudillo’ to comply with the controversial Law of Historical Memory. Under the 2007 law local authorities must remove symbols of the dictator or his supporters such as statues or plaques and change road names associated with the regime. But many right-wing local authorities have resisted attempts by campaigners to force them to comply with the legislation.
General Franco had close associations with North Africa and Melilla had refused to take down the statue of claiming it was erected in 1975 as a tribute to the “commander of the Legion of Melilla”, not as homage to the dictator. Franco fought in the Spanish Rif war against Moroccan tribesman and, in 1921, led a partial victory in Melilla. Of course he also launched his attacks at the start of the Civil War from North Africa.
I had my doubts about the Melilla claim until I saw the statue. I have to admit that unless I had read the plaque I would not have recognised the young Franco as the famed dictator.
My view has always been that how Spain deals with the memories of the Civil War and dictatorship is for Spaniards alone to decide, especially those who lived through those times.
I admit that my basic sympathies are with the left and those who suffered under the Franco regime. However I also recognise that many in Spain supported the Nationalist ideals and do so to in some degree to this day. What worries me is that in the drive to balance the books of history their legitimate ‘historic memory’ is being denied and swept away as if it never happened. It did and has shaped the Spain of today.