Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Forty Years Later: Franco and protest

1975 is a year that will never be forgotten in Spain's history. In Mallorca, as elsewhere in the country, they knew that the end was coming. Among them was a group of idealists, many of them anarchists, who convened in secret in Palma, dreaming of a utopian society that would see a move to communal agrarian living. On walls were posters of Che Guevara. Talk was also of sex, religion and politics, of debating the meaning of the film released in 1973, "The Spirit of the Beehive", with its metaphor of disintegration started by the war. There was talk also of direct action, an invoking of a different spirit, the students' uprising in Paris some years before.

In February there was a protest in Palma. In March the offices of the "Diario de Mallorca" were bombed by fascists: a court was to fine four people 2,000 pesetas the following month. There was a further illegal march on 1 May in the capital. At the end of June, there was a declaration of a democratic "board" for the Balearics. On 17 July there was another protest: over four thousand people demonstrated against the development of the project to create the Parc de la Mar. In September, the head of the Movimiento in the Balearics was replaced. Certain mayors were to resign shortly afterwards. On 25 October a demonstration of "commitment" in Madrid featured in news broadcasts. On the balcony were General Franco and King Juan Carlos. On 20 November, Franco died.

1975 was a year of jockeying for position. The mayors who resigned did so as they objected to the imposition of a more hardline head of the Movimiento Nacional, which was effectively the totalitarian mechanism through which Franco governed. More moderate mayors knew what was coming, as everyone else did. Or sensed at any rate.

The fortieth anniversary of the death of Franco will be ignored. Officially anyway. But within Spain, within Mallorca, there beat the hearts of some who retain a commitment to the Falange, to fascism, to Franco. 20 November this year may well pass without incident and with little comment. Or it may not.

In London, the mayor of Palma, José Hila, has been beaming for the cameras. José always beams, albeit he was beaming less when confronted with the need to deal with the police corruption affair. Away in London, he was removed from the incidents in the Feixina park. At an event that was organised to voice opposition to the likely demolition of the monument, built to commemorate the loss of life on the Nationalists' warship, the "Baleares", during the Civil War, there were scuffles. The organisers were the "ultra-conservative" Hazte Oír, the opposition came from the Memòria de Mallorca: one against demolition, the other in favour. It was the brandishing of a Republican flag which really inflamed things, though the waving of a Falange flag might also not have been a wise idea. Both sides condemned the incidents and each other.

Hila's administration is determined to demolish the monument. The rhetoric that has come from the town hall, not from Hila as such, has been strident. There will be no further discussion on the matter. The monument will go some time in the new year. The National Police may be needed.

The monument has inflamed passions which arguably could have been left unmoved. Was there a groundswell of opinion agitating for the monument's destruction? No, but the town hall has decreed it should go anyway. The association which promotes the preservation of cultural heritage in urban areas, Arca, has been blamed for stirring the pot. It says the monument should stay: not for political reasons, purely because it is a symbol of heritage as opposed to a symbol of Francoism.

But Arca shouldn't be blamed. The association has merely voiced an opinion, as have many others. These opinions would probably not have been uttered, however, had the town hall just let sleeping dogs lie. It has chosen not to. The various political parties are all having their say. El Pi suggests that perhaps it's for the best if the monument does go. That way, there will not be grounds for future incidents such as the ones on Sunday when a wreath was laid to those who lost their lives on the "Baleares". Possibly so, but passions are such that the National Police will surely have to be on stand-by when the day comes. 20 November might also be another flashpoint.

If you look back to what happened forty years ago, what was the protest about the Parc de la Mar all about? Essentially, it was one against a project that was a symbol of a Francoist town hall. The administration couldn't have been anything other than Francoist. That is how things were, but Francoist it was. Who now protests that the Parc de la Mar is a symbol of Francoism?

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