The residents of Águeda, in Salamanca, don’t want to talk. The village, which was founded by Francisco Franco in 1954, has been in the spotlight ever since its mayor, the former Socialist Party (PSOE) member Germán Florindo, made an offer to the family of the late Spanish dictator to take care of his remains once the Spanish government carries out its plan to exhume him from the Valley of the Fallen monument in Madrid.
The streets of the village are deserted. The few people who live there, around 60 of them the year round, hide in their white houses when they see a photographer or a journalist walking through the streets. There are no bars, no businesses and no open public space. Just a small club that is only open to paying members and has no fixed opening hours. Some of the residents do give their opinion on the matter, however.
One of them is Miguel Hernández, 40. “It sounds to me like a new crazy plan from the mayor and I think it will be impossible,” he says. “They haven’t consulted anyone and there was no vote on the matter. There is no social life in this place, which is why there is no public debate, and it’s an initiative of his and four friends who are Francoists, even though they won’t admit it. Older people, who have no political training, perhaps they see it more positively because they are grateful to Franco for founding the village.”
Another resident, a senior, recalls her childhood in the village and expresses her rejection of the proposal. “I was here until the age of 20 and they made us sing [far-right anthem] Cara al sol. At that time they were all fascists and no one could talk about anything. I think that bringing that man here is ridiculous and it bothers me when I bring up those memories. They should respect all of the residents.”
Marce López, who spends summers in Águeda but lives in Barcelona, doesn’t think that the mayor’s plan will come to anything. “I don’t want them to bring Franco,” she says. “My great-grandfather was shot and I wouldn’t be very amused to see people coming to see Franco right in front of my house. I don’t see monuments that pay tribute to dictators in other countries. It started out as a joke among friends and it’s gone too far. They don’t have anyone’s permission.”
Mayor Germán Florindo
Those who are in favor of the idea argue that it could boost tourism if the body of the dictator was brought there. “We have a government that is working as an undercover dictatorship and it’s shameful,” says another resident in reference to the current Socialist Party (PSOE) administration of Pedro Sánchez, which has used an emergency decree to pass the legislation to exhume Franco.
Speaking anonymously, the woman adds that the mayor “is loved by a lot of people.” She continues: “I’m not a Francoist, but this place was founded by Franco and it’s logical that if he is taken out of the Valley of the Fallen, he should come here. What’s more, it would attract more people. They should write history books that tell the whole truth, and not just the truth of a few. I hope that things don’t lead us to a new civil conflict.”
There are those who also view the situation with humor. A group of men and women joke about the idea of moving the remains while they eat ice cream on the doorstep of a house. “We’re not from here, we are visiting, but we think it’s crazy,” one of them says. It’s also madness that we’re talking about this now, when the government should be more concerned about issues such as health and pensions.”
“I’m in contact with the Francisco Franco Foundation and they support the idea,” explains the mayor, Germán Florindo. He says that the family hasn’t replied, but insists that in the coming weeks he is thinking about visiting the Valley of the Fallen and formalizing the proposal. “In the end, they have the last word,” he says.
Florindo once belonged to the conservative Popular Party (PP), then to the PSOE, and now says that he is an independent, having left behind party affiliation when he put the idea into motion. “This idea is not influenced by any kind of ideology,” he says. “I don’t belong to any party and no one can tell me what to think. Franco founded Águeda and it’s logical that this should be his resting place.”
While the mayor is unclear on how the proposal should be executed, he insists that the main objective is to put Águeda on the map and to encourage the arrival of tourists. “A few months ago no one knew about us and now we are famous. In fact, just a few days ago they offered me the chance to appear on a TV reality show and I said yes. Now I’m not so sure, we’ve been overwhelmed by all of this. Let’s see how it all turns out.”
English version by Simon Hunter.