Historical memory

Spanish company tasked with lifting Franco’s gravestone hounded by far right

The brothers from the company responsible for lifting the tombstone of the Spanish dictator have been inundated with abuse and threatening phone calls

A van from the business that will raise Franco’s gravestone on its way to the Valley of the Fallen this Monday.
A van from the business that will raise Franco’s gravestone on its way to the Valley of the Fallen this Monday.Andrea Comas

It is a hectic week for the company Verdugo Jiménez Brothers Marble and Granite S. L.. Not because the business – which is based in Cuenca, in the central Castile-La Mancha region – has a lot of gravestones to make, but because it will help raise the tombstone of a grave belonging to a very particular person: Francisco Franco.

For agreeing to do this job, the owners of the company have been inundated with angry phone calls and threats from the far right. Indeed, the ongoing threats have forced the owners to report the incidents to the Civil Guard, as confirmed by one of the brothers. These days the brothers Juan Carlos and Lorenzo Verdugo are the subject of conversation in bars in Villamayor de Santiago, a town in Cuenca that is home to 2,500 people. Up until just a few days go, the brothers were working in their workshop without being hassled by the media, in the same discreet and calm way they have been working since they inherited the business from their father a decade ago.

I am not doing this for fame so that my name appears everywhere, I am doing this so that my daughters have everything they need

Company owner Lorenzo Verdugo

The company’s main business is in making gravestones and marble finishings, especially for indoor spaces. But while the exhumation of Fanco from the Valley of the Fallen has caused great national commotion, the Verdugo brothers did not expect their names to end up in the media, say people close to them. “They basically thought that this was going to stay in the town,” explain the sources.

Locals in the town say that the news has been an open secret for weeks, long before one of the company’s vans was photographed at the entrance to the Valley of the Fallen. The truck was bringing different tools and machines that will be needed to move and raise the dictator’s granite tombstone, which weighs nearly 2,000 kilos, according to sources close to the business. The logo of the business, which appears on the side of the van, confirmed the town’s suspicions. The contact details of their workshop – easily found with a simple Google search – were then shared on social media, often by users who showed support for Spain’s fascist-inspired party Falange on their accounts. Many even left company reviews with messages such as: “Grave vandals.”

The relentless hostile calls forced the owners to take their phone off the hook. In a matter of hours, their peaceful existence had come to an end. “We are fed up with this situation,” says Lorenzo Verdugo in a faltering voice. He confirms that they have received threats and reported the abuse to the Civil Guard.

It is a profanation. But I don’t judge these guys, it’s their job

Local from Villamayor de Santiago

It’s almost impossible to spot the humble workshop of the Verdugo brothers from the other buildings on the street where it is located. Two steel-sheet doors and a small sign identify it from the rest of the one-story homes. The door is opened by a man who prefers not to say his name, but says he is the brothers’ uncle. “They are very worried, it will be difficult to find them here,” he says in a low voice. Residents of the town say the same thing: “They have been seen less here recently.”

In one of the bars in the town, two elderly people discuss the Verdugos. “Everyone knows the brothers. They inherited the workshop and have done a magnificent job [...] They are good guys but you have to let the dead rest,” says one of them, in reference to Franco. “It is a profanation. But I’m not judging these guys, it’s their job,” adds another local from the town.

Lorenzo Verdugo is eager for the exhumation to be over and the remains of Franco reburied in the El Pardo-Mingorrubio cemetery. He and his brother have been caught in the crossfire of something that, they admit, is nothing more to them than a job. “I am not doing this for fame so that my name appears everywhere, I am doing this so that my daughters have everything they need. The rest doesn’t matter,” says Verdugo.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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