I.

In case you didn’t know, Spanish dictator
General Francisco Franco’s mortal remains are buried at the Valley of the
Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a
hideous fascist monument built by the forced labour of political prisoners on a
mountainside north of Madrid to commemorate all those who died during the
Spanish Civil War, though he himself died peacefully in his bed in 1975 at the
age of 82.

However, he is about to be disturbed 44
years after his death. When social democrat Pedro Sánchez became president of
the Spanish government in June 2018 via a motion of no confidence in his
predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party, he undertook to
have the nationalist leader exhumed and removed from the memorial site, symbol
of the dictator and his repressive regime and a pilgrimage destination for his
supporters to this day.

At the same time, Sánchez offered to involve the
family of the late dictator in the decision as to where the corpse should be
re-buried. Right then, they said, if we cannot avoid the exhumation, we’ll have
grandfather Francisco moved to the family crypt in the La Almuneda cathedral in
Madrid. It’s where his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal
Martínez-Bordiu
, Marques
of Villaverde lie buried.

Pedro Sánchez is not very happy about this. If the old
tyrant’s resting place at the Valley of the Fallen demands of his supporters some
effort in travelling around 60 kilometres from the capital to pay their
respects to their hero, La Almuneda is slap bang in the middle of Madrid and along
with the Royal Palace one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Imagine the
tomb of the Generalísimo being part
of this!

So the Government has turned down this proposal,
allegedly on account of the threat it poses to public order, with the
possibility of violent confrontations breaking out between supporters and
opponents of the man who ruled over Spain for 36 years (1939-1975), not to mention the
threat of possible terrorist attacks. In other words: technical but no
political arguments against the late dictator capturing this top spot at the very
heart of the capital.

So far, an alternative to La Almuneda has not been
decided on, though there is talk of the cemetery of Mingorrubio, El Pardo
(Madrid), where his wife Carmen Polo lies buried in a grave that belongs to the
country’s National Patrimony, as, incidentally, does the Valle de los Caídos memorial.

This soul-searching quest for an
appropriate place to dispose of the remains of the man who is responsible for close
to half a million deaths among the population may sound perverse, but as we
know: Spain is different.

There’s no hurry, says President Sánchez laconically. Franco’s
mortal remains have been where they are for 40 years, so as far as he is concerned
a few more months are neither here nor there.

II

The
other threat of exhumation is of more concern to us. For a while, it looked as
if the mortal remains of Emilia Llanos Medina would have to be removed from
their niche in the Cemetery of San José in Granada owing to non-payment of long
overdue maintenance rates. She died childless on 29 August 1967 and there are no family descendents to take on the
payments.

Why is this of such concern to us? The ‘marvellous’
Emilia Llanos was in the words of our poet FGL a ‘spiritual
treasure’ among the women of Granada and ‘divine emblem of the 20th Century’, worthy
of ‘all his admiration and fervour’. Thus, his dedication to her in the copy of
Impressions and Landscapes he gave
her, a few days after them having been introduced, on 29 August 1918. She and
Lorca remained the closest of friends up until his murder eighteen years later.
Emilia was similarly close all her life to the musician Manuel de Falla and especially
his sister María del Carmen.

Fortunately, we know now that Emilia will
not end up in an unmarked grave – ‘a pauper’s grave’ as they used to say – thanks
to the intervention of aware local politicians, who pointed out her key role in
the cultural life of twentieth century Granada, allowing her tomb to be
recognised as worthy of maintenance by the city council. This, even though she
did not figure in the official list of local dignitaries in receipt of formal honours
and distinctions from the city.

Her memory may no have the social impact as
that of the late caudillo, Francisco
Franco Bahamonde, but it does look as if she will be able to continue to rest in peace.