What's in a name? Franco's memory divides
a Spanish town
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[April 24, 2019]
By Susana Vera and Silvio Castellanos
GUADIANA DEL CAUDILLO, Spain (Reuters) - A
small town that owes its origin and name to Francisco Franco may not be
a decisive battleground in Sunday's national election, but it epitomizes
how the late dictator's legacy and the rise of the far right are
dividing voters across Spain.
Led by a mayor from the nationalist Vox party, Guadiana del Caudillo
resisted a 2007 law that formalized condemnation of Franco's regime and
ordered its symbols removed from public view.
This defiance cost the town of 2,500 inhabitants much-needed state
funds. Franco's title "El Caudillo" (the leader) remains part of its
name and a plaque commemorating his visit to launch its construction in
1951 adorns the town hall, complete with the regime's eagle symbol and
protected under bullet-proof glass.
In the run-up to one of the tightest elections in decades, opinion polls
show that Vox, a newcomer on Spain's political landscape, will become
the first far-right party to sit in parliament since 1982.
One of Vox's campaign promises is to repeal the 2007 law.
"Why should you remove (the name) of someone who has done good things?
That's my opinion," said 94-year-old Mateo Plaza, one of the town's
first settlers under Franco's "colonization" plan for Spain's arid
Activists from a group called Guadiana Awake, which seeks the removal of
the Francoist symbols and has organized rallies of several hundred
people in the town, have a different view.
"The Caudillo has not given us anything, he has made us suffer. We do
not owe anything to that dictator," said the group's spokeswoman Ana
Plaza, 34, who is not related to Mateo.
Franco's regime killed or imprisoned tens of thousands to stamp out
dissent, and up to 500,000 combatants and civilians died in the war
between his forces and leftist Republicans.
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Old pictures belonging to Vicenta Prado's family lie on a couch
after an interview with Reuters at the house where Prado's family
settled in the fifties in Guadiana del Caudillo, Spain, March 29,
2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Mayor Antonio Pozo, who joined Vox last year after leaving the
conservative People's Party, called a vote in 2012 on the town's
name. Residents voted for no change, but hundreds abstained.
The Extremadura regional Socialist government has since then
gradually cut tens of thousands of euros in funding to the town.
"If the Socialists win (town elections in May), the plaque is going
to be removed and the subsidies will come," said local resident
Vicenta Prado, criticizing Pozo's "incomprehensible love" for it. If
they lose she will leave the town, she said.
Pozo ordered the plaque shielded after it was damaged by vandals and
has argued in televised comments that it does not breach the law as
it does not praise Franco.
Vox says it does not endorse Franco politically, though its election
candidates include four former generals, two of whom signed a
pro-Franco petition last year.
Rather than any direct support for the dictatorship, this spells of
nostalgia, for a minority, for a more traditionalist, nationalist
time in the country's history.
(Writing and additional reporting by Elena Rodríguez; Editing by
Andrei Khalip and John Stonestreet)
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