Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cleaning up the past

Palace of El Pardo in Madrid

The Law of Historical Memory introduced by the socialist government in 2007 was an attempt to heal the wounds of the 1936-39 Civil War and ensuing dictatorship. Fascist symbols have been withdrawn from public view and streets and plazas honouring Franco and his henchmen have been renamed.

Although the Palace of El Pardo, an old royal residence set in hunting grounds on the north-eastern outskirts of Madrid, served as el Caudillo's home following his victory in the Spanish Civil War until his death in 1975, Guided tours around the palace will no longer include a look into his private rooms.

Spain's department of National Heritage, which manages the site said tours would still be offered to those parts of the palace dating from between the 16th and 18th centuries because they had "high artistic value". But, a spokesman has confirmed that the monitoring committee of Historical Memory has decided that the tours will not include Franco's quarters, (which were redecorated in 1950s), because they say they are of no value.

This move does not extend to the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) the vast basilica in the hills outside Madrid built by Republican prisoners, which houses the tomb where the dictator himself is buried.

National Heritage this week announced the reopening of the controversial memorial following repair works. The memorial will now have tightened security measures, including airport style scanners, after calls by victims associations for the site to be destroyed.

The Civil War clearly left deep scars on the country which the Government want to remove and that is understandable. However, I would argue that you cannot simply erase the past as if it never happened, remnants of it  should remain to serve as a lesson for the future.

Many countries have suffered from dark days of repression at some point in their history, some still do. These are the times that define their nature today.

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