A few weeks ago we were driving back to Madrid from Santander. Since we weren’t in any rush we took secondary roads, preferring small villages and scenic views to the boredom and greydom of the highway. Behind one bend I thought I saw something behind the bushy trees, but didn’t really catch what it was and there were no signs, anyhow. After a few kilometres I definitely saw something: a monument, further along the road, appearing over the trees. We slowed down and waited for the widening of the road, the parking, the signs. Nothing. We were going so slowly that this time we didn’t miss the access to the monument….however it wasn’t a real access. It had been, once, but it had then been closed by the guard-rail. The hazards went on, the car was left by the side of the road, the cameras were picked up and we crossed the road.
If you think about, what can the government do? It’s a monument for the fallen during one battle or another. There are names of dead soldiers on both sides of it. Yes, it’s a falangista symbol. Yes, it was built during a terrible, terrible dictatorship that most don’t like to remember, a few miss and no one speaks about. Yes, it reminds everyone about the Generalissimo. But how can anyone give permission to destroy the piece of granite (or whatever it is) in which names of dead soldiers were carved into? What about those men, probably younger than they should have been (is there ever a right age to die?) that died? Who knows if they, too, were Falangistos. Who knows if they believed in what they were fighting for, or if they were the Nth son of a poor farmer and had to enrol to not go hungry? Who knows whether they were doing it for the money, for the glory or for simple survival?
Demolish a Fascist icon or destroy the memory of a battalion? It’s an impossible decision. Checkmate for the Spanish government. Maybe what they did – close up the access, leave it to deteriorate, not put any effort in its up keeping – was the best thing. But then comes the age-old moral question: isn’t watching someone kill themselves and not doing anything a bit like committing murder?
On a happier, less serious note, here are some photos of orchids (not only!) that we saw around the monument.