Meades, Franco Building, Mass Tourism, 2019

By | March 4, 2020


Ferrol is an isolated port
on the Galician coast in north-west Spain. It was here that Francisco Franco,
who would become El Caudillo and the longest-lived of Europe’s
20th-century dictators, was born in 1892. In commemoration of that great
event, the city was made to bear the name El Ferrol Del
Caudillo from 1938-1982. Caudillo was the title
Franco gave himself. It means “leader” or “strongman”. Disputes over street names and place
names which celebrate the dictator still go on, getting on for half
a century after his death. Churchill called Franco “a gallant
Christian gentleman”. HG Wells corrected him –
“a murderous Christian gentleman”. From an early age,
the future murderer unquestioningly accepted the Christian dogma
that he was force-fed at school. Ferrol is also an arsenal,
a shipyard and a garrison. He accepted, too, a garrison’s
hierarchy as the natural order, Martial discipline,
martial asceticism, and martial mores. Add to those an oppressive,
omnipresent religious credulousness which infected all aspects of life. A borderline troubled loner,
Franco could watch pious pilgrims from northern Europe disembark
here on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Like so much in this
religion-contaminated country, the fortress which guards Ferrol’s
harbour bears the name of a saint. The fortress is holy,
it protects the port, and it is, in turn,
protected by a saint. In this case, St Philip,
who was reprimanded by Jesus at the Last Supper for asking,
“Lord, show us the Father.” The martial and the sacred
are bonded together. You don’t get one without the other. That indissoluble link would become
the defining aesthetic of Franco’s official architecture. The city’s cathedral
is dedicated to St Julian, patron of ferry men
and circus clowns. SCREAMING LAUGHTER This church is dedicated
to St Francis. St James, Santiago,
was one of the three apostles who witnessed Christ’s
transfiguration, which, like lycanthropy, is a common enough
form of shape shifting. This is what St James witnessed,
according to Mark’s gospel – “His raiment became shining,
exceeding white as snow, “so as no fuller on Earth
can white them.” The writing is sumptuous, dreamy,
art rather than dogma. CHANTING It was through Galicia that St James
brought Christianity to Spain. St James was assisted
in his proselytising task by the Virgin Mary,
who arrived at Muxia on the Galician coast in a boat
which turned to stone. The petrified remnants
of that boat have curative and predictive properties. They can treat Lyme disease,
phimosis, infertility, goitres, spots, rheumatism,
and liver lice. When St James returned to Judea,
Herod beheaded him. His headless body was taken back
to Spain to be buried. As the boat carrying
him was about to moor, a knight on horseback
fell into the sea. St James, dead and headless,
remember, rescued the rider, who emerged covered in scallop
shells, hence the inseparability of St James and the scallop. The horse’s fate
remains undisclosed. St James’s head is at Douai.
It’s also at Amiens, Arras and Saumur. There are bones and strands of hair
at Troyes and Vezelay. His entire body is in Toulouse. It’s also in Angers and Locquirec. There are a few places
which are bereft of morsels of this man. He was posthumously generous
with his phosphates. Santiago, St James, was,
in Franco’s frail grasp of history and sounder grasp of myth,
the saviour whose Christianity was the glue that had held together the disparate people of the Iberian
Peninsula. Franco restored him to the position
of patron saint of Spain, a position from which he had been
blasphemously sacked by the secular republic. He, El Caudillo,
was the inheritor of Santiago. He was spiritual and actual,
myth and blood. He would reunify Spain. Galicians would be as much Spanish
as they were Galician, and Extremadurans and Murcians. The resistant Basques
and Catalans would be reunified by aerial diplomacy. Franco was, throughout his life,
ostentatiously short, dictator short. Only Kim Jong-Il was shorter. He was also ostentatiously pious. The latter suggests massive idiocy,
which was certainly not the case, or massive hypocrisy, which was. He despised his father,
a sometimes violent, generally feckless philanderer,
and yes, he revered his mother, the very picture of piety. Ah, the adored mother,
the sainted mother, alone of all her sex,
the epitome of immaculacy. Had it not been for her duty
before God to give birth to little Paquito,
she might have been a nun, she might have been the Virgin. We’ve been here before. At some point when he was alive –
or perhaps dead, who knows? – James again encountered
the miracle mother whilst he was praying on the banks
of the Ebro at Caesaraugusta, which would become Zaragoza. This time, she was held aloft
on a jasper pillar by angels, hence the name of Zaragoza’s
basilica, El Pilar. She set a precedent
for attention-seeking aesthetics such as Simeon Stylites,
who lived for 37 years on top of a pillar near Aleppo and became
the subject of Luis Bunuel’s film Simon Of The Desert. Bunuel, the most devout,
most observant, most gleefully blasphemous of atheists, was seven
years younger than Franco and a warped mirror to him. His landowning family was rich,
worldly and liberal. His attitude towards Christian
obfuscation and superstition was the very contrary of Franco’s. Bunuel was the greatest Spanish
artist of his century. He believed that mortadella
must be made by the blind. He shows what good comes
from a hostile education if you resist it, criticise it,
and vomit during mass, rather than meekly accept
it in the way that Franco did. Nothing should be meekly accepted. Bunuel thought that Picasso’s
Guernica was meretricious, he thought it ought to be burnt. Much of his relentlessly
anti-clerical art was devoted to mocking the church’s rites,
to demolishing its dogma and supernaturalism,
to ridiculing its beliefs, to exposing its hypocrisy,
to lambasting politicians who upheld its doctrines. Much of his relentlessly
anti-clerical life, however, was devoted to amiable
conversation with priests in a spirit of mutual tolerance. The church was his making. Its pomp and superstitions
gave him a fecund subject, it succoured him,
it fascinated him, it repulsed him, it fed his
scepticism and contempt for obedience, for the bullying
military mentality. The Jesuit dictum,
“Give me the child for his first “seven years and I will give
you the man,” is a coarse boast. Bunuel, and James Joyce
for that matter, perversely make the case for faith schools,
but only for the sentient, who will be so offended by the
drivel that they are dished up, that they will mutiny and rebel
against the brain-washers and become atheists in perpetuity. The insentient, meanwhile,
will join the army or the priesthood, or some other line
of business where your life is mapped out before you. CHORAL SINGING Eight centuries after his
last known appearance, James rose from his grave… Well, his graves. ..reunited his head
with his body parts… You need to think
of film in reverse. ..and put in a guest appearance
on a white charger at the Battle of Clavijo in La Rioja. He personally killed 5,000 Muslims, so getting the name Matamoros, “Moor slayer”. This was during the Reconquista,
which gradually rid the Iberian peninsula of Islam. Here’s Franco beneath
St James’s white charger. His ideal of his country
was based in the past. That was where Spain’s future lay,
in an evocation of his native, God-fearing Galicia,
in an evocation, too, of God-fearing Castile, Ur-Spain,
arid and unforgiving. Where, from the age of 14,
he had spent three years, in the military academy
in the Alcazar at Toledo, familiar from El Greco
in his Thomas Hart Benton mode… MARCHING MUSIC ..a building which was evidently
fixed in Franco’s memory. He was burdened with Christian
myths and Celtic myths. The link between the holy
and the martial was total. Which part of the past in particular
was Franco keen to evoke? That’ll be the preposterous past,
when God’s majesty was unchallenged, when his bellicose will was done
by Christian soldiers, when buildings both sacred
and secular were ornamentally frugal, aesthetic, harsh,
militaristic and big. Tyrants build big. Absolutists build bigger. Fascists build biggest. They identify, whatever that means,
with warriors of the past. Franco had the hots for El Cid
as well as St James. Franco’s representational
architecture, which was intended to symbolise the state
and its leader, who was a gift from God to the Spanish people,
was founded in the knowledge that many of those people
were cowed by superstition, were gullible, were easily led. Franco was blessed with low cunning. He knew his people. A CAPPELLA SINGING The place with the most insistent
claim on St James’s body is the Galician city
of Santiago de Compostela, where lights in the perpetual fog
led some shepherds… It’s always shepherds. ..to a bush, beneath which was
concealed a marble chest filled with bones, which prompted
the 9th-century king Alfonso II to decree that a basilica
should be built to house them. Franco appears to have had no
taste for the baroque, a failing he shared
with Hitler and Mussolini. What must have appealed to him,
then, about Santiago was the submission of
pilgrims to mumbo jumbo and to po-faced theatricality. Piety in the face of nonsense. The city’s defining industry
would become the propagation and maintenance of superstition. It honours St James’s memory. The relics found here
are the most genuine, most authentic, most, well… Most Jamesian, and no, of course,
there is no DNA to attest to the bones’ provenance. Both God and St James
are realities in the mind of believers. Were they not realities,
no-one would make the pilgrimage to Santiago, a place whose
sanctity is exceeded only by Rome and Jerusalem. This was the destination
of the pilgrims whom the young Franco had watched
disembark at Ferrol. They walked 70 miles
from the port to here. Compared with the majority
of the routes to the sacred city, this was unpunishing,
hardly likely to mortify the flesh, vilification in the honour of God. The sweat, the flayed flesh,
the thirst, the sheer rigour required, the mental toughness,
and beyond that epic struggle with oneself, there were
hostile exterior hazards, the sun, the rushing rivers,
the freezing nights, the crumbling bridges,
the slopes and thorns, the scars, attacks by wolves,
attacks by bears, attacks by eagles, attacks by human animals,
the presage of a terrible posthumous fate, swindling hotel keepers,
the thieves and footpads, the conmen, the pardoners,
the indulgences sales teams, the specialist flagellants equipped
to supply extra pain… If only. The arduous pilgrimage,
the actual getting there, was paramount. It was, evidently,
open-air masochism, it was exhibitionistic,
it was meant to hurt. It made exceptional
demands on the body. The head of Franco’s National Youth
League said that the pilgrimage was Spanish, thus fascist –
it was fascist, thus Spanish. And St James was very fascist. Of course, hair-shirted godliness
is not peculiarly Catholic, it is ecumenical. It recurs throughout
the history of delusions. The earliest recorded pilgrim,
in the year 899, was a bishop, Godescalc. BELL CHIMES His diocese was Le Puy-en-Velay,
in the southern Auvergne. The city is a topographical
and geological prodigy. Such places’ exceptionalism
fomented religious faith in an age of scientific ignorance. The great rocks were supposed
to be goddesses descended to Earth. The bishop’s example was followed
over the next 400 years. Routes were established. And all along them,
in south-west France and northern Spain,
there grew up dozens of rip-off towns and mercantile villages. Such as Conques, Estella,
Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The settlements were
competitive with each other. Each had its own gamut of miracles. At O Cebreiro, bread was turned
into bleeding flesh. At Santa Domingo, roast
chickens came back to life, roast doves flew out of an oven. Divine punishments
were meted out by God. A vengeful old bastard who had
forgotten to take his medication. People come back to life
after being crushed by masonry, a monk expiated his lubriciousness
by castrating himself before God can punish him. A presumption rather
than a miracle, surely? Inns, hospitals and sanctuaries were
built to profit from pilgrim hordes and to exploit them. It’s boasted that,
in the early Middle Ages, half a million people travelled
annually to Santiago. The precise figures
are, of course, unknowable. We have to have faith
in sacred statistics. ORGAN PLAYS Pilgrimage was a form
of mass hysteria. Pilgrims expected to experience
the miraculous – visions, cures and if you expect to get them,
you probably will get them, or convince yourself
that you have got them. Pilgrims were the
first tourists. They laid the foundation
for all subsequent tourism. Today’s tourists expect
something different from home. Something miraculous,
something exotic. They may call themselves travellers,
but the gulf between tourists and travellers is non-existent,
save in terms of social class. The expectation and anticipation
remain the same across ages, across cultures. No-one bothers to reflect
that travel may narrow the mind and it may corrupt. Go as a pilgrim,
come back as a whore. From the mid-14th century,
numbers declined. Bubonic plague, the Black Death, swept through Europe from Central
Asia. The reputation of rats
has never quite recovered. The plague was God’s will. Those who were spared
made the pilgrimage as humbly thankful penitents, and were
infected by fellow pilgrims, by innkeepers, by pardoners,
by indulgences sales teams who have been infected
by previous customers. Go as a pilgrim,
come back as a corpse. The greatest cause
of the decline was, however doctrinal, the Reformation, which began a century and a half
after the Black Death. This schism set in motion the
fracture of Christian communions. It would lead to a multiplicity
of competing denominations, and eventually to a
Christian-inflected secularism, and then to the Republicans’
militant secularism and provocative anti-clericalism, which Franco’s
nationalists eventually annihilated. Martin Luther accused the Pope
and cardinals of practising sodomy. He was a bit of a spoilsport. Why else do men become priests? What is the point of striving
to attain the rank of bishop, archbishop, cardinal or even Pope,
if you can’t enjoy the perks of someone else’s perineum? Luther’s ire was aimed, too,
at pilgrims and pilgrimages. He castigated pilgrims
for their self-congratulation, and for performing good works
and acts of piety to show off. He abhorred the clergy, who dreamt
up ever more pilgrimages, created new markets for indulgences
and manufactured relics. The clergy was impressively
rapacious as well as lubricious. Spain itself was little touched
by the Reformation, whose propaganda from the north was spread by print. Possession of smuggled texts,
heterodoxy, heresy and apostasy were punished by the Inquisition’s
executive fulfilment and specialist
remonstrance programmes. The vulgo, the common people,
were no more or less illiterate than the people of other
European nations. But they were more superstitious
and they lived in a society where the boundaries between church
and state were so intertwined that they were almost indiscernible. It was pilgrims from outside Spain
whose interest waned, pilgrims from what Spain
calls the continent, from Europe, beyond the Pyrenees,
foreign Europe. The road to Santiago went
out of fashion and it remained out of fashion for over 300 years. Then, in 1884, Leo XIII’s papal bull
decreed that yet more relics found by builders at Santiago were,
beyond all possible doubt, those of St James. By the time of that bull,
fewer than 100 pilgrims each year were making their way to Santiago,
almost all of them Spanish. Pilgrims would pass
by the grand ships, the countless fortresses and castles
which are found in northern Spain. They’re impressively forceful
reminders that Christians and Muslims fought a holy war
over several hundred years, and they secured their lands,
their vanquished lands and their recovered lands,
with these supposedly impenetrable bastions, which were barracks,
refuges and arsenals. Franco appreciated that
religions are armed cults, and there are no cults more potent than crusade and jihad, and no
causes more holy than the repulsion
of jihad and the defeat of crusade. To subscribe to a religion
is to commit oneself to its survival, to fight for it,
to cleanse, which means to kill. And to sanctify,
which means to land grab. Murder the kuffar,
murder the infidel. As a young officer in North Africa,
Franco was in a battle which ended with the heads of a dozen
Moroccans being brought back to base as trophies. Mission accomplished. Seize the enemy’s territory,
violate his women, enslave his children. Indoctrinate them with the true
faith, which is our faith. They’re a bad lot, religionists. As bad as each other. These castles were hefty signals
of how the country had been made, how it had been recovered,
how it had been won, how its holy rocks and rivers
and soil had been divvied up among God’s warriors. They stand as monuments
to forms of governance, the pre-democratic,
tribal and aristocratic. MARTIAL MUSIC To achieve such a state once again
was the aspiration of the putschists of whom Franco was the leader,
though not yet supreme. The military coup d’etat of July
1936, which triggered the Civil War, was intended to rid Spain
of a democratically elected Republican Government
which was too Red, too liberal, too secular to appeal
to uppity army officers and their landed paymasters. MUSIC: Clair De Lune by Debussy The architecture of the Republic
had been progressive, a Spanish variant of international
modernism, which was, to the nationalists
too international. Too cosmopolitan, too modern, insufficiently Spanish. It looked to the rest of Europe,
to America and especially to Argentina. It was an architecture
made by citizens of the world. Not by xenophobes. The nationalists aimed to establish
a state that was variously rural, insular, Catholic,
monarchist, intolerant, vengeful, fascist, pre-Reformation. These were seen as virtues.
They yearned for the Middle Ages. The nationalists called
the Civil War the Holy War. They had God on their side. That they were victorious
was proof of it. The Republicans paid
for their anti-clericalism. They had banned the Jesuits,
they had burned God’s houses, they had murdered priests. They had incurred God’s ire,
and as the Old Testament persistently reminds us,
God is a shit who shares the characteristics of a Sicilian
Capo. God is not a nice guy. Franco’s holy triumph was infamously
achieved with Italian infantry and German artillery and aircraft, the Spanish Foreign Legion
and the Regulares. The Foreign Legion was, in fact,
not foreign but mainly Spanish. And the Regulares
were not that regular. They were North African mercenaries
airlifted into Spain by German troop planes. Many of them belonged to that branch
of the Catholic church called Islam. Money trumps faith. The Legion and the Regulares shot
prisoners, gang-raped women, castrated men and placed
their genitals in their mouth. An Islamic speciality
which would resurface in Algeria 20 years later. That is freedom fighting for you. They had been promised
pillage, and they got it. Savoured it, with the indulgent
sanction of Franco’s Catholic nationalist
officers. Pillage was policy. Pillage trumps even money. The brave or foolhardy Christian
philosopher Miguel de Unamuno had initially been enthused by the
nationalist coup, but he ended his days under house
arrest, having publicly humiliated one of
Franco’s most senior generals. Earlier, he had described
the nationalists as Catholic without Christianity. “They practise ancient militarised
Spanish traditions “that are not Christian.” He died after suffering
a hearth-side stroke. Fortunately, he was unconscious
when his slippered foot slid down into the fire to meet his God. In the years following Franco’s
victory, Spain was not at war, while most of the rest
of Europe was. It was in a position
to construct something other than defensive buildings. Britain was desperately erecting
Nissen huts and pillboxes. Germany was designing bunkers
and death factories. Spain was agriculturally backward. Millions suffered shortages,
many were homeless. The economy was stagnant. There were strikes and riots. The black market thrived. Rationing continued until 1952. Nonetheless, he embarked
on a programme of building. It largely neglected to address
the manifold social problems but that was never the point. The purpose of the programme
was to assuage his massive vanity. He was Caudillo, he was
Generalissimo, he was Bravissimo. It was an ostentatiously
backward-looking programme of building. It processed into the past. It was a grandiose procession,
certainly, but also clod-hopping and coarse. But then, a light touch doesn’t go
with the job of dictator. Franco’s mission, or vision,
or destiny, or calling – one of those things, anyway –
was to exhume the omnipotent Imperial Spain of the Habsburgs,
of Philip II. He wished to be treated
as the equal of that king. He aimed to consolidate the position
he had attained as a belligerent by recreating this golden age,
which, unusually and unlike most golden ages, had some claim
to actually having existed. He also sought to somehow
reincarnate El Cid, whatever that involves. When the dreary film with gun-crazy
Charlton Heston in the title role was shot near Valencia,
Franco loaned the production several thousand soldiers as extras, which no doubt helped with his metempsychotic ambition. The Escorial was holy as well
as regal. It was the work of one Bautista de
Toledo and, after his death, one de Herrera, who was commanded by
Philip to make a building that expressed nobility without arrogance. Majesty without ostentation. Herrera was also responsible
for the Alcazar of Toledo. These two buildings
are deemed to be the pinnacle of Spanish architectural
achievement. Their obsessive and repetitive
sobriety is, weirdly, as dizzying as the freneticism of the Baroque,
or the Churrigueresque and, equally weirdly, the chilly rigour
feels almost Protestant. They were Castilian, both a little
over a day’s ride from Madrid. The homogenisation,
the centralisation, the Castilianisation of the nation
was a paramount domestic policy. Castile stood for Spain. It was the model for
the mores of the country. Devoutly pious, austere,
harsh climate, harsh temperament. The Air Ministry in Madrid derives
eventually from the Escorial, a strange model for a building
with such a purpose. That apart, plagiarism
should be skilfully disguised, inventive. The sort of dull literal copy of
a copy of a copy is akin to the incestuous Habsburgs
themselves. With each succeeding generation,
the debilities and infirmities became more pronounced. Franco’s was a strange boastfulness. His massive caprices would take
decades to be built and thus to be seen. He was out to impress –
but impress who? Under his rule, Spain
detached itself from Europe, from the Allies, obviously,
also from the Axis powers with whom it had sympathised,
depended on and exploited, but kept at arm’s length. An arm that had grown longer
the closer Gotterdammerung loomed. Franco would never have to repay
his debts to Hitler and Mussolini. After their defeat,
self-sufficiency, autarky, became Spain’s necessary ideology. And a lesson in being careful
about what you wish for. Spain found itself friendless,
mistrusted, outcast. A pariah state whose
non-intervention in the Second World
War was not enough to absolve it
from being something more than just a mere fellow
traveller of Nazism and Mussolini’s fascism. The Western bloc didn’t bother
to mask its distaste for Franco’s regime. But the Realpolitik and paranoia
of the early Cold War demanded that it should not intervene
in Spain to depose him or offer any support to his opponents. For, without him, Spain
might be overtaken by Communism, reckoned to be an infinitely greater
threat than toothless fascism. Franco’s architectural
revivalism was of the style of the Escorial, neo-Herrerianism. It was an expression of Spain’s
boastfully proclaimed isolationism. To look back with overt piety
was a sort of patrician snub to the increasingly sidelined
Phalangists, and equally to the Western democracies,
which were optimistically looking forward to nothing more spiritual
than white goods for all, white-wall tyres, plate glass,
electric carving knives, jukeboxes, automatic transmission, steering column gear shifts, television,
Teasmades, bubble cars, Gonks, motor scooters,
ballpoint pens, Coca-Cola and burgers, domestic telephones, lighters shaped like pebbles, Bri-Nylon sheets, Tergal skirts. Such a consumerist future
was to be held in contempt. Spain’s future wasn’t
like that – yet. The cute greetings-card urchin,
the raggedy ragamuffin, is a kitsch derivation
from Bartolome Murillo. His paintings were early
essays in kiddie porn. Street Arabs of the 17th century
were improbably as cheerful as he represented them. They were, more likely,
famished, diseased, crippled, subject
to casual violence, forced into prostitution, raped. Those are the bad old days,
but Franco did nothing to improve their lot. Rather he conjured
up the bad new days. He created orphans by the thousand, and he ate them by the score. And he created orphanages
such as this one in Gijon. More like madrasas, really. Indoctrination with lashings –
take that how you will. Lashings of orthodoxy
and obscurantism. The children of murdered Republicans
would be brainwashed with Mariolatry and hagiology. The teachers were sadistic brides
of Christ and predatory bridegrooms of Christ. Further, in addition to children
whose parents were dead, there were children of surviving
Republican parents who were stolen in order to be re-educated. What is today the Gijon Technical
University was designed by Luis Moya as an orphanage, an inculcatory
workhouse for thousands of children. Fascist regimes and the Catholic
Church had perverse ideas about the sort of building
that was appropriate for orphans. There is an unmistakable
correspondence with Armando Brasini’s equally megalomaniac
orphanage Il Complesso del Buon Pastore in
Rome, built a few years earlier. Some children of Republicans
bore revolutionary given names, Pasionaria, Luxembourg, October, Germinal, Saint-Just. This heretical
nomenclature was quashed. Pope Pius XII, the amnesiac one
with a pair of blind eyes towards Nazi atrocities,
had a message for Spain on Franco’s victory. “So many innocent children
were taken to faraway lands, “often in danger of
apostasy and perversion. “We desire nothing more ardently
than to see them return to the bosom “of their families and those others,
who, as prodigal sons, “wish to return to the
house of the Father. “We doubt not that they will be
welcomed with good will and love”. This building is the largest
in Spain, which gives some indication of the grandiosity of
the brainwash project. It’s in Galicia,
Franco’s native Galicia, but it bears no relation
to Galician vernacular. It is an emblem of Franco’s moral
reconquest, his sacralisation of everyday life and his Castilianisation
of everyday life. Holy years are those
when the feast of St James, July the 25th, falls on a Sunday. The holy year of 1948
was the first in 11 years. In 1948, Santiago de Compostela
attracted half a million pilgrims or tourists. They enjoyed such pious
diversions as fireworks, football tournaments and bull
fights, even though the last weren’t and still aren’t
locally popular. But the jamboree was not merely
a question of devotion to St James, or of penitence,
of absolution, of self-denial. St James and Spain
were once again indivisible. Hence that Holy Week was also
a celebration of Spain and Spanishness and, by the by,
it was an earner. It was an opportunity for the pariah
state denied foreign aid to get its fascistic gauntlets
on some democratic coin, francs and kronor,
sovs and marks. Money which could be used for,
among other projects, the building of El Valle de los
Caidos – The Valley of the Fallen. Not that the builders were paid. This was the biggest slave
labour project in Europe since World War II. The slaves were captured
Republicans, political prisoners, housed in a concentration camp
and worked to death. El Trabajo Ennoblece –
work ennobles, whose translation
is Arbeit Macht Frei. The risible claim is
that this exemplary feat of pomposity honours the dead
of both sides in the Civil War. Valle de los Caidos
is a gargantuan work of kitsch. The fabricators of kitsch don’t
realise how laughable their work is. Camp is the very opposite –
it is knowing. Like many dictators,
Franco considered himself an artist. He harassed the architects. It’s hypocrisy made stone,
a shrine to a merciless absolutist, and an insult to everyone else save
those diseased nostalgics who still worship him. Esta es una tumba en la que cagarse. This is a tomb to shit on. He deserves the sort of grave
that Hitler and Himmler, Bormann and Mussolini,
Gaddafi and bin Laden got. No grave at all, no headstone,
no name, no provocation to remember. He could be exhumed
and dumped on a tip. Obliterated. Though if the same standard
is applied irrespective of date, then it has to be said that the
inhuman resources and construction methods
of this nation’s abundant castles and churches,
fortifications and aqueducts, ought also to be reckoned shameful. One difference is that memories
of the actual making of those structures dissipate
over centuries, over millennia. The structure remains
whilst the reckoning, the tally of how many
died and the conditions in which they had endured a living
death become largely unknowable. Points of contention between
advocates of opposing persuasions, whose arguments are based in nothing
more than wishfulness. Stones endure, but they’re no help,
they have nothing to say. 42 years after Franco’s death,
Spain’s Socialist government famously and riskily made
the decision to legislate on crimes committed during and
after the Civil War, despite a general amnesty
having been declared in 1977. That grossly, shamefully biased
amnesty created an equivalence between state-sponsored nationalist
murderers who were granted immunity and political refugees
who were allowed to return to Spain, and laughably invited
to forget the unforgettable, to sweep 40 years of state
crimes under the carpet. Fascism endured in Spain long
after it had been elsewhere excised as anything but a putrid
fringe grouping. There are many people alive today
in Spain who have personal, first-hand, and unmediated
memories of Franco’s regime. Ought collective memory
and collective memory loss to be responsive to legislation –
can they be responsive? A well-intentioned,
morally justified government instructing its people
how to remember a despised former government, is obviously
going to be accused of aping that former government’s dictates. There is governmental resolve,
parliamentary determination but the country is divided. Franco’s family is, bizarrely,
still powerful and prepared to raise countless legal obstacles. A symptom of Spain’s dilemma
is that Spanish writers are loath to address it. It remains to English writers
to wrestle with the elephant, Paul Preston, Giles Tremlett,
Jeremy Treglown. The dead seem fated
to remain wilfully untraced. Anywhere you stand in Spain,
you may be standing on a grave, a mass grave, a grave dug
by its future occupants. SINGING IN SPANISH Solo un cobarde
se niega a cavar propia tumba. Only a coward
refuses to dig his own grave. The thousands of graves
which contain thousands of victims are unsigned – they’re
as unmarked as plague pits. Finding them in this vast
country is difficult. Searches are based on
hearsay which is itself based on further hearsay,
which is based on yet more hearsay. As the pilgrimage to Santiago became
ever more popular in the decade after World War II,
so did the parador chain expand in the north of the country. These were hotels based supposedly
on North American models, country inns such as
you might find in California, North Carolina and the Catskills. They offered a level of luxury
unusual in post-war Europe. Some were in expressly
constructed buildings, others were former hospitals,
castles and monasteries. Their success caused a trickle
to turn to a stream. However, only a minority
of pilgrims could afford them. Their clientele tended rather
to be what were not yet called culture tourists. The sort of Baedeker people whose
holiday reading might have included Madame d’Aulnoy’s memories
of the Court of Spain, George Borrow, Gerald Brennan
and Sacheverell Sitwell. His baldly entitled
“Spain” had just appeared. Its first publication was in 1950. Sitwell was enthusiastic
about paradors. “The benefits they confer
upon the traveller can “hardly be exaggerated. “They’ve made it possible to see
some of the most beautiful scenery “and architecture in
cleanliness and comfort”. The problem for an economically
fragile country, desperate for foreign revenue, was that the
number of church-snoopers, castle-crawlers, collectors of ruins and gastronomic adventurers
was limited. The resources – old stone,
sublime landscapes – are abundant. The eyes to appreciate them weren’t. The fashion for Neo-Herreriano
neo-Habsburg buildings did not survive. The much-bruited isolation
did not prevent Spanish architects from acquainting themselves
with what was happening in the rest of the world. They were all too aware
that the official style was old hat. The revivalist buildings turned out
to be a parenthetical interlude, both preceded and
followed by modernism. Modernism in different forms,
many of which were akin to those of the rest of Europe. Then there was international amnesia
about the Civil War and Franco’s collaboration with the Axis. This amnesia was encouraged
by America’s strategic friendship of convenience. Financial assistance in return for
land on which to build air bases. The superpowers’
example was followed. It was not just Spain,
but the entirety of impoverished western Europe which regarded
Eisenhower’s complacently paranoid United States as the land of plenty
and the land of the future. Never mind the vulgarity, Spain too could soon have two-tone
everything, Gonks, motor scooters, ballpoint
pens, jukeboxes, Teasmades
and bubble cars. The Spanish state
became less ideological. Yes, it still imprisoned
its political enemies and thought criminals, and it still
executed some by strangulation. But the government was increasingly
influenced by the predominantly lay Catholic organisation Opus Dei
and its so-called technocrats. Judicious pragmatists,
many of them celibate, determined to open
Spain to the world. How many members of the government
belong to Opus Dei now? There are three ministers
in the Cabinet. In Franco’s cabinet
who are members of Opus Dei. Mr Lopez Rodo,
Mr Bravo and Mr Mortes. Now, it’s said they look
after Opus Dei interests in Cabinet and the government, is that correct? No, we reject that, that’s a joke. They are Franco’s ministers,
they are not Opus Dei ministers. In the end, who is Opus
Dei responsible to? Well, to the Catholic
Church and to God. As simple as that?
As simple as that, yes. The work of an early Opus Dei
member, the architect, Miguel Fisac, was part
of that process. Spain was trying to achieve
what would be internationally recognised as a sort of normality. By the mid-1950s,
fascism was regarded as a freakish abnormality from a past which was
to be ignominiously buried along with its victims. Among the liturgical reforms of the
Second Vatican Council in 1962 were the introduction
of the vernacular mass and spatially, the stipulation
that the congregation should be physically
close to the host. Which isn’t physical,
it isn’t literal, so the idea is a bit of a nonstarter. The deluge of new churches after
Vatican Two may have had its roots in an architecture
which already existed. The greatest architecture does not
express the present, it presages the future,
it shapes the future. The sanctuary at Arantzazu
in the Basque country is the work of the young Saenz de Oiza and was
designed as early as 1948. However, it met with
numerous objections, both aesthetic and liturgical,
and wasn’t consecrated until 1958. Even then, it must have seemed
way ahead of the game. Franco’s wish to emulate Philip II
was partially granted, though not as he’d have wanted. Like that Habsburg monarch,
his relationship with the Vatican was often fraught. His natural ally turned out
to be nothing of the sort. It was frequently troublesome,
imperiously insubordinate and prone to meddle in temporal affairs. Its new architecture
was a very public snub to his traditionalism. Up yours, Caudillo. It constantly reminded Franco of the
debt he owed it for its support in the Civil War. He responded with
the incontrovertible message that it was his forces
which had fought for the church and that his state had ensured
Catholicism’s privileged hegemony and persecuted its opponents. At the same time, he reminded
the Vatican that Spain was a secular state,
not a proxy theocracy. He found it difficult to understand
the burgeoning liberalism of many of the younger clergy,
and determined to stamp it out – ingrates. A few older clergy, too,
among them bishops. He attempted to usurp the regal
right to name new bishops, but was outmanoeuvred
by the Vatican. He countered by imprisoning several
dozen priests in a clerics-only jail in Zamora. Where, no doubt, they could
radicalise each other. Other priests – red priests,
worker priests, harbingers of liberation theology – were
attacked with impunity by far-right gangs. The church, which had been his ally, had become a breeding ground
for disquiet. Murmured descent gave
way to outright hostility. Priests would be taken seriously
for they had the ear of the people, as they were subjected
to retribution. Architects and artists, however,
were allowed considerable freedom. Spain was gradually
abandoning its hermeticism – the troglodyte was venturing
from its cave and was inviting people in. The country was readying itself
to join what is comically known as the family of nations. Remember, 60% of murders
occur within the family. And the various strains
of architecture which asserted themselves over an even longer
period were pretty much mute. Architecture generally is,
it hardly speaks. Its articulacy is limited. Architecture possesses only the most
elementary vocabulary. It is stuck for all
time in early infancy. It’s like clothes,
a series of signals, a code without nuances. The code transmitted by the
poblados de colonizacion, or new model villages, built in the 1950s and ’60s,
was that they were a balance. They evidently have roots
both in the generic, modern movement and in some
undefined form of regionalism. Since the majority of them
were constructed in southern Spain, that regionalism might be extended
to include the entire Mediterranean littoral. The showy experiment
involved 200 villages. Each provided with a church
and 13,000 houses, 100,000 jobs, 400 single-sex schools and 3 million hectares of land. They were pragmatic expressions
of agricultural renewal, of a one-party state’s in-built
authoritarianism and regulation and of a controlled
experiment in land tenure. Nonetheless, when Franco died,
50% of the land was still in the hands of just
1% of the population. Almost as inequitable as Britain, where 1% of the population
owned 60% of the land. Labour was organised according
to ministerial strictures. A smallholder’s rights
were largely suppressed. Politically approved teachers
and loyal priests were imported, markets were regulated,
and dealing on the black was liable for prosecution. At the same time, the colonists
were provided with clean homes, services, modern machinery
and a transport infrastructure. Agrarian reform would not only bring
improved crops and livestock, it would transform still-feudal
peasants into proper farmers. The chaos of land ownership
would be resolved. It would reverse the rural diaspora. Carrot – colonists were given
up to eight hectares and a programme of what they might grow. Stick – the terms of
tenure were exacting. Targets had to be met. Were they not met,
the colonisers might lose their home. It was all dependent
on water, on irrigation, on the possibility of fertility. The more arid the country is,
the more backward it is, the more poor it is. The fetishistic importance granted
to water is demonstrated by the structures and buildings
associated with it. The laboratories where
it’s studied, where its management and the means of harnessing
its power are investigated. Francisco Franco built
more than 500 dams. He liked to preside at their
openings, quite ignoring how ecologically
disastrous many of them were. His self-esteem swelled,
a goitre of patriotic pride. Changing the climate, whether
by cloud seeding or by diverting rivers, is the mark of a human god. An aquarian magician
who is described as a statesman unique in the world laying
the hydraulic foundations for the wellbeing
and progress of his people. Especially those people
who supported him, the grand landowners,
the latifundistas who would be the real
beneficiaries of his hydrophilia. He was seen as an obsessive
creature of water, a joke amphibian. Paco is a diminutive of
Francesco. Rana means frog. Paco Rana may be roughly
translated as Frankie Frog. This frog, like any wise Iberian
frog, was aware of the disequilibrium
in the country’s water. There was too much of the stuff
in the north and not enough in the south. Surfeit and deficit. With deficit came drought. The most grandiose of the schemes
to overcome the natural imbalance was the Tagus-Segura Transfer. Water is pumped to a height of 300
metres above the dammed Tagus in the mountains east of Madrid. Canalised, it flows some 300km south
by south-east, through a system of reservoirs,
dams, tunnels, pumping stations and aqueducts to Murcia. the region of Spain most
afflicted by drought. The region, too, which provided
Franco with his most merciless killers. Were the two connected? Does literal thirst
promote blood thirst? You tell us what you think. It is, anyway, a great feat
of hydraulic engineering. His beneficiaries were, again,
latifundistas and the losers – inhabitants of villages
drowned because they stood in the way of reservoirs. Many of the interventions
were also ecologically disastrous. In the age-old battle
between environment and profit, here posing as the common
good and agrarian reform, it was of course profit which won. The bottom line is the most
potent of ideals. The lavishly entitled latifundistas
may have kept their head down during the Republic,
but with the water warrior Franco favouring them,
they could revert to type. The latifundistas may
have considered El Caudillo to be what the British
Army calls a GOPWO – Grossly Overpromoted
Warrant Officer – and anything but an aristocrat. But they would never
have dared say so, and besides, he loved hunting, so might well
have approved of this caste’s invention of a new sport which it
jocularly named agrarian reform. It consisted of hunting
on horseback with packs of dogs. The quarry was peasants,
rural reds, bucolic Bolshies. People who didn’t have a ladder
to be on the bottom rung of, and whose body would be dumped
in the usual pits. Franco himself preferred
more conventional quarry, pheasant, partridge,
pigeon, plovers, woodcock, quail, grouse, squab, snipe, mallard, teal, pintail, boar, hare, rabbits, deer, sheep, ponies. His behaviour was often
that of an indolent figurehead rather than a hands-on tyrant. There were hunting accidents.
He shot himself in the hand on Christmas Eve 1961,
and a couple of years later, the Minister Manuel Fraga
shot Franco’s daughter Manuka in the buttocks. Franco was otherwise preoccupied
during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but the prestige that a regime can
gain from sport did not escape him. In the two immediately
post-war Olympics, London 1948 and Helsinki 1952, Spain had triumphantly accumulated a single medal,
a silver in men’s pistol. The curious fact that we learn
from Paul Preston’s great biography of Franco is that he was a football
fan who did the pools. I’ll repeat that – Franco
did the football pools. Which is not what one
expects of a dictator. But then these fascists
move in mysterious ways, and so, of course, does God. The greatest of all footballers,
Johan Cruyff, a militant atheist, said that a match in Spain begins
with 22 players running on to the pitch,
crossing themselves. He observed that if this
superstitious appeal to God actually worked, then every match
would end in a draw. RADIO CRACKLES FOOTBALL RESULTS IN SPANISH ALL TEAMS SCORE ZERO Cruyff scored an own goal. There is a God. The inadequacies of the Spanish
national team were apparent in a 6-1 defeat by Brazil in the 1950
World Cup, and in its inability to even qualify
for the 1954 tournament. But there were club teams. Rather, there was A club team,
Real Madrid. Real, of course, the only club
in Europe who have played in every European Cup competition. Won it five times and were
beaten finalists once. Franco promoted Real. His agents crudely threatened
its opponents, especially FC Barcelona, the symbol of aspirantly
secessionist Catalonia. His people did deals on its behalf. Matches were routinely rigged. He thought of it as his team,
as his thrilling gift to the most international of games. There’s a goal!
A lovely goal. Though the stadium built
in the late 1940s is ur-Spanish, its original design,
which would be widely copied, had derived from the bullring. But the players were
as Spanish as Ferenc Puskas, who left Hungary after the 1956
revolt, and joined Real 18 months later. They were as Spanish
as Alfredo di Stefano, who was so enthusiastically
nationalist, that he had played for his native Argentina
and for Colombia before he played for Spain. So the all-conquering club,
which won the first five editions of the European Cup,
became a herald of the newly emerging Spain,
the centralised Castilian Spain, was about as Spanish as, say,
El Cid’s burial place, Burgos Cathedral, which might
have been airlifted from the Rhine or the Moselle. Real Madrid’s players
were and still are, known as the meringues,
because of their all-white clobber, the colour of St James’ charger. Nothing to do with them
being as much mercenaries as Franco’s troops
two decades earlier. When Sergio Ramos takes
off his shirt so that we can appreciate his cartoonish body, we should perhaps think of other bodies, the skeletons in the pits. “All murderers are punished
unless they murder in large numbers “to the sound of trumpets” –
Voltaire. Franco, the devout Catholic
murderer, contributed vastly to football’s becoming a
new religion. The most revered players are saints. Pilgrimage sites, churches, castles, ruins and football, those were the attractions
that Spain had to offer tourists. The Madrileno ideal in high summer
was to holiday in the temperate, indeed often cool, north,
away from the heat of the capital. The Mediterranean coast was
not yet developed for tourism. Mad dogs and Englishmen
go out in the midday sun, Spaniards don’t. The prototype of the industrialised
holiday resort where inmates, or guests, are processed
as standardised units, was devised by the risibly named,
cruelly named, Kraft durch Freude, Strength Through Joy. Prora, the planned Nazi holiday
resort located on the island of Rugen, north of Stralsund,
it was not a propitious start for a new sort of settlement. Pedro Zaragoza was an energetic
Francoist placeman, born in the small, economically straitened
fishing port of Benidorm between Valencia and Alicante. He was sent back there from Madrid
to be its mayor, at the age of 28. His vision for the development
of Benidorm as a tourist mecca was explicitly endorsed by Franco. Zaragoza became one of the most
successful urbanists in the world, not least because he’d probably
never heard of the pseudoscience of urbanism, and had shown no
interest in theories that fell off the back of a lorry
loaded with pretension. He turned an off-the-map village
into an enterprise which soon overcame the handicap
of its Nazi provenance, if anyone was in the mood to look. Render unto Caesar
the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God
the things which be God’s. Together, with
Jesus’ retort to Pilate that “My kingdom is not
of this world,” this may be read as a way
of emphasising that the temporal state and the sacred
church are separate, so while God-botherers
may have indignantly objected to displays of flesh, to displays of public drunkenness, to displays of mob loutishness
by Engerland-land-land’s finest, their opinion counted for little. Police were instructed
to turn a blind eye, which given what they’d
have had to look at, was probably what
they wanted anyway. What happened to Benidorm,
and subsequently to places like Torremolinos,
Tossa de Mar and countless towns and countless villages
along the countless costas, Blanca, Brava, Dorada,
Sol, self-evidently happened within Spain. But it was hardly Spanish,
it was Hispanic Britannic, the very names of the coasts
were the inventions of British package tour companies and airlines. It was also Hispanic German,
Hispanic Dutch, Hispanic Scanda. Carefully tended isolationism
ceded to coarse cosmopolitanism. The dirigisme of dictatorship evaporated into a hardly-regulated
capitalism. Piety and totalitarian order
were overthrown by the pursuit of elemental pleasure, by foreigners
who had no idea where they were. “We come by aeroplane.” Ideology was dumped
on by the market. Foreign sewage was dumped
in the Mediterranean. The ghost of the dictatorship’s
martial order was discernible in the regimentation
of package tourists. Adults, obedient as children,
waited in line, weighed down by sombreros,
caramelised brandy, hangovers and bull fight posters. Every one of them an ambassador
for his or her country in a kind of mutant service
economy, in a hybrid, partially-imported environment. It became a sort of de facto colony. Colonisers bring their own culture with them, their own mores, their own immutable tastes, which are routinely
held up for derision. So what? Institutionalised silliness
is hardly harmful and, if precious sensibilities
are offended by the tradition of Benny Hill, Max Miller
and Donald McGill, by Blackpool, Yarmouth and Skegness,
well, get a grip. No-one ever went to Benidorm
for spiritual solace or intellectual enlightenment or moral improvement. Send a donkey on holiday,
and he doesn’t come back as a horse. Benidorm provokes the desire,
but it takes away the performance. The set, the foreground, the
backdrop, the physical surrounds are hardly noticed,
such is the excitement. The physical actuality of the place
where these pursuits are played out is ignored and unseen. Why? Benidorm is a marvellously
strange anomaly. It resists all sophistication, it’s an affront to cool, it’s a poke in the eye
for minimalism. This is what Proletkult ought
to have been. By the artless people,
for the artless people, without the guiding intercession
of the cultured bourgeoisie with its patronising worker worship. The British food is, of course,
horrible – fish and chips, full English breakfast, the horrors
of baked beans and sausages. But the maximalist buildings,
though they’re seldom considered architecture, were often thrilling. They have the potency
of cheap music. If architecture is frozen music,
this is The Rubettes. MUSIC: Sugar Baby Love
by The Rubettes It is deprecated on the usual
grounds, the hierarchy of use. A hotel’s or an apartment block’s
or nightclub’s use, its purpose, is apparently
less noble, less distinguished than that of a church
or seminary or school. Architectural worth ought never
to be determined by moral criteria, but it so often is. What if the nightclub owner gets God
and transforms his building into a place of worship? Does that give it
a chance of redemption? The order discernible in package
parties is not to be found in the apparent chaos of the city. Sprawl, which suffers a poor
reputation among the conventionally bien pensant, usually signifies
the horizontal. This combination of sprawl
and verticality is unusual. The skyscrapers here are so
compacted that they steal each
other’s light. The wind takes you unawares.
It comes from all directions. The city possesses the power
over climate Franco coveted but couldn’t achieve. It possesses, too, the fortuitous
collisions of style, shape and scale that only laxity,
greed and an unselfconscious lack of good taste can achieve. Bad taste is vigorous. Just the ticket. Benidorm is a prodigy of architectural mongrelism and
ad hoc urbanism. Franco’s placement of Zaragoza
inadvertently created a new kind of city. Benidorm and its siblings
are the visible part of the dictator’s legacy. All politicians seek a legacy.
That they do so is a mark of their infantile vanity. But of course, this mix of high-rise
bling and low-level hedonism is not the most telling
bequest that he made to the country that he had stolen, and then
for so long tyrannised – it’s just a trinket. This gallant Christian gentleman’s
terrible gift to posterity is only partially visible. Much of the gift has
yet to be unwrapped, to be exhumed. Memory of the carnage of 80 years
ago may be unspoken, but it’s far from being erased. The butchered bodies in unmarked
graves are his true monument. Which citizens of the world
ought not to forget, because you never know where, and in what guise, Napoleon may next appear.

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