During his dictatorship, Franco succeeded in affiliating the ideology of his regime with some of the most important anthropological elements any culture can have. The concept of patria, religious rituals, foundational myths and traditional arts were all absorbed by fascism, and we have held on to this muddled association of ideas to this day.
Those Spanish among us of around the age of thirty are the children of a mixed-up generation. Many of our parents are old enough to have witnessed the final fleeting follies of a dictatorship which, while they were children, was still cracking the whip.
Not long after, however, seventies Spain was to watch as, at a dizzying rate, what had been forbidden became the fashion and what had been compulsory was firmly rejected.
Large sections of this confused generation reached adolescence just as the flow of information was becoming freer, and Spanish people were beginning to discover drugs and demand free sexuality. At long last they could publicly renounce the conventions of the “gente de bien” (polite society).
Like an unwitting anthropologist, Franco (hereafter referred to as General Short-Arse, or GS-A) was able to pin some of the most important anthropological elements of any culture to the lapel of his uniform.
The concept of la patria (the fatherland), religious rituals, foundational myths and traditional arts were made such an integral part of his regime and persona that the associations between them have remained with us.
General Short-Arse took the new red-and-yellow flag and, with a cry of “¡Viva España!”, made it the symbol of his own particular brand of good old-fashioned fascism. GS-A became the embodiment of la Patria and enemies of the government became “enemies of La Patria”.
Today, no self-respecting lefty would wear the colours of the Spanish flag unless it was to a sporting event, which would seem to suggest that the spirit of GS-A is still with us.
Our emaciated country’s imperial past was idolised in the Foundational Myth of a nation surveyed through the Generalissimo’s moustache. GS-A used Spain’s glorious past in which “the sun never set” in order to legitimise his own self-aggrandisement.
Hence why poetry published under his regime branched off ideologically and stylistically: fascists wrote in classical forms and on themes more befitting of the 16th century, while the Left made use of all other styles and topics.
Catholicism, which had always been popularly combined with the paganistic veneration of saints and tarot reading, was reduced to its official institutionalised version and worker-priests were stripped of their duties.
In this way, General Short-Arse made Ritual his, and now no one in Spain can call themself a Catholic without fuelling suspicion that they might be a supporter of the People’s Party.
Moreover, the Generalissimo was also able to appropriate Traditional Spanish Culture using a nationwide project run by the Sección Femenina (the women’s branch of the Falange) known as “Choirs and Dances”.
The music consumed by leftist groups in Spain today is mostly of Anglo-Saxon origin or influence, so at odds with our own traditional culture.
As good old General Short-Arse was forever telling us, the new flag and cultural symbols patched on to his coat of arms placed him above everyone, even the king.
The generations living under his dictatorship had to believe it, but now there’s no gun to our heads we can undo his alterations as we please.
I discovered this freedom when I came to Mexico four years ago. Up until then, I had thought that I could choose any religion except Catholicism, that I couldn’t publicly declare that I liked coplas or that Spain is a magnificent country, and something inside me prevented me from writing in hendecasyllabic metre.
Here, everyone loves their country, and sings their national anthem at government rallies and anti-government protests alike.
Far from belonging to one political ideology, la patria is a way of creating cohesion by smoothing out people’s differences.
Here, Catholicism is beyond strict institutional control. The traditional practice of mixing Catholic myths and rites with pre-Hispanic ones lives on, and Zapatistas join forces with priests from the Liberation Theology movement to defend indigenous peoples.
What is more, traditional dances and songs belong to the people and not to any generalissimo who tried to make them his own, because there’s nothing more natural here than knowing how to dance the salsa, cumbia or son.
So, my dear lefties, don’t feel you have to disown the culture that Franco wanted to embrace, because it was never his to begin with. It belongs to the people that have kept it alive. Judge it for what it is, not what he said it was.
And as a hypothetical pragmatic capitalist might say, if it’s broke and you can’t fix it, scrap it.
(Translated by Fiona Marshall – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)