MADRID – To turn the Valle de Cuelgamuros near Madrid into a monument and memorial for all victims of the Spanish Civil War, the remains of the fascist politician Primo de Rivera will be moved on Monday.
In October 2019 it was the turn of the remains of dictator Francisco Franco. These were buried alongside the remains of Primo de Rivera in two individual tombs in front of the altar in the Santa Cruz Basilica in the Valle de Cuelgamuros – formerly Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) – in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial nearby Madrid.
Franco’s remains were reburied next to his wife in the cemetery of Mingorrubio in El Pardo. The remains of Primo de Rivera will be buried elsewhere in the Valle de Cuelgamuros. In addition to Franco and Primo de Rivera, the remains of 33,833 victims are buried in this location. Nearly half of these have not been identified. Between 1959 and 1983, Franco had the remains of mass graves throughout Spain transferred to the Valley of the Fallen.
Over time, the complex with a large basilica and a huge cross that can be seen from afar became for decades the largest mausoleum in honour of a dictator in Europe. It regularly attracted far-right people who honoured the former dictator, but also Phalangist Primo de Rivera.
Law on historical memory
With the introduction of the law on historical memory, the socialist governments of Spain wanted to get rid of monuments, street names and other references to the dictatorial regime.
There was also growing aversion that many unidentified victims could have their final resting place next to that of their murderers. Moreover, the mausoleum was partly financed by the Catholic Church, but also by taxpayers’ money.
In the end, it was decided that the place should become a tribute to all victims of the civil war and the period after. The government had already planned to rebury Primo de Rivera’s remains under the law. However, it was the family that requested the transfer in the end.
The law on historical memory stipulated that only victims of the civil war may be buried in the Valle de Cuelgamuros. Furthermore, remains that occupy prominent places must also be removed. Only Franco and Primo de Rivera had an individual grave there. Neither is officially a victim of the Civil War.
Primo de Rivera
José Antonio Primo de Rivera (1903-1936) founded the nationalist Spanish political party Falange in 1933. This formation played an important role during the Spanish Civil War and in the following years during the Franco regime. In the 1930s, the Falange was one of the most influential political movements in Spain.
In 1936, Primo de Rivera was arrested by the Republican government and charged with conspiracy against the state. He was imprisoned in Alicante and later transferred to a prison in Madrid. There he was executed in November 1936.
Primo de Rivera remains a controversial figure in Spanish history. Some see him as a heroic defender of traditional Spanish values and others as a dangerous extremist who promoted authoritarianism and repression. After being buried in the Almudena Cemetery in Madrid, he was transferred in 1959 to his current grave in the Basilica of the Valle de los Caídos.
Prisoners of war
The Valley of the Fallen was built by Franco´s prisoners after the civil war and was partly carved from rock. Many forced labourers lost their lives. After his death in 1975, the former dictator was also buried here.