Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Shadow of Franco

It’s strange how certain songs bring the memories flooding back. I was in the car the other day, cogitating (or looking vacant as La Jefa would say), when over the radio came the flamenco rhythms of Paco de Lucia on ‘Entre dos Aguas’. This was a number 1 hit when I spent a blissful 4 months with a family in Madrid during my gap year, many moons ago.

Officially I had been employed as a live-in English teacher to their 5 sons but in reality I simply became another member of the family. The father was a prominent banker, whose rounded physique and ruddy complexion hinted at a rich enjoyment of the better things in life. He proudly showed off his 'private English tutor’ around the financial cocktail circuit of Madrid. Sadly however his pidgin English while introducing me to his boss – ‘Thees man, he is very impotent in Spain’ – suggested that I should pursue a career outside of teaching.

This was 1974, a year before the death of Franco. We spent many an evening arguing about ‘El Generalisimo’ whilst quaffing copious quantities of brandy. I even detected a tear in his eye when he showed me some home-made films of Franco visiting his in-laws’ estate for a weekend of hunting. The father was most definitely pro-Franco but a conservative rather than a Falangist. Whilst recognising Franco’s failings, he was fearful of what would happen to his beloved Spain after the Caudillo’s demise - crime, separatism, and unemployment being his greatest concerns.

To this day Franco and his legacy remain somewhat of a taboo subject in Spain and old wounds between neighbours and even within families remain raw. The ongoing controversy over the opening of the suspected grave of poet and dramatist Garcia Lorca (and other mass graves) serves as confirmation.

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