The body of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish fascist Falange movement that supported the Francoist regime, was exhumed yesterday, Monday 24th April and removed from the Valley Of The Fallen mausoleum where he has laid since 1959.
Primo de Rivera’s exhumation, which follows the 2019 removal of the remains of General Francisco Franco, is part of a plan to convert the Valley of the Fallen complex built by Franco into a peace and reflection memorial to the 500,000 people killed during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war.
Last year, the Socialist government which has spearheaded the Historical Memory Law renamed the site as the Valley of Cuelgamuros – its original name.
Government Minister, Felix Bolanos, said “It’s another step in the resignification of the valley.” “No person or ideology that evokes the dictatorship should be honoured or extolled there.”
The Historical Memory Law calls for “justice, reparation, and dignity” for victims of the civil war and 36-year dictatorship.
The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) criticized the government for coordinating with Primo de Rivera’s family while victims’ families await the chance to remove their relatives from Spain’s largest mass grave.
The ARMH also condemned the government for retaining offensive elements in the crypt, including an inscription that reads: “Fallen for God and for Spain.”
Some 33,000 remains of soldiers from both sides of the Spanish Civil War are buried in the complex´s vaults. The vast majority have not been identified and many families want their loved ones returned to family cemeteries.
Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera was the son of Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, who governed Spain from 1923-1930 under King Alfonso XIII.
He was shot by firing squad in November 1936 by Republican forces in Alicante.
It will be the fifth time his body has been exhumed.
After his execution he was dumped in a mass grave along with other Nationalist prisoners and then moved to a municipal cemetery.
Following the end of the war in 1939 the victorious Nationalists paraded his coffin for 500 kilometres (311 miles) from Alicante to the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial,outside Madrid and where Spain’s royals are buried.
His remains were moved again on the completion of Valley of the Fallen monument 20 years later and buried under the altar of the basilica, where Franco would join him on his death in 1975.
His exhumation yesterday was a carefully planned operation that coincided with the 120th anniversary of his birth.
At the entrance of the San Isidro Cemetery the cortege was met by around 100 far right supporters who clashed with police.
Three men were arrested for public order offences.
The government must hope that a chapter of Spanish history is now closing.