The continuing saga of the legacy of the Spanish Civil War continues in the battle over Madrid´s many streets with Francoist connections.
Despite the previous, left wing local government of Manuela Carmena´s efforts to remove all Francoist street names in the capital in line with the 2007 historical memory law – some names have proven harder to get rid of.
Most prominently is that of José Millán Astray, a friend and contemporary of General Franco, as well as founder of Spain´s Foreign Legion, whose street name in the La Latina district of Madrid was changed to that of educationalist Justa Freire in 2018 has just been reinstated following a court order.
Francoist organisations launched court proceedings against the local government´s decision and in May, the court ruled that because Millán Astray had not played a role in the military coup of July 1936, or in the repression following the Nationalist victory, the decision was incompatible with the Historical Memory Law as it commemorated his military achievements.
The conservative led local government subsequently enforced the court´s ruling and his street sign was reinstated.
This week the newly restored plaque was vandalised.
The court also ruled that the street name commemorating the Blue Division which comprised of Spanish fascist volunteers who fought for the Third Reich on the Russian front, should also be restored.
Astray, whose sobriquet was Glorioso mutilado (“Glorious amputee”) due to his many battle wounds, was the founder of the Spanish Foreign Legion which was notorious for its brutality in the Civil War but which he had retired from before it began.
He was, however, closely associated with the Nationalist uprising, including his well known public confrontation with the intellectual Miguel de Unamuno at the start of the civil war.
According to some reports, Millán Astray shouted “Death to intelligence” as he and other fascists harangued the writer.
He formed the legion in his own image and popularized its motto of ¡Viva la Muerte! (“Long live death!”) and ¡A mí la Legión! (“To me the legion!”).
On hearing of the news, Carolina Alonso, of the far left Podemos party slammed the court´s ruling as a “damned disgrace.”
However the battle over the legacy of July 1936 takes centre stage next month as the central left wing coalition government of PSOE – Podemos will be bringing further legislation to tighten loopholes in the 2007 law as well as removing all remaining public symbols of Franco’s legacy.
In 2019, the government forced Franco’s remains to be exhumed from the Valley Of The Fallen , to the family´s plot in the El Pardo Cemetery.
The proposed legislation is expected to open old wounds in the forever battle that continues between left and right over the Civil War and Franco´s legacy.