Monday, September 27

A Francoist monument in the middle of nowhere: not by not looking at it does it cease to exist

Like a shy wannabe from the Valley of the Fallen, also in the middle of nowhere, stands a monument to the so-called director of the 1936 Coup, Emilio Mola. Unlike Franco, who chose Cuelgamuros in an attack of mystical-fascist inspiration, Mola did not exactly choose this hill of Burgos to fall on him, but it was the plane in which he was traveling that crashed there, as well as the one that closes the eyes and, moving a finger on a map, decides to travel to that place. Bad luck.

Two kilometers away, the nearest town, Alcocero, was renamed Alcocero de Mola, as if the general, with his resounding fall, had conquered it for himself. Mola and four other soldiers were flying from Vitoria to Valladolid to supervise the rebel counterattack to the republican offensive on Segovia. It was June 3, 1937 and there was poor visibility.

Taking Mola out of the way paved the way for Franco to become a Caudillo, so he should never have thanked that twin-engine Aispeed Envoy enough, if it was fortuitous, for taking the life of the one who was overshadowing him. Mola fell “into hell” with “flames on his tail and ass,” as Pablo Neruda wrote.

To get to this place you have to take a dirt track from the town that still preserves some remains of broken asphalt. A detour sign announces that the monument is three kilometers away. There are a couple of hairpin bends but access is easy. Before arriving, the structure already appears, at the highest point of Cerro Perejil. It is 22 meters high and its access is flanked by a corridor of pine and oak trees. Like a cursed temple waiting to be discovered, 500 meters of stairs and ramps lead up to it, eaten in part by invading nature.

On the front, a huge imperial shield. Below, the general’s last name in huge capital letters. On the other side there is a door. Who knows what will be kept inside. In the lower part, after a descent ramp, a line of five arches recalls the five occupants of the wrecked plane: Pozas, Chamorro, Barreda, Senac and Mola. Behind them, five crosses that mark the site where the bodies were collected, and a long inscription that today is already illegible. Spray-painted and crossed out, they try to overwrite something without succeeding. A query to the newspaper library reveals that the text is an epic and cloying account of the life of the military man: “Who a hundred times in his life faced the danger of war with a serene spirit and an uplifted heart came to die with broken wings”. 18,000 square meters of Francoism abandoned to its ruin, but not destroyed or transformed. You have simply turned your back on it.

Franco inaugurated that aberration two summers after the accident, in 1939. He stood under the huge letters of MOLA and from there led a speech, accompanied by the ambassadors of Japan, Germany and Italy, as well as representatives of the Holy See. Soldiers of the Moorish guard stood at different points of height on the stairs, staging an exotic and solemn staging. The weather that day was almost as bad as when Mola was killed.

The regime boasted of speed: in two months the work had been aired. Along with the monument itself, it has also been forgotten that it was the prisoners with their slave labor who took care of it, as in the Valley of the Fallen, as in the Madrid-Burgos railway line or the Lavacolla airport. On this occasion, there were hundreds of them, including international brigade members, extracted from the Miranda de Ebro concentration camp. And, together with the Republican prisoners, men from nearby towns were forced to carry the stone from the Villalómez quarry, almost ten kilometers and uphill, dragging them with beasts.

Juan Bautista Sagredo is the mayor of Alcocero de Mola who fell in 2016 with a complaint for incitement to hatred signed by lawyer Eduardo Ranz, dedicated to memorial causes. For Ranz, the monument violates the Law of Historical Memory and must be removed from there. Bautista disagreed: “It’s a waste of time and funds,” he said. Nor was he for the task of removing the coup’s surname from his people. Unlike Bautista, another mayor did dare to dismantle a tribute to Mola. His name is Joseba Asirón and he signed the order for the exhumation of the seven Francoists who remained buried in the crypt of the Monument to the Fallen of Iruñea. The military’s relatives respected the municipal agreement. The list of mayors who have work ahead to get Mola out of its towns and cities is still long, as is the number of streets throughout Spain that still bear his name.