Friday, September 22

Priests, bullfighters and Francoist mayors: San Sebastián de los Reyes returns to the past with the help of PSOE and Ciudadanos

The municipal government of San Sebastián de los Reyes, led by a coalition formed by the PSOE and Ciudadanos, is again involved in the controversy. Recently, to the astonishment of many, the City Council fined two members of the Citizen Platform 1,500 euros – 750 euros each – simply for writing petitions on the ground in the square with colored school chalk “in favor of more aid social and educational for vulnerable minors”. And now the municipality, which prepares its popular August festivities in which the running of the bulls is the highlight of each day, has exhibited a chain of episodes with priests, bullfighters and former Francoist mayors as protagonists.

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Last Sunday the residents of this important municipality in the north of Madrid experienced a scene worthy of a Berlanga film. On the occasion of the municipal festivities of Cristo de los Remedios, the parish priest of the town was invited by the socialist mayor, Narciso Romero, to the balcony of the City Hall so that from there he would give his blessings to an enormous image of the saint that he himself uncovered after humming a popular song to the delight of the neighbors gathered in the square. “The Christ of Remedies is the soul of the town, and a town without a soul is a zombie. If we did not have the Christ, what would we put? What? A beer? Or a bull? Well, no”, exclaimed the priest, whose sermon was later uploaded by the parish itself to its Twitter account between laughing emoticons.

His original ‘homily’ was not so funny to the councilors of the opposition who thought that celebrating this act of marked religious character in the seat of the consistory was something inappropriate. “Where is article 16 of the Spanish Constitution?” asks the spokesman for the Independent Left, Juan Torres, in conversation with this newsroom. “It cannot be tolerated that a priest comes out from the balcony of the Town Hall to bless a saint. That is what the churches are for”, says the spokesman for this group.

During that act, in addition, a tradition that very few remembered was recovered, consisting of the launching of a rocket for each bull that is going to fight or run during the running of the bulls that will be held during the town festivities. This year the number of cattle has increased to 58, a figure that the opposition sees as disproportionate, since it has meant shooting up the budget to carry out this type of activity. In fact, of the six running of the bulls that used to be held in previous editions, eleven have now been held, almost twice as many, which has increased the contract with the company that manages the bullring, owned by the family, to 760,000 euros. of Eduardo San Nicolás Guillén, a former mayor who governed the city in 1961, a time still under Franco. In total, the consistory will allocate more than one million euros for the running of the bulls and bullfights that will take place between August 27 and September 4, during the Fiestas del Cristo de los Remedios.

A motion that honors a former Francoist mayor

The story of how this bullfighting arena, known as La Tercera, was raised, returned to the news of the municipality last week during the debate of a motion approved by the Plenary and presented by the mayor split from the PP and now not attached, Ismael García Ruiz , who is married to the granddaughter of that Francoist alderman. According to sources familiar with this story, at the beginning of the 1960s, Eduardo San Nicolás Guillén, being the unelected mayor of the town of San Sebastián de los Reyes, used more than 4,000 square meters of public land, a royal canyon, to build a private bullring. However, the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Directorate of Livestock at the time sanctioned him to pay a fine of 1,042.50 of the old pesetas and ordered him to replace the livestock route, as stated in an official document from the public archive to which this newsroom has had access. But the alderman managed to get rid of the matter. Currently, the bullring is still a private business, owned by his family, and the City Council must pay the company if it wants to hold bullfights and bullfights there.

In his explanatory memorandum, councilor Ismael García Ruiz recalls that “Don Eduardo” (whom he does not classify as mayor of the Franco era) was the architect of “throughout Spain Sanse like the little Pamplona”, and urges the City Council to give the name of that alderman to a roundabout on the Paseo de Europa in San Sebastián de los Reyes that is on the corner of María Santos Colmenar street. In addition, he proposes that the City Council pay “a well-deserved tribute to him, as a true promoter of the bullfighting fair in the municipality.” The motion was approved by the Plenary with the votes of PP and Citizens along with those of Vox. The PSOE abstained. The debate began with controversy in the absence of the promoter of the proposal. Curiously, the non-attached mayor did not participate in the plenary session, nor did he defend or vote for the motion, and delegated to the deputy mayor of Ciudadanos, Miguel Ángel Martín Perdiguero, who acted as rapporteur. The other municipal groups –Podemos, Más Madrid-IU-Equo and Izquierda Independiente– voted against and charged the mayor.

According to the digital It is what it is, a medium promoted by a group of neighbors, during the debate, the spokesman for Podemos, Juan Angulo, regretted that in the motion “not only” was “proposing a tribute to a fascist but also based on bullfighting traditions and in the supposed bonhomie of the person”. The deputy mayor of Ciudadanos demanded that he remove the fascist part, but Angulo refused. And he denounced that the text of the initiative “obviously said that this mayor was a member of the Franco regime”, while he accused “the Spanish right” of never having broken with Francoism. “Quite the contrary, you are asking for tributes to those who came to power through a military coup,” he added.

Javier Heras, from Más Madrid, described the proposal as “unacceptable” and “untimely”, stating that “due to the fact that he was chosen by the Franco regime, he does not have to pay tribute”. It is surprising that when the Government of Spain, of the PSOE, presents the Law of Democratic Memory, the mayor of San Sebastián de los Reyes, also of the PSOE of Madrid, allows municipal tributes to a mayor of the Franco regime who set up his private bullring business seizing public land. It is an insult”, insists Juan Torres, from Izquierda Independiente, in conversation with this newsroom. In contrast, Alejandro Caro, from Vox, defended the motion and said: “In 1975 Franco died and that was the end of everything”, to add that “San Nicolás is not being honored” “for being mayor but for his contribution to bullfighting”.

As these types of proposals are not mandatory, now it must be the current councilor of the PSOE, Narciso Romero, who decides whether to apply it or not. It so happens that this is the second time that this non-attached councilor presents an identical proposal. In 2019, while still in the Popular Group, he already tried the same thing but it did not prosper.

A museum for the bullfighter Ortega Cano

To add more seasoning to this stew, another of the controversies that have arisen these days in the municipality has been the recent decision of the local government to dismantle part of the Ethnographic Museum, the area on the ground floor called The Caseron, to open a museum dedicated to the bullfighter José Ortega Cano. Although he was born in Murcia, part of his family emigrated to San Sebastián de los Reyes. The work to remove the relics that were exhibited there and that reflected the way of life of the locals has already begun to make room for capes, suits of lights and other memories of the matador.

The opposition does not want to overlook the fact that Ortega Cano was sentenced in 2014 to two years, six months and one day in prison for reckless homicide and reckless driving, since he was drunk at the time of the events. Fourteen months after entering prison, he remained in semi-liberty when taking advantage of the third prison degree. This newsroom has contacted the Mayor’s Office of San Sebastián de los Reyes to seek his opinion or his version of all these events, but has not received a response.