The “democratic memory” will be the “key” of the first exhibition in the Pazo de Meirás (Sada, A Coruña) after the historic sentence that restored it to the State heritage. It will not yet be the definitive permanent exhibition, due to the judicial entanglement over the ownership of furniture and works of art that keeps most of the rooms inaccessible to the public, but it does lay the basis of the “story” that the central government seeks for one of the emblematic places of the Franco dictatorship. The State Secretariat for Democratic Memory entrusted the work to professors Xosé Manuel Núñez Seixas and Emilio Grandío and will present it this Thursday, October 7 at five in the afternoon, in the pazo itself.
Pardo Bazán as an alibi: the Xunta de Feijóo uses the protofeminism of the writer to reduce the Francoist plunder of Meirás
Never before has the place welcomed its own history “in a democratic key”. The only interpretation available in situ it had been a panel placed by the Franco Foundation. The presentation ceremony has meant the temporary stoppage of visits that, since June, allowed citizens to see the gardens that the dictator used to stage his family life and also engage in politics.
Núñez Seixas, professor of Contemporary History at the University of Santiago de Compostela, and Grandío, professor of the same subject at the same university, are also part of the committee of experts working on the future use plan of Meirás. But he will have to wait for the judicial process to come to an end. The last episode affects the furniture and works of art that the pazo houses. The judge rejected the Franco’s request to withdraw them and summoned the parties -the grandchildren of the dictator and the administrations involved: State, Xunta, Deputation of A Coruña, municipalities of Sada and A Coruña- on October 22 to determine “what property must be considered immovable “and, therefore, cannot be removed.
The Xunta and Pardo Bazán
The announcement of the exhibition represents a new movement in the silent dispute over the meaning of the Pazo de Meirás, which faces the Xunta de Galicia and the central Executive. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Culture Román Rodríguez assured that his department was also preparing an exhibition in Meirás, but about Emilia Pardo Bazán, its owner between 1893 -the year of its construction on existing ruins on the plot- and 1921, when the writer. “[Queremos] to value this property as a space for democracy, culture, defense of women, equality and the legacy of its creator, “he said then. Seven days after making his intentions public, he had not yet communicated them to the central government, owner of the property. Darkening the Franco era with the excuse of Pardo Bazán’s feminism is the axis of the discourse that the Government of Núñez Feijóo maintains since a court in A Coruña declared last September that Meirás belongs to the State and not to the Franco family.
Because the dictator took him in 1938, in the middle of the Civil War. The mechanism was established by a self-appointed Provincial Board Pro Pazo Caudillo, made up of businessmen who were adept at the coup of ’36, who made a forced collection to acquire the property and adjacent farms and deliver it to the leader of the seditious. The confusion between the personal and the political that characterized his regime caused that, once Franco died and democracy was restored, the mansion remained in the hands of his heirs. Only the neighborhood mobilization, of activists for the antifascist memory and of the left and nationalist parties, pushed the State to act judicially. The Government of Sánchez did it, which led to the ruling that returned the pazo to public ownership.
It was then that the Xunta de Galicia began the offensive to impose its vision on the famous towers. It did not matter that, still in 2017, Feijóo himself assumed the Franco thesis in the Galician Parliament and ordered his deputies to vote against “recovering for the public” Meirás. It would be to apply “a Francoist mechanism,” he said in a rhetorical pirouette. He did not take long to rectify, in view of the events, and in 2020 he celebrated the judicial opinion: “The Pazo is already for everyone.” And, after a meeting of his government, he warned that he was drafting a “plan of uses” based on the figure of Pardo Bazán, in his opinion one of the “most important icons of Galician culture and literature and feminism.” Neither Feijóo nor his cabinet have stopped insisting on their strategy. Yes, the dictator spent a large part of his time in Meirás, but that is not the important thing: “That Emilia Pardo Bazán is relegated by the question of the general’s summer vacation does not seem reasonable to us.”
Doors not quite open yet
The Xunta tried to transfer its institutional act of 8M there and the delivery of the Pardo Bazán medals -one of the many awards it distributes, this one created in 2019-. The Government did not allow it and argued that the appropriate conditions were not yet in place. He did it a few months later, in September. The act was limited by the restrictions derived from the coronavirus pandemic and Núñez Feijóo did not even attend, despite being scheduled. “On a day like today we return to the Torres de Meirás its character as a symbol of knowledge, culture, tolerance”, repeated the mantra the Minister of Emprego, María Jesús Lorenzana, usually with a low public profile.
The central government also did not allow, in June, that a march with the slogan Meirás é a nosa memory. O pazo xa é noso [Meirás es nuestra memoria. El pazo ya es nuestro] convened by groups for the defense of historical memory to access the gardens. Three months later, the Suárez Picallo de Sada Cultural Association publicly denounced that the State had denied them permission to carry out an institutional act in Meirás “in attention to the legal situation of the property” just during the same days that it authorized the Xunta to impose the Pardo Bazán medals.