Saturday, May 02, 2015

 

Franco is Still Dead (Although, He Does Seem to be Moving Slightly)

 I was a handsome young fellow in those days, un señorito if I say so myself. I was living in Mojácar in a society of older and generally rather drunken Europeans and a sprinkling of Spaniards who treated us, in those days, with a mixture of no-doubt gratitude and respect, as we learned a few words of Spanish, built unimaginably large houses and drove astonishing cars (usually with the steering wheel in an unlikely configuration) and sometimes bought them a drink in the bar in the village square - the Indalo run by Antonio (he's still there). Toma una copa conmigo, my dad would say.
Some of those cars would fall off the cliff as we drove home, sometimes with tragic results, but we were left alone by the police - we were bringing wealth to the village and it was sorely needed. Jacinto, the old mayor, his job awarded to him by the provincial governor, was careful to see that we were happy and that no one watered down the gin.
They were idylic times.
Franco, we said, if the subject came up, he's a good old thing - keeps the place safe. And it was true enough. The Guardia Civil were feared and when it came to it they were, let's say, suitably 'trigger happy'. Things were quiet enough in our small, forgotten, ignored and peaceful corner of a province that, during the Civil War, had been fiercely supportive of the Republicans.
The Swedes up in Jávea went rather further than we did, organising one day a big (and approved) rally in the bull-ring, with home-made banners reading 'Arriba España' and 'Up Franco' (they meant well). But we were quiet enough - never talk about politics or religion was our motto. Antonio, un brandy por favor.
Then came word that the Old Boy was failing. He was put on life support in the Ruber in Madrid and lay in a coma for several weeks. Saturday Night Live in New York famously began its news-segment each week with the story that 'the Caudillo of Spain, Francisco Franco, is still dead'.
And then, he was. On November 20th 1975, the Generalísimo breathed his last and Spain went into heavy mourning. Everything was closed down and quiet.
The small group of emigrés that lived in and around Mojácar naturally felt sorry for their kind hosts and thought that the best thing to do would be to show up at the iglesia for the mass to celebrate the soul of the murderous old sod. We trooped in to the church, dressed in shirts and ties (those of us who owned such things) and were faintly surprised to see that, apart from a couple of old girls dressed in the kind of black you don't normally see these days, and a startled-looking priest, there was nobody at all. The cura gamely got on with his pater nosters and we stood or sat, as required, while trying to look as sorrowful as we could. What will they do without the old swine? we wondered.
At last the service creaked to an end. We passed through the door of the church into the somber evening outside, where a large and evidently indignant group of Mojaquero males were waiting for us. A pause. Then Jacinto suddenly broke the pregnant silence: 'Antonio, go and open up the bar, the extranjeros are thirsty'.

I found the newspaper featured at the top of this story while cleaning out a box of junk this morning.




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