Spaniards are celebrating with some fanfare the 40th anniversary of their democratic constitution that was approved overwhelmingly in a referendum on 6 December 1978, sealing the end of the 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, the victor of the country’s civil war. Whichever way one looks at it, Spain has been transformed profoundly since then.
Spain is living through sad times. The Catalan parliament’s illegal proclamation of an independent state has sparked the most serious constitutional crisis since the failed coup in 1981. But unlike that crisis, this one has no easy solution. All the stereotypes that Spaniards are incapable of living together, epitomised by the 1936-39 Civil War, are being reinforced.
Forty years ago today (20 November), General Franco, the chief protagonist of nearly half a century of Spanish history, died. ‘Caudillo by the grace of God’, as his coins proclaimed after he won the 1936-39 Civil War, Generalissimo of the armed forces, and head of state and head of government (the latter until 1973), Franco was buried at the colossal mausoleum partly built by political prisoners at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) in the Guadarrama mountains near Madrid.