Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain And Its Silent Past

Spain is one of my favorite countries, I have known many wonderful people from there, and eventually traveled there simply from having known them. At one time I contemplated going there to become a resident. Yet all the time I knew that in the Spanish Civil War, where George Orwell played in the 1930s, 500,000 people rapidly died. It was a convulsive, vicious, polarizing war with no escape hatch. Reliable estimates say about half the dead were grabbed out of their homes at night, taken outside town, brutalized, tortured, and shot. But no one will talk about it now except a few old victims and loose-tongued witnesses. The civil war is wrapped like a mummy behind a curtain, where its blood began to coagulate, to congeal, and in a blessed silence has begun to heal. Few want to peel back that velvet curtain, and sometimes the best conspiracy is silence.

Giles Tremlett has written a great book about Spain, and I doubt he would disagree with me. The fascists under Franco won the civil war in 1939, and took control of all institutions. In the mid-70s, for example, married women couldn't have bank accounts without their husbands' consent. Yet today, 50% of the elected cabinet in Spain are women, and it would be difficult to imagine a more glorious, ferociously liberated female lot than the Iberians. Few seem to miss Franco. Although Catholic, Spain recently legalized gay marriage. A repressive past, a progressive present. What the hell happened?

I don't really know. But Spain is a testament to how fast things can change, and that they sometimes can do so for the better.

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