No closure and no change

Carmen Gomez

“The new world of Spain”; “The new Spaniards”; how many articles in magazines or journals have we come across with similar titles? All carrying stories which are appealing and interesting, because Spain, is after all, one of the oldest nation-states in Europe whose history is enveloped in countless conquests; whose deep rooted traditions have been the subject of passionate relates; whose bloody Spanish Civil War ignited such interest, that for the first time in the history of the world, its propaganda played a greater part than even the fight itself. 

In fact it is said that between 1936 and 1939, 221 books and pamphlets alone were written in the UK. For despite the UK maintaining its neutrality, the overwhelming majority of its population sympathized with the republicans; this in itself represents a victory of incalculable dimensions.

There is no denying all this; except to say, that if any at any time past or present, if any of the articles in question have been written with some journalistic honesty; at the end of the day they must leave the reader with an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu.

Because, despite its journeys through a transition come democracy; despite its modernisation; despite its efforts to reform their processes and institutions to the point of finding a need to redesign them; they always seem unable to go the extra mile to being able to earn the claim, the reality, of a new Spain”.

The spirit of transition was one veiled in the term “forgive and forget;” except this never occurred because in Spain no one was ever judged and so no one was deemed guilty. And so it was just a matter of forgetting, as forgiveness never entered into the frame. There are open wounds waiting to be healed; except we know they never will be. They never will because there is no political will to do so.


There is a young generation who are asking questions about their countries past. A past that lies buried but not forgotten by those who lived it. Only by coming to terms with it and having open honest debate, will they be able to put it to rest. I recently came across yet another among the deadliest of the Spanish Civil War episodes. The town of Belchite, in the province of Zaragoza. Belchite is a now a ghost town which is shamelessly used as location for films, including the Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth; plus one commercial by Schwarzenegger for a popular computer game.


I say shamelessly because around 5,000 people died there, including international fighters from the Lincoln Brigade of America, Canadian, British and a dozen Australian men who fought on the side of the republic. They say that those killed can still be heard today; souls lost for decades searching for closure; for a closure that never comes. Franco ordered it be left as a monument to the war; to his ability to punish all at will that went against him.

Apparently bodies were stacked up in the town square where at one point; so it is recorded; was one story high and burnt with doused gasoline day and night; whilst others were thrown down underground vats covered in lime and the entrance sealed; where they remain entombed today. Hemingway wrote that it was less a town than a nasty smell.

No closure and no change. There have been calls in the past emanating from political campaigns announcing “El Cambio” i.e. “the change”. The voters have sought this change; they have desired it with every breath they take in every new election to be held; from every new face or party to appear on the political stage. But in the end what they have been left with is the resignation of the down beaten; thus the often used phrase of “No pasa nada.” I.e. nothing happens.

Thinking of yesterday is not encouraged, and thinking of tomorrow is an alien concept in Spain. They only live for the day. Spain may have been unified for hundreds of years; yet in language, culture, outlook, and geography, it could hardly be more fragmented. There are many of them who scarcely consider themselves Spanish at all and that is why the ultra right wing party Vox is trying to remedy this with its constant call of “Arriba España.” We all remember who first uttered these words; not once, but at the end of every speech of his; the Generalisimo himself .

And to think that they, with their Cervantes Institute set up locally some time back, wanted us; whom they still look upon as part of their flock that has gone astray; to speak Spanish as a first language, or at least not lose it. Exporting Cervantes Institutes has been used to influence in the creation and diffusion of Marca Espana, for a major international projection; their way of consolidating Spanish as the world’s second language.

That ‘but’

They have been at the pinnacle of World Affairs and indeed Foreign Affairs; but; and there is always that “but” which blots their political landscape; they have yet to find the formula that allows them that staying power, which at the end of the day fails them.

Time after time they stumble and fall on account of one crisis or another, and have to build themselves up again. Even now they squabble yet again; as they have done in the past; amongst themselves, to gain their party’s seats of preference in Parliament and Government without a thought for its people. Perhaps the question is not, can Spain abide in character within a united Europe? But more, Can they really be taken seriously as world players?