There are television talk shows and radio talk shows. And then there are the real ones. Four retired ladies meet every day at around eleven in the morning in a corner of the La Pradera de San Nicolás bar, in the epicenter of the renowned General Millán Astray street in Madrid, about 15 kilometers from Puerta del Sol Paloma, Paqui, “uuuh !, I don’t say the name” and “neither do I, that no, no, who knows later” they always ask for a coffee with some churrito, some capita and they dispatch the morning. The table in the corner of the store, against the window, has been hers for years; anyone sit down. What do you think that the street of the house has the name of the propagandist general of the Franco regime again ?:
– Let them leave it like that, we’ve been with that one for 47 years.
– And let us raise our pensions with what the change has cost!
This little Sanhedrin of wise women agrees with that diagnosis, except when bureaucratic problems arise:
– For changing the DNI? No problem.
– Maribel, listen, because we haven’t been, that if we had to go …
“Sure, sure,” Paqui agrees.
– I for life and until I die I have Master Justa Freire, who with my husband went to the police to change him months ago and I will not go anymore.
– And I of General Millán Astray, that I am going to leave it forever, that for that is the history of Spain.
The route of General Millán Astray appeared on the Madrid street until one afternoon in 2018, when the Manuela Carmena City Council modified it for that of Professor Justa Freire, a pioneer woman in Spanish education. However, on August 24, two City Council workers who now run the popular José Luis Martínez-Almeida appeared by surprise first thing in the morning and changed the badge, again, for the one who was also the founder of the legionaries.
“When I saw the two workers, I almost fell out of fright,” says Raquel Chavarría, 38, an assistant at the only pharmacy on the street. “They came with the ladder and asked us to raise the awning to place the new plate. Not even five minutes did it take. This, honestly, is bullshit. It has always been called Astray. There is no point in changing it ”. The same think the twenty neighbors consulted. Since that morning in August, this avenue has been a corridor of media, photographers and the curious. The polls, yes, say that Ayuso reached 45% of the votes in the elections last May and that in the last general elections the most voted force was the PSOE, with 30% of the ballots.
The newspaper library tells that the change of this street was born in 2007. That year, the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero approved the law of historical memory, a regulation that obliges all the town councils of Spain to remove shields, badges, plaques and other objects such as commemorative mentions of exaltation, personal or collective, of the military uprising of the Civil War and the repression of the dictatorship. For ten years, from 2007 to 2017, Madrid broke that law. In that period, governed by the PP, there was no change in the street map of the capital. It was not the only city. The regulations do not sanction for this breach. What’s more, there are still 533 urban roads in different municipalities in Spain whose names praise the dictatorship.
The changes in the streets of Madrid came in 2016, when the then mayor Manuela Carmena created a historical memory commission to eliminate Francoist names from the street. The commission was created at the will of Carmena, since national regulations do not indicate that it is a prerequisite. The councilor brought together different personalities of different ideologies at the proposal of the parties, such as the writer Andrés Trapiello – awarded this year by the City Council of PP and Ciudadanos -, the philosopher Amelia Valcárcel, the priest Santos Urías or the historian and academic Octavio Ruiz- Manjón, who was recommended by the then popular spokeswoman Esperanza Aguirre. The president of this group was the lawyer, former socialist senator and founder and president of the Movement for Peace, Francisca Sauquillo. All the parties, except the PP, which abstained, voted in favor of this commission.
“We act without revenge,” says Sauquillo by phone. For two years, this group of intellectuals and experts met weekly to examine the more than 9,000 streets that Madrid has. After numerous talks and hours of study, which were added by historians and experts, they came to the conclusion that Madrid would have to change 53 Francoist streets. “The street of Astray”, Sauquillo emphasizes, “was clear from the first moment. And although the military was not in the first part of the uprising, then he came to Spain and made himself available to Franco, who commissioned him to create Radio Nacional de España as a propaganda element. And if that is not playing a role in the dictatorship, then I already… ”.
The commission proposed the new names for the 53 streets on the condition that they be people or elements that provide values for citizens. Hence the name of Justa Freire for Millán Astray or the March 11 Memorial for the Fallen of the Blue Division. Carmena then took the resolution of the commission to another municipal plenary session and all the parties ―Más Madrid, PSOE and Ciudadanos― voted in favor of the change, except for the PP, which abstained again with a very harsh tone: “Some want to bury us in the Valley of the Fallen, “said the then popular councilor Pedro Corral.
The approval of the street change was approved in a plenary session that was held on April 28, 2017. Days later, the Francisco Franco Foundation denounced the change of almost all these streets in the courts. Later, the Millán Astray Patriotic Platform and numerous individuals and relatives who were against this decision joined with other appeals in different courts of the capital. Meanwhile, as there were no final sentences, the tracks began to change.
Judges should not be historians
Francisca Sauquillo, president of the historical memory commission for the street map
In April of this year, the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid ruled that the street of General Millán Astray could not be changed through the law of historical memory, as the complainants argued. “He doesn’t have enough motivation,” the judge explained in the car. “The judges should not be historians,” responds now the president of the Carmena commission, Paquilla Sauquillo. “I am living these changes with great sadness. We are experiencing a review of the uprising of 36, of what happened after and of the 40 years of Francoism. You don’t want to recognize that it existed ”.
Almeida (PP), who became mayor in 2019 thanks to the support of Vox, did not want to appeal the April sentence on Millán Astray, hiding from the fact that the municipal legal services dictate it. And, therefore, it is already firm. For this reason, the name of Professor Justa Freire was withdrawn on August 24. Municipal sources confirm that, although there are still more pending cases of other streets in the courts, the City Council will change five more roads because there is also a final sentence and, therefore, they must return to their previous name.
These routes are: Memorial March 11, 2004, which will be renamed Fallen of the Blue Division. The path of the doctor and writer José Rizal through that of the Francoist bullfighter Algabeño. The roundabout of the painter Ramón Gaya by that of Cirilo Martín, the first Francoist mayor of the now Aravaca neighborhood. The street of Barco rail ―A ship that carried more than 1,000 Spanish exiles to Mexico in 1939―, for Balearic Islands cruise, one of the Francoist artillerymen who shed the most blood during the Civil War and who caused one of the most tragic episodes in Malaga, known as The scare. And the avenue of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza by the Falangist brothers García Noblejas.
The streets will be changed progressively in the coming weeks, because the sentence does not specify a deadline
Municipal government sources
“The streets will be changed progressively in the coming weeks because the sentence does not specify a deadline,” explain municipal sources. But can Almeida rename these streets? Yes. The ordinance is very clear. The Government team and the District Boards of each neighborhood can propose the change of name of any Madrid street, in both cases it requires a vote in the plenary session of Cibeles or in the District Board. What’s more, during these two years of the PP and Citizens Government, a square and two streets that previously had other names have been changed.
A few days ago, thousands of users shared a photo with the renowned Crucero Baleares street in Madrid on Twitter. It was taken for granted that the City Council had already made the change: it was one more hoax. This road, located in the Vallecas neighborhood and a few meters from the Rayo Vallecano stadium, does not measure more than 100 meters and is still called Barco Sinaia.
Fernando, “just”, is 66 years old and has lived here for decades. This Thursday he cleaned the garage without a shirt and with a brush that not long ago served as a mechanical workshop. “I am from Vallecas; born, raised and grazed. In a war so sons of bitches they are like each other, what they have to do is put it on Calle del Quirico, period ”.
– And who was Quirico?
– The man who was before these names, or so I think he put in the deeds of the house.
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