Saturday, April 15, 2006
A Good Birth
Yesterday, Spain rather quietly marked the 75th anniversary of the declaration of the Second Republic. There’s been some controversy about whether and/or how to celebrate this day. Those favoring celebration tend to fall farther left on the political spectrum, are not admirers of Franco and his dictatorship, and are content that the right-leaning Popular Party lost the national elections in 2004. Those who resist or outright oppose any celebration are largely more conservative, have (at least in private) mixed feelings about Franco and his legacy, and are not supporters of current Prime Minister Zapatero, who speaks often of his grandfather, a Republican who was killed by Franco’s Nationalists during the civil war (1936-1939) that followed the collapse of the Republic. In any case, I have spent much of one of my careers—a college professor—studying and writing about things related to the Republic and the civil war, and so yesterday's events interested me. I was traveling from Madrid to Asturias and didn’t get much news, but I did read that the head of the United Left party was attending a Republican flag-raising in Grado, not far from here. But it seems that the Republic’s banner was raised in just one other Spanish town. And Zapatero’s governing Socialist party appears to be making conciliatory gestures towards the PP on legislation that makes this the “Year of Historical Memory.” Editorials have appeared all week, both praising the Republic for its achievements and even pointing to it as the precursor of today’s democratic state, and criticizing the Republic for its many errors while suggesting that those who remember it fondly are given to nostalgic fantasy. How to make peace with the past? That's a never-ending question. All things considered, the Republic's anniversary seemed a bit understated. I'm not particularly sad about this, but I will tell you that the first time I saw a photograph that for me has come to symbolize the birth of the Republic—delirious throngs of people flowing through the Puerta del Sol on April 14th, 1931, as a brazen few hoist the new government’s banner, all enshrouded in an inexplicable mist--I was moved.