Seventy-seven years after that now a debate in Elche about the intention of the government team (PSOE and Compromís) to remove that cross Taking advantage of the fact that for the first time the Civil War refuge will be opened to the public and the square will be reformed to create an open-air museum of memory, predictably in two years. Vox was the first political party to go out to defend the Cross of the Fallen in the last plenary session as “the main architectural symbol of the square and of reconciliation.”
The bipartisan had never publicly announced his plan to suppress the monument when he presented the project of the refuge museum and then he had to give explanations and justified that he would do it as part of a global action to modernize the square. The PP has aligned itself with Vox this week and has claimed its permanence.
On the street, the future elimination of this symbol generates a division of opinions both due to the historical value and the architectural value of this legacy. Those who live with this monolith day by day, lThe neighbors, are for the moment impassive before the intentions of the government team, at least from the neighborhood association of El Pla. His secretary, Encarnación Morete, confesses that the intention of eliminating it has not unleashed a stir among residents for now, perhaps, because they have not met with the pandemic for a year. Admit that Most have internalized this cross as one more element of the square that they continue to refer to as “Paseo de los Caídos”. For many like this neighborhood representative, this stone element designed by the architect Santiago Pérez Aracil, no longer has the meaning that was given to it in its day.
However, the reality is that although the monument no longer carries any plaque or inscription, that construction was inherited from a dark past that almost eighty years later continues to confront many people throughout the country. There are historians, like Miguel Ors, who see it sensible that the cross is eliminated with the remodeling of the square, because he considers that there is a tendency to “whiten Francoism with all due respect to those who think that the cross has a religious meaning.”
The director of the Pere Ibarra Chair recalled, as the newspapers reported after the inauguration of the monument, that in that act “all those present sang the ‘Face to the Sun’ giving the shouts of ritual to the provincial head of the Movement.” Ors emphasizes that the war has to have a pedagogical sense so that people know the number of deaths it caused and considers that for that, among other things, the museum that the City Council wants to build on the Paseo de Germanías has to serve.
And precisely for this reason, because this square is going to become a space to recover memory through exhibitions inside the underground gallery, the architect Gaspar Jaén sees fit to preserve the cross. The one who was municipal architect of the City Council of Elche for more than a decade, calls, in fact, “outrageous to try to remove the monument, despite all the bad it represents.” And he thinks so because of the «very high architectural and historical value which he considers to have a construction that “at that time was made to honor the dead regardless of who you like who does it.” Gaspar Jaén recalls that in Germany no one has considered eliminating concentration camps because they are part of memory. He also predicts that PSOE and Compromís will be wrong with the withdrawal of the cross and will give wings to the PP and Vox.
A similar point of view is held by the historian Joan Castaño who proposes to reinterpret the monument or even move it to another enclave in the square or in the city. The archivist of the Misteri asserts that this legacy that the square preserves is democratized, something that the City Council has always defended to maintain it until now. “It could remain as a memory, as a cross, as a symbol of reconciliation,” he defends.
Between one extreme and the other, there are people from Elche, such as the architect Tomás Martínez Boix, who do not have a clear opinion on whether the monument should stay or not. “That cross is not interesting from the artistic point of view, I would not know whether to keep it, but I think the same with the refuges or the bunkers,” he points out. The architect believes that this element is not art, but is part of history and that Francoism, like any other period, produced its monumentality. Martínez Boix is one of those who believes that we must “accept our history, that there was a war and a disaster.”
We will have to wait and see what happens when and if they finally eliminate a symbol that is clearly very controversial.
The Cross of the Fallen originally had an altar and symbols of the Falange, among which the yoke and the arrows stood out, as shown in this photograph from the late 1940s collected between the pages of the book Elx Ciutadà. The image shows members of the regime, one of them making the Franco salute. The inauguration of the monument was the front page of Information in 1944, where the attendance to Eche of senior officials of the Movement was highlighted. Currently, the cross, as can be seen in the last photo, lacks any Francoist element and symbolism of that time when these were withdrawn during the democratic transition.
An open-air museum and inside the anti-aircraft gallery
The gallery of the Paseo de Germanías, one of the thirteen that were built in Elche underground Fearing that it would be bombed during the Civil War, it will become the first museum in the city to be opened inside a shelter. Its opening will not be immediate, it will take at least two years to make a tunnel 235 linear meters long, which has never seen the light, open to visitors. What the City Council intends to do is to rehabilitate the existing galleries, but maintaining its construction and the original environment, so it will do works to provide the hiding place with lighting, ventilation and signage. There will be exhibitions and the plaza will also be remodeled.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.