I’m not much of a dumpster diver, but I recently spotted a cardboard box full of magazines next to a green wheelie bin in our neighborhood and I couldn’t help myself. I dragged it home, cracked open a beer, and sat down on the living room floor to inspect my haul. The box contained thirty some odd issues of TIERRA MAR AIRE: Revista de la Hermandad de Retirados de las Fuerzas Armadas (LAND SEA AIR: Magazine of the Brotherhood of Retired Members of the Armed Forces) from the 1980s. Pretty boring stuff.
The publication is filled with gushing pieces on the church and the royal family, articles on managing your pension, a smattering of patriotic poetry, obituaries for deceased generals, sergeants, and colonels, and lots of ads for retirement homes and restaurants. (“¡Buen vino, mejor cordero!” – “Good wine, better lamb!”) One issue contains an article on birth control – “Procreación responsable y métodos naturales” or “Responsible procreation and natural methods” – where the reader is not-so-gently reminded that contraceptives and self-abuse are strictly forbidden by the Church.
The best part of the haul, seven laminated “pamphlets” (for lack of a better word), was to be found at the bottom of the box, underneath the magazines. A few are folded in half, the others are folded in thirds. They came free with the purchase of National Christmas Lottery tickets from Regalos Frangarmo, a company in the town of Tomelloso, in Castilla-La Mancha, that sells fascist memorabilia.
The pamphlets contain brightly colored images of Francisco Franco and the founder of the Falange, the Spanish Fascist political party, José Antonio Primo de Rivera. Alongside the images of the two men are excerpts from some of their speeches, the lyrics to military songs, and a “Did You Know?” section of sorts which contains gems like:
“En época de FRANCO ser español volvió a convertirse en una de
las pocas cosas serias que se podían ser en el mundo.”
(“In Franco’s time, to be Spanish once again became one of
the few meaningful things that one could be in the world.”)
My favorite pamphlet is a triptych that, when opened, reveals a pop-up of Franco mounted on a white horse among some ancient ruins. On the back is written:
“40 años de ORDEN, BIENESTAR y PROGRESO.”
(“40 years of ORDER (or DISCIPLINE), WELL-BEING and PROGRESS.”)
One of the pamphlets contains a tiny chip and speaker, like those annoying birthday cards that play an obnoxious song when they are opened. Unfortunately, the chip no longer works. What did it play? A military march? One of Franco’s speeches?
Four laminated Christmas lottery tickets from 1985 were also in the bottom of the box. Two contain images of Franco, one contains an image of Primo de Rivera, and one contains an image of Colonel Antonio Tejero wearing a tricornio, the Spanish Civil Guard hat.
Colonel Tejero unsuccessfully attempted a military coup on February 23, 1981. He entered the lower house of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid accompanied by 150 soldiers and Guardia Civil. Shots were fired at the ceiling and the members of Congress were held hostage for 22 hours. King Juan Carlos denounced the golpe de Estado on national television and the next day the leaders of the coup surrendered. There is footage of the attempted “23-F” coup on YouTube.
Tejero served 15 years of a 30 year jail sentence. He was released early, in 1996, for good behavior, and because he frequently donated blood. He and his wife currently live in a small coastal town in southern Spain. Tejero receives a state pension (how do you like them apples?) which he supplements with the occasional sale of his uninspired landscape paintings.
Also in the box was a thirty year old catalogue from the aforementioned company, Regalos Frangarmo. They sell ties, belts, playing cards, calendars, serving trays, ashtrays, commemorative plates, beer mugs, flags, keychains, watches, lighters, military songbooks, bottles of wine and much more, all of which contain images of the dictator and his fascist cronies. They even have a three kilo bronze bust of el Caudillo himself available for only 7,500 pesetas (roughly 45 euros)!
Imagine my surprise when I googled Regalos Frangarmo and found that the company is still up and running. They even have a website these days (bazarnacional.com), and continue to make a living selling fascist memorabilia. Thumbing through the catalogue and browsing the website reminded me just how prevalent the demented idea that “things were better under Franco” still is in Spain.
to be continued…