Mussolini's glory in Franco's land

The Pyramid of the Italians is photogenic, despite the graffiti that vandalizes it and the obvious neglect in which it has been mired for decades.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:21
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Mussolini's glory in Franco's land

The Pyramid of the Italians is photogenic, despite the graffiti that vandalizes it and the obvious neglect in which it has been mired for decades. If it were an icon to make a pilgrimage to, the traveler would be disappointed and would unleash the arrow that withers Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty: “In the photo it looked bigger.” This month it came to the fore when the regional government of PP and Vox agreed on a BIC declaration (asset of cultural interest) to protect it, according to them, from the backhoes of historical memory. The truth is that, with its fascist symbols gone, it was never in the State's plans to demolish it.

Half-forgotten in that harsh and windy solitude, from the Shield Road that surrounds it, the pyramid would look like an abandoned shelter under a gigantic telecommunications antenna, a barren and unpleasant enclave, without a single tree, but blessed with a Stendhalian view to the south, where the slope abysses towards the Corconte spa, the sheet of water of the Ebro reservoir and, on its edge, the white sands of Arija. The Escudo pass not only separates the Cantabrian greenery from the Meseta, it also tends to catch the grayness at its summit. Often the sun rises shortly after crowning.

The mausoleum, built in 1939, was officially ordered by Franco, but the truth is that it was Mussolini's work, since it was not to the Spaniard's liking that foreign troops immortalized victories that he wanted his own. Although it has a columbarium with hundreds of niches inside, only the officers of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie were buried there. The more than three hundred buried soldiers were scattered on the wasteland around the pyramid, which must have been crowned by a winged victory that was never built.

The capture of the province by the Italians was sung as a feat in Rome, except for a thirty-year-old correspondent who described the feat as a skirmish: Cantabria fell in a few days and with little resistance, narrated Indro Montanelli, immediately called to Rome for his irritating skepticism and banished to Estonia as an Italian reader. Sixty years later, now in his nineties, he recounted the episode with veteran sarcasm to the Rome correspondent of La Vanguardia, Enric Juliana: “Instead of shooting me, they sent me on vacation to Tallinn: this Italian fascism thing was a bit of a comedy.”

Franco allowed as his initiative a pyramid presided over by a five-meter “M” that reveals the promoter – eager to green the Roman Empire with geodesic vertices of its glories and payments –, as PP and Vox pass off an operation as theirs today. of Brothers of Italy, the party of Giorgia Meloni. Senator Roberto Menia presented an initiative in the Italian Upper House to request that the Ministers of Culture and Defense act to prevent the demolition "of a work that represents a funeral testimony that deserves respect beyond political connotations." Menia, vice president of the Foreign and Defense Commission, applauds PP and Vox: “It is a sweet victory, because it embodies the defense of values, history, honor and Italianness.” Italianness. One can imagine the Generalissimo's gnashing of teeth if he heard it. “We don't care if they were Italian, if they had been German we would have defended it the same,” Nicola Proccaccini, leader of the Eurogroup of Conservatives and Reformists, which includes Vox and the Brothers of Italy, assures La Vanguardia.

The Mussolinian operation has created more controversy in Italy than here. The National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI) has become angry: “It is not a sanctuary, but a mortuary reminder of the bloody victory of Spanish fascism and a lethal dictatorship,” says the statement sent to the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory, in which they remember that there were also Italian partisans in the international brigades.

In 1971, a military bus carrying relatives returning from visiting the cemetery left the road going down the port, in what is now called Italian Curve – more famous in the area than the pyramid – and twelve people died, adding death to death and turning El Escudo into the cursed mountain of the Italians. Following the tragedy, the transalpine government exhumed the remains and repatriated them. Nothing remains there, except the gigantic concrete “M”, the icy wind and the distracted cows, chewing their cud in the pasture.