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“Our top story tonight: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” Chevy Chase’s running gag on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s remains curiously relevant four decades on. Franco, Spain’s longtime military dictator, is still dead—and he continues to be a top story, as a dispute over his final resting place unearths old fissures in Spain’s national consciousness.
Upon his death in 1975, Franco was buried in a monumental tomb in the so-called Valley of the Fallen, a war memorial about an hour’s drive from Madrid. There, the dictator lies below a towering 450-foot stone cross, in a subterranean basilica hewn almost 900 feet into a mountainside. The monument is an unsettlingly bombastic reminder of Spain’s troubled past and a pilgrimage site for Franco’s admirers to this day.
Hoping to change this, the Spanish parliament voted in September to exhume Franco’s remains from the Valley.