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article imageControversial Franco monument to be restored near Madrid

By Anne Sewell     Aug 19, 2013 in World
Madrid - Erected by Spanish general Francisco Franco and built by the hands of political prisoners, the "Valle de los Caídos" or "Valley of the Fallen" is a Catholic basilica, a monumental memorial, and also a controversial site.
The building, located in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, in the Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid, Spain was conceived by former Spanish dictator Franco reportedly to honor and bury those who fell during the Spanish Civil War.
Work started on the building in 1940 and took over eighteen years to complete. The monument was officially inaugurated on April 1, 1959.
The site remains controversial, mainly due to the fact that 10% of the construction workforce were convicts, some of them Popular Front political prisoners.
A policy instituted by the 2004-2011 socialist government led to the removal of Francoist symbols from public spaces in Spain. However, the Valley has remained under the protection of Spain's National Heritage authority.
To add a little more controversy to the building, the Ministry of the Presidency announced on Monday that a tender offer had been accepted for restoration work on the Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen.
The Board of Directors of National Heritage has awarded a contract, worth €214,847 to the Javier Herran construction company.
This contract has been dated July 18th, which is the anniversary of the day that Civil War broke out in Spain in 1936.
When the announcement of the results of the bidding contest was made, Socialist deputy Ramón Jáuregui, a former Minister of the Presidency and therefore responsible for Heritage, demanded explanations from the PP government as to why they continue to spend money on the redevelopment of the Valley of the Fallen without meeting experts' proposals to make the building a memory center for reconciliation.
However Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refuses to change the meaning of the Valley of the Fallen because he believes "unnecessary wounds would be reopened."
The site holds Franco's tomb and also that of Falange founder José Antonio Primo de Rivera, in the Santa Cruz basilica.
The 152.4-metre-high memorial cross of the basilica is the tallest in the world and is visible from over 20 miles (32 km) away.
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