Francoists and dictator's detractors to both get their say in official dictionary
History Academy will update 10 biographical sketches in official compendium
In the Dictionary of Spanish Biography, Francisco Franco's name appears all over the place.
If you agreed with his regime, then you can read Luis Suárez's entry of the late generalísimo's biography. Suárez, president of fascist group the Brotherhood of the Valley of the Fallen and member of the Francisco Franco Foundation, studiously avoids using the word "dictator" to describe his hero.
But if you don't agree with what the Franco regime did, you can also refer to an addendum that will be incorporated as part of the new set of volumes in which another historian - in this case, it hasn't been decided who - will write a different sketch of the person from another point of view.
After a commission reviewed and corrected scientific errors and ideological differences in various biographical entries, the Royal History Academy (RAH) has decided to leave the volumes as they are but to print an addendum in which other historians can give their own impressions concerning different historical figures. Dozens of biographical sketches - including that of Franco's - will be referred to in the accompanying addendum, sources at the academy say.
The entire row over the inaccuracies included in the different essays broke out last summer after the Dictionary was formally presented by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía. It was immediately learned that Suárez, a Franco admirer, had been given the job of writing the dictator's entry, glorifying his military accomplishments without addressing the tragedy of the thousands who died during his 1939-1975 regime.
The commission finalized its task some months ago and gave the RAH board its report in late April. Their recommendations, including corrections that need to be made, have not been made public.
RAH president Gonzalo Anes, who came under fire last year for allowing Suárez to write the entry, confirmed on Saturday that the Academy's board had been "made aware" of the report's findings about 10 days ago but he declined to offer any details.
"The Academy's internal affairs are not for media consumption," Anes said curtly before thanking the commission for its work and hanging up the phone.
But historian Juan Pablo Fusi, an outside advisor to the commission, explained that one of his main tasks was to review some 500 biographical entries of people born between 1890 and 1930 and who have served in high political, military and ecclesiastical positions. In the report that was given to the RAH board, the commission points out which entries could be "totally" or "partially" revised.
"On occasion, we suggested that other people should be allowed to write another entry, but that decision was to be made by the academy," Fusi said, adding that he couldn't remember the exact number of entries that will be revised since he concluded his work some time ago.
The Academy has been very secretive about the work it is conducting to revise the volumes despite the fact that the Dictionary of Spanish Biography is financed by public money - it received 6.4 million euros in subsidies from the ministries of Education and Industry for its publication. Secrecy also abounds internally at the Academy. Some academics have not been kept abreast of the commission's work even though they have inquired about it on different occasions.
One of these is Josefina Mendoza, a former president of Madrid's Autónoma University, who has been one of the few historians critical about the inaccuracies of the entries included in the volumes. On Saturday, Mendoza said she was "surprised" about the approval of the commission's report, given that it was presented during a board meeting that she was unable to attend.
Another historian clarified that a summary of the report was presented at an April 27 meeting where it was announced that "10 strategic essays [referring to the cases] which have generated the most complaints" will be included in the addendum.
- Suárez wrote admirably about Franco, including asserting he "became famous for the cold courage which he showed in the field" while a young officer in Africa, adding that his brutal years in power saw him "set up a regime that was authoritarian, but not totalitarian."
- Errors in Franco's sketch are also included, such as "it was a long three-year war that permitted him to defeat an enemy who had superior armed support. Because of this, and lacking access to possible markets and facing hostilities from France and Russia, he had to establish committal links with Italy and Germany."
- The 87-year-old apologist is a friend of the Franco family and has exclusive access to the dictator's papers.