In Spain, the memory of the leadership reign of fascist dictator Francisco Franco remains ever present—particularly because he ruled ruthlessly for almost 40 years and because so many modern-day streets are named after him and the other leaders in his totalitarian government.
Local governments across the country, though, want to change that.
Forty-one years after Franco’s death, many cities are retiring the names of the streets that commemorate Franco’s military and government leaders and replacing them with historically important women from across the globe.
As noted by City Lab, the reason for this latest trend is because of the changing tide of politics at the local levels. Even though the Spanish government passed a law in 2007 that calls for all Francoist symbols to be removed from public spaces, the recent rise of left-wing politics in the country has led to this renewed priority.
In some of the country’s smaller cities, the work to recognize the country’s women has already begun. The city of Córdoba passed a law in 2005 saying that 50 percent of all new street names must be named after women, and in Valencia, that figure rises to 80 percent. In León, local officials are asking the public to choose new street names from a list that includes Jane Austen, Rosa Parks, and Frida Kahlo.
As QZ.com notes, the number of streets in Barcelona named for women has risen from 7 percent in 1996 to 27.7 percent in 2010.
And we’re not just talking about female religious figures. In a 2015 article, El Diario reported that 262 streets in Madrid were named after either the Virgin Mary or a female saint while only one commemorated a female teacher. Professor Patricia Arias Chachero told El Diario, “It’s almost as if the situation is the practical confirmation of the popular saying—that a woman’s place is not in the street, but in the house.”
But it appears as if those on the far-right of the political spectrum aren’t letting go of Franco’s memory. A demonstration in Madrid last month saw supporters raising their hands in a fascist salute and hoisting signs that read “Make Spain Great Again.”
Still, the move toward naming streets after women is enlightening and welcome news, especially for a country that is still struggling to move on from the weight of Franco’s brutal reign.