With our global leaders rushing to get ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, countries are experimenting with various solutions in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. Across the United States, this means “stay at home” orders in many cities and states. But over in Europe—where the disease initially spread more rapidly—more extreme measures are being enacted, such as Spain deploying its Spanish Legion militia.
For those uninitiated with the appearance of the Spanish Legion, their uniforms are, shall we say, a bit unconventional by today’s standards. One might say they almost seem to invoke the costumes Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier wore during those controversial In Living Color “Men on Film” sketches.
This fact did not escape American author and activist Jill Filipovic, who on Sunday joked about the uniforms on Twitter.
“Spain is deploying its army to help manage their coronavirus outbreak,” she wrote, quipping that while she didn’t want to come off as “insensitive at an anxiety-inducing time,” New Yorkers would also like to have a little Spanish Legion.
“Just saying there are a lot of singles in this town who need to be put under house arrest and these are just the men to do it,” Filipovic continued.
A valid point! Unfortunately, all jokes aside, the Spanish Legion (known informally as the “Tercio”) has an extremely unsavory history.
The Spanish Legion was initially formed in 1920 as a rapid reaction force branch of the army, as a Spanish equivalent of the French Foreign Legion. It later served as a hand of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who was also a founding deputy commander of the legion. Under Franco’s leadership, the Spanish Legion played a major role in the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War.
These days, the Spanish Legion is now mostly used in NATO peacekeeping missions. For many Spaniards, however, the militia cannot be a welcome sight to those already terrified and under quarantine given the troubling history.
As such, many on Twitter were quick to point out to Filipovic why (admittedly very attractive) members of the Spanish Legion should be the last thing anybody should want to see in times of a crisis.
“This is the Spanish Legion, who were developed as a colonial army and in which Franco was a leader,” wrote Bandcamp senior editor Jes Skolnik. “They’re known as the ‘Bridegrooms of Death.'”
Others had similar sentiments:
But to be completely fair to Filipovic, she wasn’t the only one ogling the uniforms—flippant or not!
You know what they say, a fascist army is greater than the sum of its low-cut uniform-wearing honeys, and the Spanish Legion sadly is no exception.