Flagging Allegiances in Spain (International New York Times)
MADRID — Every Thursday evening, in the middle of the Puerta del Sol, a small crowd gathers around an equestrian statue of King Carlos III to stage a modest protest. There are rarely more than 25 people, most of them in their 70s. The first thing several of them do is unfurl a banner that reads: “Against impunity, in solidarity with the victims of Francoism.”
Then, a few others hoist up the tricolor flag of Spain’s Second Republic. Its yellow, red and purple bands hearken back to an era of democratic promise. That tumultuous period, which began in 1931 with the election of a left-leaning coalition that sent King Alfonso XIII into exile, had its share of political squabbles and reactionary violence. But it also brought heady euphoria and a raft of egalitarian reforms. A new constitution enshrined women’s suffrage and freedom of speech, while stripping the nobility of its erstwhile privileges.
Those days had a palpable air of reformist zeal and ambition. Today, amid a painful recession and a crisis of political leadership, the promise of that bygone era has a renewed purchase.