Outrage in Spain over 'Return to 1936' song at right-wing rally

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By Laura Llach  with Reuters
Spain's Vox party leader Santiago Abascal speaks to supporters during a rally in Madrid Spain, Sunday Oct. 9, 2022.
Spain's Vox party leader Santiago Abascal speaks to supporters during a rally in Madrid Spain, Sunday Oct. 9, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

A group representing victims of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's regime has asked prosecutors to investigate a song performed at a rally by the far-right Vox party, for allegedly calling for a return to civil war.

The song, written by YouTuber Isaac Parejo and performed with the band Los Meconios, starts with the line "We're going back to '36", a reference to the year Spain's civil war began and a suggestion Spain's Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory said could be akin to a hate crime.

The Viva22 rally was organised by Vox's leader Santiago Abascal and celebrated Spanish heritage and history with up to 15,000 people last weekend. 

Video messages from Donald Trump, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, Italy's newly-elected far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, and an in-person appearance from Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki were the political highlights of the event, which was part-rally, part-concert, and part-tourism expo. 

"Spain is on the brink of the abyss," Abascal told the crowd from the stage and encouraged supporters to reject parties at the polls "whose objective is national rupture" or "that attack the family and common sense" on gender issues. 

"Let's go back to 36"

The most controversial point of the Vox event, just as the sun was setting, was the performance by Los Meconios.

The act went viral on social media after a rendition of a song called "Let's go back to 36", a reference to 1936, the year of the Francoist coup d'etat which started the Spanish Civil War.

The war started in July 1936 when Franco and other rebel officers launched an unsuccessful coup against the elected government of the Second Republic that escalated into a three-year conflict with about 500,000 casualties.

"The Attorney General's office should investigate and the Secretary of State for Democratic Memory should file a hate crime complaint," said Spain's Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. 

The state prosecutor's office and the ministry in charge of democratic memory declined to comment.

The lyrics to the song include verses such as "we are 'fachas'" -- a slang term for "fascist" -- and comparisons between Spain's current centre-left coalition government and the Popular Front that held power in the lead-up to the civil war.

The performers said on social media the song was a parody and had been misinterpreted.

"That sentence ... doesn't mean that we want to go back to '36, it means that they want to take us back to '36," Parejo said in a video on Twitter, referring to what he described as the "single-brain-cell left".

Since its founding in 2013, Vox has grown to become the third-largest party in the lower house, currently holding 52 of 350 seats. It is also a junior partner in the regional government of Castille and Leon led by the conservative Popular Party.

Like a 'Nazi boyband'

The stage show also saw performers making jokes about sexual assault, feminism and LGBT groups. 

Meanwhile, the event has attracted a barrage of criticism with the official account of another Spanish political party Podemos denouncing Viva22's stage show as a "Nazi boyband" or the "Nazi Backstreet Boys." 

Los Meconios say they were only trying to say that the government of Pedro Sánchez "is taking us to the year 36". 

In addition, they have complained about the reactions left-wing politicians have had to the lyrics of the song, about "the manipulation of the media" and about "the number of threats we have received".

For its part, Vox has denied that it wants to return to the past and has said they want unity in Spain.