In the heart of A Coruña lies Casa Cornide, a historic mansion with a tale as intriguing as its architecture. Dating back to the 19th century, this public building has become a focal point of contention, weaving a narrative that intertwines politics, subterfuge, and historical preservation.
The Covert Strategy Unveiled
In 1962, a confessional letter penned by a close confidant of the Franco family unveils a clandestine operation to discreetly transfer Casa Cornide into the hands of the dictator. Referred to as "Su Excelencia" and "la Señora," the letter outlines a meticulous plan to bypass the direct allocation of the property from the State to Franco. The key player in this covert maneuver was Pedro Barrié de la Maza, a notable entrepreneur who acquired the mansion at a public auction for 305,000 pesetas, only to sell it to Carmen Polo, Franco's wife, a mere three days later for a paltry 25,000 pesetas.
Decades of Franco Ownership
For over six decades, the Franco family has held sway over this historic edifice, nestled in A Coruña's Old Town. However, the tides have turned with the municipality's decision to reclaim Casa Cornide for public heritage. In 2019, spurred by the legal pursuit of the Meirás estate recovery, the Coruña City Council initiated legal proceedings to return the mansion to public ownership.
Legal Maneuvers: Historical and Juridical Perspectives
Under the leadership of Mayor Inés Rey, the municipal government embarked on a dual-pronged approach: commissioning historical and legal reports and seeking official recognition as a Cultural Heritage site (BIC). In April of the following year, the BIC status was granted, solidifying the legal obligation for the Franco family to open Casa Cornide to the public four days a month. The government's commitment to filing a judicial claim, reinforced by the mansion's BIC status, is poised to materialize before the year's end.
Public Access Mandate and Familial Resistance
With the newfound protection, the Franco family is now legally bound to open Casa Cornide's doors to the public, a requirement met with silence from their lawyer, Luis Felipe Utrera-Molina. Similar battles were fought over Meirás, where visitation was delayed for nearly three years. The current regional government has notified the Franco heirs of their obligation but has not specified a timeframe for compliance.
Citizen Mobilization and Political Stalemate
The struggle to reclaim Casa Cornide has prompted periodic protests, with the next scheduled for this Saturday. Over fifty entities, including historical memory associations, unions, neighborhood collectives, and most political parties, except PSOE and PP, are advocating for the opening of Casa Cornide to visitors and urging the City Council to expedite the legal claim, withdrawing honors bestowed upon those complicit in the acquisition.
Implications Beyond the Mansion: Honors and Historical Memory
A deeper layer of complexity emerges in A Coruña as the city contends with the continued recognition of three figures linked to the Franco era: Pedro Barrié de la Maza, Alfonso Molina, and Sergio Peñamaría de Llano. Despite recommendations from a 2020 report supporting the withdrawal of honors, the City Council has yet to act, citing potential political backlash.
Legal Discrepancies and Ongoing Activism
An in-depth legal report from the University of A Coruña identifies flaws in the Casa Cornide transaction, deeming the auction and subsequent sales as administratively flawed and marked by "absolute simulation." Despite the legal basis for reclamation, the Franco family remains reticent, leaving activists wary of potential asset removal from the historic building.
As Casa Cornide stands at the intersection of legal battles, historical preservation, and civic activism, A Coruña remains a crucible for the complexities surrounding Franco-era legacies. The unfolding chapters of this saga, from covert acquisitions to legal maneuvers, underscore the challenges faced by municipalities in reconciling historical injustices and charting a path toward a more transparent and just future.