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‘Heroes to anonymous pensioners’: Francisco Franco's ‘mutilated gentlemen’ and the erosion of veteran privilege in Spain's transition to democracy

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>14/07/2022
Number of pages24
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date14/07/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article explores how during Spain's transition to democracy in the 1970s and 1980s, Francoist disabled veterans of the Spanish Civil War navigated the disappearance of formerly hegemonic historical narratives which had hitherto defined their relationship with the state. While for Republican disabled veterans of the Civil War, the transition brought a degree of legitimisation, political emancipation and financial recognition, for Franco's Caballeros Mutilados or ‘Mutilated Gentlemen’ the advent of democracy prompted a re-evaluation of their wounds, their legitimacy and the privileges they had hitherto enjoyed. In the post-dictatorship era, Francoist disabled veterans – who unlike Republican veterans, had enjoyed uncontested legitimacy under the regime – were viewed as inconvenient symbols of Francoism, and faced the challenge of preserving the legitimacy of their veteranhood in the age of democracy. In this sense, the case of the Francoist war disabled of the Spanish Civil War underscores the close link between historical memory and the well-being of the veterans of civil wars. While post-civil war governments often privilege certain disabled bodies over others, this is a precarious privilege that remains vulnerable to political fluctuations over time, as well as the shifting relationship between army, nation and state. In such cases, the ability of disabled veterans’ groups to adapt to changing perceptions of their right to support is crucial to the preservation of their veteranhood, as well as their ability to advocate for improved circumstances more broadly.