National Geographic : 1978 Mar
"It's an explosion, a renaissance, a changed country A first step: Tenderly, a penitent encourages his son as the youngster preparesfor his initial procession with a religious brotherhood duringHoly Week in Valladolid. Yet as such traditionalEaster pageants marched across Spain last year, the minds of its citizens were fixed on a revolutionary event just weeks away free elections, the first in four decades. As the dictatorshipof Generalissimo Francisco Francofades in the wake of his death in 1975, a long-polarized nation once again strives for democracy with stability, as it often has during the past 165 years. The hurdles are formidable-bitter memories of a brutal civil war, demands from outlying regionsfor autonomy, an uncertain economy-butfrommany voices in the passionate debate, cautious optimism echoes. By PETER T. WHITE FOREIGN EDITORIAL STAFF Photographs by DAVID ALAN HARVEY OLY WEEK IN SPAIN. In dozens of towns and villages, hundreds of images of Christ and the Virgin will be carried in procession-attended by tens of thousands of colorfully cloaked and hooded figures, gazed at by millions. It's a col lective spectacle unparalleled in Europe. I have come to witness that, and to bask in the soft spring of this land of wine and olives, of glorious castles and beach es. Remarkable, that a country of 35 million inhabitants can attract an equal number of foreign visitors a year; that an area not quite as large as France has as much scenic variety as the 48 contiguous United States. And that alongside castellano-meaningthe Castilian, or Spanish, language three other languages still are spoken on Spain's geographi cal and cultural periphery. I hope to sample all that too, but right away I can see that I'm in for even more. Fateful changes are shaking the Spanish State. Francisco Franco, who for decades ruled as "leader by the grace of God," died not long ago, and the National Movement, the sole political organization he permitted, has just been abolished. Free parliamentary elections are to be held with in three months, in June 1977-the first in 41 years. Already 125 parties have been legalized, graffiti are sprouting, demonstrations multiply. In the capital of Ma drid, a colonel's lady asks me what the world is coming to, women marching for legalization of divorce? A student is glad he no longer needs a certificate of good conduct to get a driver's license. "It's an explosion, a renaissance, a changed country," an editor tells me, "estupendo, astonishing." 297 . .