This week the news stations have been inundated by reports on the death of Adolfo Suarez, who served as Spanish Prime Minister from 1976 to 1981 and helped lead the transition from dictatorship to democracy after the death of Franco in 1975.
Some quick background. The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 between the Republicans and the Nationalists and left hundreds of thousands dead before it came to an end with Francisco Franco and the Nationalists’ victory in 1939. Franco subsequently ruled Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975, a year well known by Spaniards and quickly learned by the country’s foreign inhabitants.
Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images/Washington Post
Having served as an official under Franco’s government, Adolfo Suarez was appointed Prime Minister by the King Juan Carlos in 1976 to guide the country from its right-wing rule into a new era of democracy. He quickly began changing policies in what became known as La Transición – the Transition – and became the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister since before Franco’s time with the Union de Centro Democratico (UCD or Union of the Democratic Center) party’s victory in 1977. He’s well known for playing a large role in the creation and approval of Spain’s 1978 constitution.
Although his party eventually lost power, culminating in Suarez’s 1981 resignation, and spent his last decade in the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, he leaves a legacy of guiding Spain through a period fraught with political change. According to my host mom, Suarez was well loved by the public, as demonstrated by the more than 30,000 people that arrived in Madrid to pay their respects and attend the week’s funeral proceedings.
On Tuesday, he’ll be laid to rest in Áliva. For a more detailed look at the politician’s life and legacy, check out these articles (or if you live in Spain, simply turn on the television!):