Fascist Chinese bar that idolizes Spanish dictator is attraction in Madrid


Walking into Madrid’s Una Grande Libre bar for the first time sends your mind into psychedelic spasms. The yellow and red of the Spanish flag explodes from all sides. On TV, she pumps karaoke with national anthems. On top of the counter, military caps, old photos, pennants and pennants. In a shop window, bracelets, lighters and countless knick-knacks with the country’s colors as a theme.

Back and forth, carrying trays and serving tapas, runs Chen Xianwei, known around town as “el chino facha”, or Chinese fascist, a nickname he is proud of and keeps alive due to his devotion to the dictator Francisco Franco (1892- 1975).

Franco, dictator of Spain for 39 years between 1936 and 1975, is everywhere at Una Grande Libre — the bar’s name itself comes from a fascist slogan, “Una, Grande y Libre” (united, great and free). Franco, an ally of Hitler and Mussolini, despite not entering the Second War with them, is in a huge photo on the glass next to the door.

Responsible for the disappearance of 140,000 Spaniards, he has his face stamped on tables, pictures and wine labels. Franco, who won the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a conflict that killed half a million people, is on the statuettes for sale. Accused of a crime against humanity in 2008, he is the undisputed hero of Una Grande Libre.

Friendly, always with a smile on his face, Chen says he loves Franco so much that he named his son after the dictator. “Franco is now eight years old,” he says proudly. Customers interrupt the interview at all times to say hello, hold hands, a farewell hug. Customers who are, for the most part, Madrid police. “These hanging caps are all gifts from my customers,” he says.

In exchange, Chen gives the regulars pens with the name of the bar and also a 2023 calendar with, of course, Franco’s photo. Next to the image, a text explains how cool Franco is.

“With Franco, taxes were paid and a new Spain was built. Now, we pay much more and nothing is done. With Franco, a father supported his family of 5 or 6 children with their own residence and a second home for the holidays. Now, parents cannot support a child. With Franco, there was no lack of work and wealth and hope were created. Now, people work to be poor.” And so on. Chen printed 10,000 freebie calendars this year.

In fact, after the “hungry years” that followed the civil war, Spain experienced an economic miracle in the 1960s, when it experienced annual growth of up to 7%. On the other hand, to give you an idea of ​​the horror, 140,000 people disappeared under his regime means 10 people being killed every day —and having their corpses hidden by the government—for 39 straight years.

Chen only loses his composure when the reporter asks him if it is not a crime in Spain to publicly display the flag with the eagle of San Juan —it is the official flag of Spain from 1945 to 1977, a symbol of Francoist Spain, which featured the yellow stripes and red, but with the coat of arms of a stylized eagle in the center.

“The construction of Spain was done with the coat of arms of the eagle. So how can, nowadays, the government intend to prohibit it? This is the history of Spain since 1400”, he declares. The eagle of San Juan was the coat of arms of Isabel the Catholic (1451-1504), queen of Castile and León from 1474 onwards. But it was recovered by the Francoist regime in 1945.

The flag, which draped Franco’s coffin 30 years later, is banned from government buildings, but private display is always controversial in Spain. The Popular Party tried, in 2003, to typify the exhibition as a crime of apology for Francoism, but the Chamber of Deputies did not approve. The same goes for shouting “Viva Franco”, seen as freedom of expression by jurists.

However, the Spanish hate crimes law provides that if the Francoist flag is used in an environment to propagate racism and violence, the person can spend four years behind bars. In Germany, for example, displaying the Nazi swastika can carry up to three years in prison, with the exception of using it in an artistic or Holocaust-critical context.

During the interview, Chen continues to explain his ideas. “The current government is a communist dictatorship! They want everyone to think like them. As in a communist country, they want us to work like animals, to live like slaves, so that they can live like God, doing what they want.”

At this point, it can be said that Chen really works like an animal. The bar is opened at 6.30 am by his wife, but he is open daily at 8 am. He stays until the last customer—official hours are 12:30 am, that is, he works at least 16 and a half hours a day. Every day. From Monday to Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. He only rests in August, when, like many Spanish businesses, Chen closes the bar and takes a month off.

He doesn’t complain. After having two bars in which he was a tenant, Chen bought in 2020 the property where Una Grande Libre is installed, in the south of Madrid. It is said that he had to return the property of the previous bar, which was called Oliva, because the landlords were unhappy to see that the decoration of the space was becoming an attraction.

Chen, 45, arrived in Spain at the age of 21, to work in a packaging industry that hired practically only Chinese people. He was also a waiter at a Chinese restaurant until, in 2007, he opened his first business in the area. It was there that elderly customers, “70, 80 and even 90 years old”, according to Chen, spread their nostalgia for the Francoist regime while playing cards. “Ninety percent of them spoke highly of Franco,” he recalls. Little by little, Chinese converted.

In 2011, he opened Oliva, already with the paints loaded in the eagle of San Juan. Now, owner of the Una Grande Libre property, he couldn’t be happier. The parish does not budge, and despite not trusting politicians, Chen took his Spanish nationality two years ago and can now vote.

Outside, he is invited to take a picture for this report. without the Sheet prompt, he willingly extends his arm and gives the fascist salute to the photograph. “Viva Franco”, he thinks. But he doesn’t say anything, he just smiles.

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