Reporters outnumbered the Franco Faithful by about 10 to one; which gave each Francoist a platform to air their views on the injustice of exhuming the dictator’s body from the basilica beneath the 150-metre cross that dominates the Valley of the Fallen in the Cuelgamuros Valley.
Parking by necessity some distance from the action, I coincided with a Spanish American and her Barcelona-born mother who told me I was in North Korea.
“This is North Korea!” they cried in unison, which was bemusing, not least because we were clearly in Spain.
The Spanish-American, Estefania Aguirre, was a journalist who believed the exhumation was, above all, an attack on her religious freedom.
She was also intent on making a case for the dictator.
In fact, his rule could hardly have been called a dictatorship, she said.
“He did the country a lot of good. Did you know the economy thrived more than it ever has under his rule?”
Her mother, meanwhile, had unfurled a banner that read ‘Dictator State’, inferring that it had been undemocratic of Sanchez to push the exhumation to its conclusion.
On the other side of me was Spain’s most famous Francoist, Pilar Gutierrez spouting her beliefs to a huddle of reporters.
“Eighty thousand Catholics were killed for being Catholic and that is what this Government wants to bring back,” she railed.
“You can only expect the worst from the Socialists.”
A psychologist by trade, Gutierrez kept her fellow Francoists on their toes by barking sporadically at them to keep their protest banners straight.
Understandably, a certain weariness had set in after four hours waiting in the cold, but the Faithful rallied when cars began to emerge from the premises carrying Government officials. “You have not seen the end of this!” they cried, berating what they called an ‘evil’ act.
A short while after, the helicopter carrying Franco could be seen rising overhead and a cry went up of ‘Franco lives!’
Another parallel reality designed to throw the unsuspecting off course.