Not too long ago, I was lying in bed in Barcelona browsing through the news headlines, when I suddenly realised that, 'Fuck – this country is a mess: crooks, peasants, financial rescue packages…' Blood rushed to my head. I started to panic. 'We're going nowhere,' I thought, 'and unless an apocalypse comes along to put us out of our misery, there's no one or nothing that can get us out of this.' I needed solutions and 15M wasn't gonna cut it, even if some of its protesters were cute. And then I remembered that Spanish National Day was approaching.
So, I went to the celebratory march, where all the goats, vests and flag-waving reminded me that Spain, as a brand, had one last, unique brand of excitable supporters left: the Falange (or more formally, the Spanish Phalanx of the Assemblies of the National Syndicalist Offensive).
They were, I thought, exactly what Spain needs right now. What better way to fix this broken country than with outmoded homophobia and racism? But wait – did the Falange still exist? And if so, would they take me on as a member if I told them that I was a second-generation, immigrant lesbian? The obstacles were massive, but I thought I'd try anyway.
One Google search later, I found out that not only do the Falange still exist somewhere, bravely extending their right arms out towards the horizon, but they had also spawned a number of subgroups – mini-Falanges! I decided that my first attempt would be to make friends with a group called the Falange de las Jons, and got in touch with one of their regional organisers – a woman called Camino, who agreed to call me in two days time to set up an appointment.
Two days passed and she had not called, so I went to their offices. They wouldn't buzz me in, and through the intercom a girl explained that her bosses weren't there at the moment and that under no circumstances could she let me in. Sadface. But lucky for me, the very next day they called back. I was so happy that I couldn't stop the anti-Catalan separatism sentiments from pouring out of me:
"An independent Catalonia… ahem… where's the limit?! The ship is sinking and jumping into the water isn't going to save us. We'll end up in the freezing water no matter what we do; just like poor, cold, blue Leo disappearing into the North Atlantic with the Titanic. Think about it; it's not practical, I get a rash even thinking about the possiblility of needing a passport to attend Sonar or Primavera Sound. And what about all the football fans? What's going to happen to our league without a Barcelona vs Madrid match? In the current context of the crisis, unemployment and independence are irrelevant. One has to worry about what really matters: Spain's unity."
Mission accomplished: I'm back at their office the next morning. A young, shy and slightly posh-looking guy answers the door and leads me to an old office space that slightly resembles the Catholic school I used to attend: Crucifixes, Falange flags, old paintings and interesting ceramic figures saluting with their right arms filled every surface, while in the middle of the room stood a man so old and boney he looked like he had escaped from a wax museum. I reached out for his hand, fearing that, if I didn't, he would disintegrate right before my very eyes.
We sat down and after he listened to me ranting about Catalan independence for the second time, he begun talking about their own Falange ideas. That, being nothing out of the ordinary and all nicely packaged in a box of unfashionable demagoguery, was starting to bore me, until we got to my favourite part: "It's one thing being gay – some people are out of vice, and some are born that way – and it's a whole other thing to celebrate Gay Pride. Do we celebrate Heterosexual Pride?" Yeah, what about the straights? When are they gonna get their moment in the sun?
I took this opportunity to ask him about female falangists, since the pictures I had seen online were mostly of young guys and old men. He explained that there were some (maybe he meant Camino, who spoke to me on the phone and was about 80 years old), but not many. I also asked him about the violence associated with their group, but he swerved the topic, saying that it was a lie and that such incidents may had been related to other Falanges, but never his own. He mentioned that many people in his entourage were surprised when they found out he was a falangista, because obviously, he was very ordinary. Throughout our conversation, I couldn't help but think that he was trolling me. And then he proudly showed me their latest batch of stickers, and every alarm inside my brain went berserk.
What the fuck has an octagenarian woman in boxing gloves got to do with Spanish Nationalism? I had no fucking idea, I always thought right-wing groups were keen to leech off the supposed vim and vitality of youth. It went on, and I almost had a heart attack when he showed me their newspaper, Patria Sindicalista [Union Nation].
In case you don't speak Spanish (why would you?) every article and slogan in the paper seemed to be standing against capitalism in all its forms. The flyer above and below, for instance, calls for the end of Monarchy, the end of the banking system and of spending cuts. By this point, I was really confused. Did these people belong to the right or the left wing? Is there much of a difference these days?
There wasn't much time to ponder. Seemingly happy about my prospective membership, wax statue man handed me a bunch of business cards and rushed me out the door. I left in a heartbeat, feeling slightly weirded out, but also perversly sympathetic to my new friends, who were obviously so lonely, they were willing to say and do anything if it was going to attract them some attention.
More confused Spaniards: