José Grech Oliver

Interviewed December 20, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

My name is José Grech Oliver and I was born in a village in Alicante in 1937

Your profession…?

I learned mechanics, and that was my work… mechanics and driver

When did you arrive in Barcelona and how was the immigration experience?

I arrived in Barcelona in 1963, and I came here but not to stay, my idea was to go to Germany but because of the course of life, circumstances… I had a girlfriend here that was waiting for me, but I was late and she left, so I stayed here, and I have been living here for 52 years now

Could you talk about Mr. Fradera?

Well, I met this man because he was a friend of my mother and he was a well-known driver here in Barcelona

And he introduced me to the General in charge of the Fourth Military Region of Barcelona and I was there as a particular driver for 5 years


Mr. Fradera was a friend of my mother, and thanks to him, I started being the private driver of the General of the Fourth Military Region

And I was his private driver for 5 years

And that rich woman from Barcelona…?

That rich woman from Barcelona… right, Ms. María Badia Serra, imagine if she had money that all the Hospitalet’s Fire Park was hers, and she donated it to them

And so, I was his driver for three years, and when she died, her marchioness daughter wanted to take me to Madrid but I didn’t want to go because I’d rather stay in Barcelona

And so, you got your cab’s license?

Yes, after that, I got my cab’s license and thanks to ‘La Vanguardia’, because I saw an advertisement there, I got in the Real Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) to drive the mobile unit

And I stayed there for 29 years, where I’ve retired

What can you say about the Spanish Civil War?

The Spanish Civil War is a very complex matter… All the Spanish people should be ashamed of it and it mustn’t happen ever again

There were two sides in the Spanish Civil War, and those who were in a side they were not there because they wanted to but because they had to, and the ones in the other side, the same

That is why siblings would fight with each other, or fathers and sons…

And then, when the war was over, there were the defeated and the winners, but long after the war, in the ’78, they reconciled and it was all set

Could you tell us about how did you arrive to the Sidi Ifni War?

I got in the parachuting service in 1956 and so, we went to the Spanish West Africa because there was a problem there and we stayed there for a year

There were more deaths than the ones they talked about

And so, I was a year there

And I was decorated, they gave me a medal and all, and then, they took us to Madrid to parade in front of Franco

That story about the medal…?

Yes… This was funny because they decorated me but forced me to buy the medal so I could parade in front of Franco

And also, they had to give us a war veteran pay and it turned out they didn’t

That’s why I say that Spain has a debt with me, because I risked my life there and also because of what I said about the medal

Any anecdote from the war?

Well, yes, this was the biggest emotion that I have had in all my life

Because it is a big emotion when you get married or when you have a kid, but when you’re in a war and people leave you for dead, as they did with me

And all my family and a big part of the village, they went to my funeral and it turns out that a year later I show up and they see I’m alive, a lot of them fainted because think they had been in my funeral, and they saw me alive… it was a big emotion

They even opened the church and everyone went to mass, it was very emotional, I’ll never forget that

And the King Juan Carlos’ anecdote?

Yes, I met him when he was a prince, I was in charge of the mobile unit of the RACC and so I showed it to him, and he liked it a lot

So I told him who had built it and a few days later, the owner of the company that had built it, it turns out he found out that I had made his company famous, for the prince

So he said the restaurant’s director ‘this man can have anything he wants, champagne, whiskey, anything he wants, it’s on the house’

That was so funny to me

About the prostitute houses in Franco’s time?

Well, it is curious because back then, there were medical check-ups in prostitute houses in Franco’s time, it was better than now

Because there is more freedom now, but now in the road or anywhere, they’re there… it’s terrible

At least before they had check-ups, it was safer for them

What’s your opinion about the transition? From Franco’s death until…?

Well, after Franco’s death, in the transition, in ’78, it was when everyone made up

A Constitution was written and during those years life has been good in Spain, everything’s good

The thing is that, 40 years are a lot, this Constitution needs to be changed, but in order to do that, it is needed that politicians arrive to an agreement and this is very hard, let’s see when that happens

About Carrero Blanco…?

Carrero Blanco was Franco’s substitute

That is, everyone knew that he would be his substitute when Franco died

Then, of course, it was not a common interest that this happened because that meant keeping the dictatorship in Spain, and so, it is hard to know how anyone didn’t notice anything about Carrero Blanco’s attack, no one did

Everyone knew that, I mean, with electric hammers and they dig that tunnel to that house… setting all the wires for dynamite and all… and nobody noticed anything… that’s just hard to believe

It is said it was all planned because it was not a common interest that Carrero Blanco’d be the new Franco’s leader

About censorship during those years…?

It was more Ms. Carmen (Franco’s wife) who was in charge of censorship

Anything that she didn’t like, she’d grab the scissors and cut it

By the way, once in Benidorm, there was Mr. [Manuel] Fraga Iribarne as a turism secretary and it is said he told Franco ‘let’s see, turism is the money maker of Spain’

Because, of course, we all saw turists… English, German, Swede people in bikini, not only in the beach, but in the streets and bars, that was just incredible

That brought a lot of turism to Spain and Fraga convinced Franco that was good for Spain

Do you think the current situation could lead to a war or a conflict…?

No, no… The current situation won’t lead to a war because Europe wouldn’t allow that

Not at all, the thing is that there are lots of things that need to be changed but in order to do that, political parties need to agree and that is so hard

With all that’s happening in Catalonia, I believe there’re going to be second and third elections because they just won’t agree

Do you believe that in the elections tomorrow…?

I believe that after tomorrow’s elections, there will be an other one, and an other one…

About women and men inequality…?

Yes, unequality… Of course, that is not fair, it isn’t

There was a lot of machismo years ago, I can talk about my case, I had a sister who worked in the field, because she was a woman and it was her duty

On the other hand, I was going to three different schools simultaneously, I studied music, played the saxophone… I had privileges that women couldn’t think about, and that wasn’t fair but it was what happened then

Even nowadays, women don’t have the same rights as men do

So, about the elections, again, if pro-independence parties win…?

I believe that if pro-independence wins tomorrow, they will apply the 155 article again, because independentists want independence and the others don’t want it

And as the law is the law, until a party with absolute majority doesn’t change the rules, the game’s rules are what they are

And as is not their interest that there is a Republic in Catalonia, then again the 155, new elections, new elections… until who knows when

In many interviews, people claimed that Spain is not a real democracy… Is it a democracy?

Yes, Spain is a democracy but a young one, it’s been only 40 years

For example, the US, Germany or Italy, they have more mature democracies

Spanish one is just young, and after going out of a dictatorship that lasted 40 years, going into a democracy is hard…

We need 40 more years of democracy in Spain for it to madure

How do you think the city has changed over the last years? The extinction of little shops? Was it since the Olympics?

No, well, that is easy to understand

For example, I went to a little local shop to buy a tie and they only had 4 and it was expensive

So if I went to the Corte Inglés, or to a big shop, they had 20 kinds of ties and it was way cheaper because they bought wholesale and it was profitable

The little shop is vanishing because of that, of big companies that buy wholesale and also, they have a bigger offer

That is clear, the little shop tends to disappear

Have you noticed a change in Barcelona’s essence?

Well, of course, because big companies haven’t always existed, the Corte Inglés, the Alcampo, the Maquinista, all these have arrived here later

And now it is when it is noticeable that little shops don’t work

Not as years ago… then, little shops used to work very good but it has changed completely, and it tends to disappear

It will, because it’s what I say, now I want to buy pajamas and if I go to the Corte Inglés, I have seven models to chose

If I go to a little shop, I may have one or two and they are more expensive, because the other one buys wholesale and this doesn’t… then… money is money

Could you tell us who the Falange was?

Yes, well, the Falange was a political party with Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera as a boss, and they executed them by firearm

A lot of people think that Franco did

It was a political party with very clear religious ideas and it existed and still exists

The proof is that when Franco’s anniversaire arrives, the Falange goes to El Escorial to sing ‘Cara al Sol’ [Facing the Sun] and to bring him flowers

The Falange is alive while Franco is dead

Why are there people who’d wish Franco was still in power nowadays?

Yes, yes, there are lots of people who’d wish that Franco was still alive because they lived comfortably in Franco’s time

Franco did many bad things but also did many good things

He created all the swamps there are now, the set the social security, the extraordinary pay

And he’d say to the business owner ‘treat the workers good’

A worker was a sacred thing in Franco’s time, and yes, I know there are lots of people that would pay right now for him to come out his grave

One thing that wouldn’t happen in Germany with Hitler, it would happen with Franco, yes

Franco was many things but imagine, Hitler came to Hendaya, in Irún to meet Franco for an interview, and Franco was two hours late, Hitler had to wait for him for two hours in the station

Franco was Franco to many people

The proof is that he’s been dead for 40 years now and people still talk about him

Do you think there are people who’d chose security in exchange of less freedom?

Well, less freedom… that is relative

Franco’d say ‘if you want to be happy, don’t start in politics’

For example, no one died in my family, I didn’t have problems in Franco’s time and I didn’t suffer

There are people who did suffer and that is just bad luck… But sure, there are people who’d go right know to the bank and tale 5.000 euros out of it so that Franco could be in charge again, yes