Like Mao and Hitler , Franco was a brutal dictator of the Twentieth Century. Like them, he suffered from Parkinson's Disease. Franco managed to hang on from the thirties to the mid seventies, miring Spain in his iron grip. "Our regime is based on bayonets and blood, not on hypocritical elections" he boasted, backing it up with his feared police the Guardia Civil.
Franco became the leader of Spain after defeating the communists and anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. This war was seen by many at the time as a a critical battle in the world-wide struggle against Facism, prefiguring WWII. Because of this idealistic foreigners like Hemingway, George Orwell and Arthur Koestler went to Spain to fight on behalf of the anti-facists. Each came out of the struggle marked for the rest of their lives by the collapse of the forces allied against Franco.
Franco continues to haunt the image of Spain years after his death. Guillermo Del Toro's searing recent film "Pan's Labyrinth" was inspired by the post-war reign of Franco, who maintained power until his death in 1975.