PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) – In 1937, John Hovan volunteered to travel to Spain and fight on the side of democracy against Gen. Francisco Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Now, at age 93, he has been honored with Spanish citizenship for his service as a transport driver.

Spain’s consul general in Boston visited Hovan’s home Thursday so Hovan could sign the citizenship papers. Hovan said about 40 friends and family came to the signing. He will receive a Spanish passport in a few weeks, which he called a great honor.

“It was a difficult moment in the world and they risked their lives,” said the consul general, Carlos Robles. “We respect that and would like to honor in a small way.”

The honor is made possible by a 2008 law that allows foreign volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War – a group made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” – to receive Spanish citizenship and retain dual status.

Fewer than 25 members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade – a group of about 2,800 Americans who volunteered in the war – are still alive today.

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