and welcome to the history page. This week we will begin our exploration of the
Spanish Civil War as it played itself out in the islands of Ibiza and Formentera.
In keeping with the rest of Spain, this fratricidal conflict pitted family against
family and brother against brother in blood feuds that brought political dissention
into the very heart of home life. In the Pitiuses, this ripping apart of family
bonds was compounded and intensified by insularity of both the geographical and
the social variety. Instances of family feuds that originated during the war and
that, even today, remain unmended abound in the Pitiuses. For reasons of tact
and discretion I cannot divulge any of the specifics regarding this phenomenon,
but rather offer an informed appraisal of the effects of war written by a young
Ibicenco historian, Artur Parron i Guasch, as an introduction to his book, La
Guerra Civil a Eivissa i Formentera:
sixty years, the Civil War is still one of the most feared and misconstrued topics
in contemporary Pitiusan history. The collective historical memory has been guided
along explanatory parameters that have varied very little over the course of time.
Certain beliefs regarding the war have been highly tinged, for example, the idea
that the belligerency came from outside the island (the Reds) because
here, supposedly, we formed one big family. But the events of the Civil War were
not alien to the historical dynamics of the Pitiuses; its roots must be sought
within the social and economic development of the islands during the 19th century
and the first third of the 20th century. (
Repression and the militarization of civilian life became the constants of a post-war
atmosphere shrouded in anonymous accusations, personal vendettas and generalized
silence, for which reason, in many ways the atmosphere of war extended well into
The Pitiuses during the Second
Before going on to discuss the actual invasion
of Ibiza, first by Republican forces in August of 1936 and then by National and
Italian forces in September of the same year, it will be helpful to get our political
bearings within the pre-war period.
With the proclamation
of the Second Republic in 1931, the Pitiuses, along with the rest of Spain, was
swept up in a whirlwind of political activism that challenged the mores of traditional
society. Interestingly, the two islands developed in completely different ways.
Ibiza, in the main, clung to the conservative mould of the old established order,
while Formentera subscribed largely to the New Leftist ideologies. This divergence
has been attributed to the modus vivendi adopted by each island: Ibiza had been
operating for centuries under the yoke of a very old and indurate oligarchy, while
Formentera, definitively settled as recently as the 18th century, developed along
the lines of a collectively advantageous society in which most families owned
a small plot of land on which they lived and worked.
Strata in Ibiza Town
Since antiquity Ibiza Town had
been divided into two main quarters: Dalt Vila, inhabited by the landlord class
- old families with old money and a vested interest in maintaining the status
quo; and La Marina, inhabited by corsairs, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and other
educated professionals who formed the liberal vanguard. Starting in the economically
fructiferous 1920s, however, this neat categorization ceased to apply. Folk from
La Marina began increasingly to engage in - and eventually monopolize - local
commerce, shipbuilding and warehousing, effectively overshadowing the economic
clout of Dalt Vilas old landlord class. The Matutes family stands out as
the foremost example of the rise of capitalism in Ibiza, the equivalent of the
March family in Majorca. As is wont to happen in any newly successful social sector,
the influx of wealth shifted the political ground of La Marina, and large contingents
of its inhabitants were pulled into the conservative camp where they rubbed shoulders
with the ancient rightwing of Dalt Vila.
As a result, liberal
tendencies in Ibiza, while marginally present during the Second Republic, could
never muster the electoral majority necessary to obtain seats in local government.
The intelligentsia and certain sectors of the Ibicenco middle class coalesced
into a number of republican factions, while the working classes - primarily seamen,
dockworkers, stonecutters and, above all, salt workers - gravitated further left
into labour unions and socialist affiliations.
Also in operation were labour unions operating
under the aegis of the Church. These syndicates, organized by the historian-priest
Isidor Macabich, found a large following within Ibizas rural population,
always fervent in its religiosity. Local parent-teacher associations also fell
under the umbrella of Catholic syndicates inasmuch as education, like in the rest
of Spain, fell under the auspices of the clergy. In a very real sense, it was
the peasantrys love of Church, above and beyond any well-defined political
ideology, that accounted for Ibizas predominately rightist orientation.
Readers will remember from our recent overviews that one
of the most controversial passages in the Constitution of 1931 was Article 26,
which guaranteed the separation of Church and State and stipulated that religious
orders could no longer undertake the schooling of Spains youngsters. This
article met with acute opposition in Ibiza, for the Church played a leading role
in both day-to-day life as well as in the political arena. Those minority groups
in Ibiza that espoused anticlericalism became especially active during the Republic,
causing extreme social friction. One of their most scathing manifestations was
a satirical procession, known popularly as El Gato, which was held every year
on Ash Wednesday. These parades publicly parodied the foibles of the clergy, invariably
invoking the wrath of societys right wing. The islands three conservative
broadsheets, Diario de Ibiza, Excélsior and La Defensa, decried the blasphemy
of these buffooneries which all too often succeeded in striking the publics
funny bone, despite best intentions to the contrary. Another more subversive anticlerical
tactic was the occasional vandalism of Church property, also denounced loudly
by the local press.
us next week as we go on to examine some of the leftist movements exclusive to
Formentera and set the stage for the outbreak of war in 1936. Until then.