and welcome to the history page. We left off last week at the threshold of the
Republican invasion of the Pitiuses, noting that Commandant Mestre, the islands
maximum military leader and a staunch National ally, found himself hard-pressed
to defend his domain for a variety of reasons. Firstly, of the 143 professional
soldiers at his disposal, he had posted 23 in Formentera, thus weakening an already
tenuous position. Secondly, a hefty number of local volunteers deserted ranks
and scattered to the countryside when real military action began to loom on the
horizon. Thirdly, owing to a nearly total stoppage of commerce between town and
country, primary necessities in Vila had dwindled to dangerously low levels (despite
pleas to Majorca for food and fuel) making it necessary for Mestre to confiscate
such staple items as flour, coffee, sugar and benzene. These shortages, compounded
by the imminent prospect of armed combat, accounted for the exodus of large portions
of land-owning city dwellers to their fincas, effectively placing Mestres
forces in a no-win position.
Occupation Draws Nigh
fully understand the Republican intervention in Ibiza and Formentera, which, after
all, were not particularly crucial territories, we must look to the strategic
importance of Majorca as a Mediterranean outpost. The Pitiuses were but ancillary
appendages to the larger island, important only in the sense that their occupation
by National forces would threaten the security of Majorca as a base of Republican
operations. Therefore, as often occurred in the course of ancient and medieval
history, the Pitiuses were targeted as initial objectives in the ante-theatre
of greater war.
To this end, on 30th July, Republican
aircraft circled low over Ibiza, throwing down propagandistic leaflets over Vila
in an attempt to obtain peaceful surrender from Mestre and the Ibicenco people.
What follows is a complete transcript of the proclamation:
loyal troops, seconded by the people, have suppressed the infamous rebellion against
the Government constituted by the suffrage of Spanish citizenry.
is being bombarded intensively and surrender is imminent.
your sister island, seconds the Government, with [Republican] naval, air and ground
forces fraternizing with her people.
so that you may avoid needless sacrifice, for your resistance will be suicide.
Abandon your absurd attitude which, without
glory, will only bring you opprobrium and affront.
the fascists and ally yourselves with the Popular Front.
If Commandant Mestres takes your side,
which is the side of Reason and Justice, tolerate no reprisals against the fascists,
for the Government of the Republic will take justice into its hands in due course.
We invite you to surrender in order to avoid
the total destruction of Ibiza.
not give up. Evacuate the city. LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC!
Military Commandant MARQUÉS and
and fellow countryman JUAN TORRES
As it transpired,
these words were written largely in vain for Mestre (whose name the propagandists
managed to misspell twice) was as entrenched in the rightness of his position
as the Republicans were in theirs. Nonetheless, as we noted earlier, the townspeople
did heed the warning to vacate Vila, and all who could sought refuge in their
country estates. In an unsuccessful attempt to halt this exodus, Mestre levied
fines on anyone abandoning their habitual abode, censored the press and enjoined
the Ibicenco people to place their trust in the new regime. Approximately sixty
leftist sympathizers were incarcerated in the Castle at Dalt Vila, but none were
killed nor was any blood shed during this initial mild phase of National repression.
Republican Occupation (August - September 1936)
actual capture of Ibiza was carried out under the auspices of the Generalitat,
(the Catalan government) in conjunction with the Committee of Anti-Fascist Military
Forces of Barcelona. The expedition set off from Barcelona on 5th August under
the command of Captain Alberto Bayo, with Valencia as its first objective. There
the Republican ranks were beefed up by a mixed regiment of soldiers, guardia civiles,
left-wing activists (including six Ibicenco republicans who, for various reasons,
found themselves in Valencia at the outbreak of war) as well as a rather motley
crew of civilian militias who, in Artur Parrons words had little or
no training, were of low social and cultural extraction, and for whom the expedition
was merely an adventure. This melange of humanity was headed up by Manuel
Uribarry, described by Parron as a contradictory character.
6th August, the troops, under the dual leadership of Bayo and Uribarry, set of
from Valencia in two destroyers, the Almirante Miranda and the Almirante Antequera,
as well as a cargo carrier, the Mar Cantábrico. Their first stop was not
Ibiza but Formentera, which they took hands down due to the smallness of the National
detachment posted there under the command of Mestres subordinate, Lieutenant
Miquel Tuells. In his memoir, My Disembarkation in Majorca (written during
his exile in Mexico), Bayo describes the operation in vivid detail and I, in turn,
reproduce it here for the readership:
time we saw land we were possessed by nervousness and the desire to arrive swiftly.
hoisted down some life boats and sent off two spokesmen, Justo Tur and Agustín
Gutiérrez, to speak with the factious authorities on the island, intimidate
them into total surrender and force them, in my name, to present themselves immediately
in our ship (the Miranda), which they did in great haste.
all of the inhabitants on the very beautiful island of Formentera were humble
farmers or fishers who fully sympathized with the republican institutions but
who had succumbed to the yoke of fascism due to the coercion of firearms wielded
by the sergeant of the guardia civil and the detachment of infantry on that island.
authorities spoke with me and assured me that there would be no resistance from
any quarter of the islands population.
In Formentera we arrested Lieutenant Tuells whom I obliged to contact Commandant
Mestres in Ibiza by cable, in my presence, and I dictated the words he should
My Commandant: I find myself
in the position of having to surrender to the
forces of Captain Bayo which
have come in two warships and two carriers [here
there is a discrepancy for
other sources site only one carrier] with many thousands
of soldiers, militias
and abundant war material.
They have yet
to arrive at this headquarter but resistance is useless. Within
will be here.
I inform you that tomorrow they will attack the island
[of Ibiza] at four different
points with aviation, artillery and abundant
Here they have not taken reprisals and their moral is very
high. They say that if
there will be no bloodshed, but if there is resistance all those
them will be swept away.
Mestres gave the
signal that he had received the telegram but did not reply.
an hour later I called him by cable and he attended my request for an interview.
began by telling him this:
I have come at the helm of a strong regiment to re-establish constitutional legality,
violated by a small group of traitors who have taken control of that island.
I have sufficient forces at my disposal to take the
island quickly despite any resistance, large or small, that you may put up.
If you give yourselves up, your lives will be spared.
If you want blood, you will have it in abundance.
it over quickly and give me your answer in five minutes, which is the maximum
time I will grant you.
Your head is on
the guillotine of war. It is up to you what I do with it.
Five minutes later he answered me thusly:
blood you wish to shed will be shed.
both Mestre and Tuells were subsequently executed, the former by the Republicans
for his opposition, the later by the Nationals for his surrender. Join us next
week as we go on to explore the imbrued events of Ibizas five-week Republican
occupation. Until then. Emily Kaufman