and welcome to the history page. This week we are going to deviate from our usual
format in order to speak to one who lived through Bayos invasion and occupation
of Ibiza. Although only a boy at the time, Rafael Sainz clearly remembers the
unfolding of hostilities within island life, primarily because these events affected
his family in a very direct way. Sixty-six years later, Sainz has written a book,
the soon-to-be-published Vacaciones Truncadas: Ibiza 1936, based on his childhood
experience of the Civil War. This lively but distinguished gentleman was good
enough to meet with me last Tuesday to recount not only the period of wartime
proper but also how his family, originally from Madrid, came to discover the unspoilt
beauty of Ibiza in the early 1930s. Here is his story.
Tell us a bit about how your family came to be in Ibiza when the Civil War broke
Rafael Sainz: We were from Madrid, but my parents
always took us to the seaside to spend the summer months. Usually we went to Biarritz
in the south of France, but one year, in 1931, Rigoberto Soler, a painter from
Valencia and an old friend of the family, invited my father to spend Easter Week
with him in Ibiza. My father accepted his invitation and immediately fell in love
with the island. So much so that before the week was out had bought a plot of
land near Santa Eulàlia. Naturally, none of us had ever even heard of Ibiza,
and my mother was more than a little upset to learn that she would now be spending
her summers on a tiny island that was neither elegant nor sophisticated nor in
any way adapted to tourism. There were no dances, no shows, none of the social
events or international atmosphere that characterized the Bay of Biscay. In those
days, there were only two boats a week between Ibiza and the mainland, one from
Valencia and the other from Alicante, and of course, a few boats to Palma de Majorca.
Needless to say, the rest of the family - my uncles and grandparents and so forth
- thought my father was absolutely crazy and strongly advised him to reconsider,
but there was no changing my fathers mind once hed made it up.
So how long had your family been coming to Ibiza when war broke out?
We started coming that very summer, the summer of 31, which means that the
summer of 36 was our fifth season on the island. I was eight at the time
and I had four other brothers and sisters. Because of the marked insular nature
of Ibicenco society in those days, our family was quite disconnected from island
life. We were known and tolerated, but we did not participate in local affairs
in any way. Therefore, when war broke out and we found ourselves directly in the
line of fire, so to speak, it came as quite a shock. Intellectually, my father
was very broad-minded, very much a lover of art and culture, a big patron and
collector. Whenever he was on the island, he held a daily tertulia, a sort of
meeting-of-the-minds for intellectuals and artists. Politically, however, he was
a rightist, and did not hide the fact. He was a stockbroker for my grandfathers
bank and our finca was known locally as Cas Banquer (house of the
banker) even though its real name was Getsemaní.
What do you mean by in the line of fire?
Well, our finca was located exactly on the warpath of Bayos march to Ibiza
town. Had we remained in it, there is scarcely any doubt that we would have been
arrested - or worse - by the invaders. But, as fate would have it, my father was
friendly with an American writer from Minneapolis who lived nearby (not Elliot
Paul, incidentally). He and his wife alerted us to the danger we faced as known
rightwing sympathizers and urged us to come and stay with them until the danger
had passed. My father accepted their kindness and we took refuge at their finca
during the five weeks of Bayos occupation, that is, from the 8th August
until the 14th September. Bayos troops did, in fact, sack our house but,
although they tried, they couldnt burn it because it was built of stone.
To make matters worse, my mother was in her eighth month of pregnancy with a new
baby. The best course of action, in that sense, would have been to remain in Ibiza
until she gave birth, but we had no means of survival as all the banks had been
closed down and the accounts frozen - which meant that we were literally penniless.
Also, life in Ibiza was precarious. There was no food, no transport, no money,
no anything. Being non-islanders made our position even less secure so my father
decided that we should try to leave the island.
Were you able to do that?
RS: Yes, on 16th September,
after the withdrawal of the Reds, my father managed to find a free passage for
us on an Italian ship which dropped us off in Palma de Majorca, which by then
was National territory. My mother gave birth shortly after our arrival in Palma,
but the baby did not survive. We never knew if it was stillborn or if it died
later of malnutrition or something like that because my parents would never talk
to us about it. That was a closed book, never to be reopened. We stayed in Majorca
for four or five months until we managed to get back to the mainland, but not
Madrid because that remained Republican territory until the very end of the war.
Instead we went to Fuenterrabia, a tiny fishing village right on the French/Spanish
border, where we knew people from when we used to vacation in the Bay of Biscay.
From there we went to Santander and, finally, when the war was over, back to Madrid.
How soon did your family come back to Ibiza after the war?
As soon as we could! The war was over in April of 39 and that July we came
back to spend the whole summer as had been our custom. After our experience in
the summer of 36 Ibiza held a special place in our hearts because of the
many kindnesses we had received from the people here, both foreigners and native
Ibicencos. During the 40s my father resumed collecting, adding a new dimension
to his passion: archaeology. He came to own the largest private collection of
Phoenicio-Punic artefacts ever assembled on the island. He was quite serious about
it, and whenever some new piece was found, he would try to outbid whoever else
was interested in purchasing it - always a foreigner or at least a non-Ibicenco
- because he knew that if local farmers kept selling off these bits of antiquity,
Ibiza would soon be left without its historical patrimony. When he died in 1961
he donated the entire collection to the Spanish state under the proviso that its
contents should be housed in the local archaeology museum and never leave the
LI: He certainly held Ibizas cultural
patrimony close to heart.
RS: Yes, he was possessed
of great foresight and was way ahead of his day in that sense.
Well, thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us. Its been fascinating.
Thank you. The pleasures been mine.
Sainz is also the author of Tales of Mel (1998), a highly recommendable read which
centres on the Ibicenco hound but touches on a wide range of ancillary subjects
in the course of its fast-paced narrative. It is available at all good island
book shops. Please join us next week when we will soldier on with our war chronicles
and also consider some of the feedback that this series has provoked from the
local population. Until then.