and welcome to the history page. Our topic of discussion this week centres on
the penury and scarcity that characterized the Pitiuses, especially Formentera,
during the final years of the Civil War. However, before going on to examine this
particular state of affairs, it may be helpful to summarize what we have learned
so far in our chronicles. For, despite a certain long-windedness on my part, the
plotline boils down to two basic coordinates: the voluntary withdrawal of Republican
troops after five unsuccessful weeks of occupation, and the incorporation of Ibiza
and Formentera into Francos domain on 20th September 1936, a mere two months
after the outbreak of war. It is safe to say that, as of this date, the islands!
receded once again into the periphery of events, where they remained for the long,
painful denouement of war. As we shall see, the removal of military action from
Pitiusan shores did not lessen by one iota the hardship of life during the three
lean years that lay ahead.
Having concerned ourselves primarily
with the course of political and military developments in our previous instalments,
we will now go on to explore the common mans experience of wartime society.
Perhaps even more acutely than in mainland Spain, the sea-bound isolation of Ibiza
and Formentera resulted in conditions of extreme lack. Fuel was scarce, food was
even scarcer and the circulation of currency ground to a virtual halt. In short,
the standard of island living quickly devolved to subsistence level, and government
hand-outs became the only means of survival for large sectors of the population.
Francos New State, instituted
in all National territories well before the close of the war, struggled to bring
its pre-war ideologies in line with the desperate needs of a stricken population.
To this end, a host of welfare measures were introduced, all promoted with the
propagandistic verve of Big Brother and all appealing to the patriotic, Christian
vein that ran so deeply through the bedrock of Spanish society. These measures
most commonly took the form of required donations, required in the
sense that those citizens who were able to contribute but did not were publicly
black-listed in the local newspapers. This tactic proved to be an effective deterrent
to half-hearted participation in the continual charity rounds that were taken
up by the female chapters of the Falangist-Traditionalist party. To name but a
few of the funds that were set up, we can cite the Day of the Combatant,
donations for which were collected monthly; Aid to Liberated Populations
and the Day of the Single Plate (a reference to the fact that families
were expected to eat just one course for their dinner instead of the traditional
two so that the savings could then be donated to the fund), contributions for
which were collected on a fortnightly basis; and lastly, the Day without
Dessert fund, donations for which were collected every Monday.
the monies generated from these charity drives, public soup-kitchens were set
up in National territories all over Spain in order to alleviate wide-spread hunger
as well as the diseases linked to malnutrition. It was not until 23rd May 1938,
however, that Social Aid the coordinating entity for these eateries,
was finally established in Ibiza, its headquarters located in carrer Amadeu in
Dalt Vila. The following month of June the same service was also set up in Formentera.
Employment and Commerce
would be expected, all labour unions established prior to or during the Second
Republic were outlawed. In their place arose the Vertical Union in 1938, a labour
organization that closely monitored all business enterprises and predetermined
the guidelines by which businesses would henceforth be run. One of the new norms
stipulated that all companies were legally bound to provide National veterans
with a job once the war was over. This measure did much to inspire loyalty among
Francos ranks as well as insuring the introduction of regime-friendly workers
in the mainstream of the Spanish labour force.
regards Ibiza and Formentera, their geographic removal from mainland supply lines
caused shortages in a number of staple goods and products, a circumstance which
inevitably drove up their price. As a precaution against smuggling and the unchecked
growth of the black market, the Insular Board of Provisions required all businesses
to submit a report on the exact nature and quantity of the goods they had in stock.
The authorities then fixed the price for all manufactures and raw materials as
well as regulating the business hours during which these things could be sold
to the public. Under special scrutiny were bread ovens in an attempt to guard
against extra loaves being baked and sold surreptitiously at a higher price than
that established by the Provisions Board.
regulations, in actual fact, many products were stockpiled and then sold at a
gross profit, often with the tacit consent of the very authorities responsible
for preventing the proliferation of black trade. The goods that most naturally
lent themselves to such illegal trading were tobacco, oil, alcohol and timber.
As Artur Parron explains, The smuggling of these products was carried out
by a broad spectrum of islanders, from fishermen and farmers trying to make some
extra income to wealthy merchants in search of higher profits, from bureaucrats
and civil guards to the middlemen that connected the various parties. Even though
smuggling had existed before the war, this activity was now powerfully fuelled
by the extreme scarcity of goods and the desire for riches by many merchants operating
in the shadow of corruption cast by the authorities themselves.
Throughout the whole of 1937 the economic
situation in the Pitiuses was nothing short of precarious. When, in April of the
same year, the governor of the Balearic Islands, Mateu Torres i Bestard, visited
the islands, he was met by a bleak picture of misery and want. Moved by what he
saw, the governor returned to Majorca with a plea of solidarity that his fellow
Majorcans might provide some measure of economic aid to their island brethren.
Sadly, his exhortation was largely unsuccessful. Somewhat ironically, however,
the following year the none-too-rich Ibicencos took it upon themselves to pool
their limited resources in a campaign aimed at alleviating the grave shortages
that afflicted their neighbours in Formentera. The habitual hardship of life on
the smaller Pitiusa had by this time (1938) plummeted to intolerable levels, owing
above all to the severe lack of manpower and the subsequent inability of the remaining
men and women to work the land to fruitful yield. Readers will remember that Formentera,
had been a seat of leftist support so that, under National rule, large swathes
of the able-bodied population had either fled or been imprisoned.
that bittersweet note we shall leave off for this week. Join us next time as we
press on toward the end of the war and the gradual restoration of normalcy on
the islands. Until then,