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History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
An Overview: VII

Spanish Wars

Hello and welcome to one of the most exciting junctures in contemporary Spanish history: the proclamation of the Second Republic. We left off last week on a cold December day in 1930 just as a second military coup was being staged in Madrid. Thousands of Spaniards watched with baited breath as a small group of army officials endeavoured - for the second time in three days - to overthrow the country's obsolete parliamentary monarchy in order to establish a new political system whereby the supreme power would rest in the people, not in the privileged elite.

The idea was to take Madrid, pacifistically if possible, while the rest of the country seconded this military action with a general strike. To this end, General Queipo de Llano, head of the Revolutionary Committee, and a group of his officials (one of whom, incidentally, was Ramón Franco, brother of the future dictator) occupied the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome. Their strategy was to fly over the city, tossing down explanatory leaflets to spread the word of a new government, while, simultaneously, Committee representatives proclaimed the Second Republic over the radio.

Battle Lost - War Won

Unfortunately, the coup did not develop according to plan, due mainly to the fact that Madrid, itself, did not rally to cause by joining the strike. When the conspirators realized that the uprising had failed, they fled to Portugal to escape execution. Their period of exile would be very short, for, as we shall see, ultimate success was nigh. Dwindling public support for the king, even in the higher echelons of society, meant that monarchy's days were numbered. It was simply of matter of time before the dynastic parliament crumbled under the weight of its own past errors.

In the early months of 1931, and without the aid of revolutionary movements, the government underwent a major internal crisis, the result of which was that the infamous chief of state, General Berenguer, was replaced by another military man, Admiral Juan Bautista Aznar. The first move on the part of the new cabinet leader was to convoke elections on three levels: municipal, provincial and legislative.

On 12th April 1931, for the first time since Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, Spain's electoral urns were opened (though only to male citizens). Ostensibly, the purpose of this first round of voting was simply to elect councillors for the country's Town Halls. Parliament remained serene in the knowledge that their dynastic candidates would win; however, much to their subsequent chagrin, these municipal elections turned into a full-scale plebiscite, deciding a question that had not even been posed: the continuance of the monarchy.

On the morning of 13th April, the government stood by incredulously as the election results rolled in, announcing the landslide victory of the republican-socialist coalition: of Spain's 50 capital cities, 41 had voted in favour of the republican option rather than the monarchical option. The electorate, too, had its ears glued to the radio to hear the outcome of its first visit to the polls in seven years. As the results became known, multitudes of Spaniards took to the streets celebrating the advent of democracy. Accounts of the incident describe the collective enthusiasm as electric, the atmosphere as one of unanimous joy. Even in the face of the apparent anarchy, neither the anarchy nor the Guardia Civil took measures to restore order. At least for the day, Spain was of one mind, one heart and one soul.

Meanwhile, in quiet rooms, the Minister of State, the Count of Romanones, met with the president of the Revolutionary Committee, Alcalá Zamora, who demanded the immediate exit of the king from Spanish territory.

On the morning of 14th April, the Second Republic was officially proclaimed in the Basque city of Éibar, an announcement that quickly spread throughout the rest of the country. In Madrid, the provisional government, made up of the signatory members of the Pact of San Sebastian made their way through the mobbed streets to the Home Office in the Puerta del Sol to assume the running of government. The following excerpts, from Miguel Maura's memoirs, describe the uncontained jubilation that reigned in Madrid the day the Republic was proclaimed:

"We approached la Cibeles. From that point on we had to go very slowly because the street was packed with people. They soon recognized us and that is when our odyssey began. It took us nearly two hours to travel the stretch of road between the Plaza of Cibeles and the Puerta del Sol, that is, just over one kilometre. The mob made way for us as best they could, but they also climbed onto the running board and the wings of my car …

"In the Puerta del Sol the human agglomeration went beyond all imaginable limits. The lamp posts, the tramways, every in of plaza, the balconies and rooftops were all occupied by cheering people. The din was deafening …

"As last my car arrived in front of the main entrance of the Home Office. The door was closed.

"Standing before the door were only Largo Caballero and myself, surrounded, needless to say, by a vociferous mass shouting for them to open up.

"Suddenly, the door swung open wide, and a firing squad from the Guardia Civil blocked our way. I stood my ground myself before them, made my identity known, and said:

‘Gentlemen: I must go to govern the Republic!'

As if they had previously rehearsed their steps, the soldiers stood back to form a corridor and, one on either side, presented arms."


Join us next week as we bid farewell to Alfonso XIII and begin to explore the difficult five years of the Second Republic, the final fleeting stand of democracy before the outbreak of civil war.

Emily Kaufman