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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

The Spanish Civil War In The Pitiuses
Part One

Spanish Wars

Hello 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:

“After 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 1940s.”

The Pitiuses during the Second Republic

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.

Social 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 Vila’s 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.

The Church in Ibiza

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 Ibiza’s 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 peasantry’s love of Church, above and beyond any well-defined political ideology, that accounted for Ibiza’s 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 Spain’s 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 society’s right wing. The island’s three conservative broadsheets, Diario de Ibiza, Excélsior and La Defensa, decried the blasphemy of these buffooneries which all too often succeeded in striking the public’s 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.


Join 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.

Emily Kaufman