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History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

The Spanish Civil War In The Pitiuses
Part Nine

Spanish Wars

Hello and welcome to the history page. This week we will take up the final leg of our war chronicle with the permanent arrival of National forces in Ibiza and Formentera. As recounted last week, the definitive capture of the Pitiuses occurred on 20th September, 1936 when a mixed bag of anti-republican companies sailed unimpeded into Ibiza harbour on the civilian vessel, Ciudad de Palma. The expedition was comprised predominately of Falangists but also included the notorious Italian death squad (known locally as Dragons of Death), a fascist platoon sent to Majorca by Mussolini himself and headed up by the nefarious Count Rossi, already regarded as one of the most violent players in the Mediterranean theatre of war.

Military Rule: The New State

Due to the absolute vacuum of power on both Pitiusae, the reestablishment of law and order by National forces took place quickly and effectively on the smouldering ashes of Republican rule. The first Military Commandant assigned to Ibiza was Antoni Montis, whose troops, together with the Italian and Falangist squads, would play a leading role in the initial and bloodiest wave of anti-Republican repression. Montis’s first move was to restore the islands’ six former rightwing mayors to their respective Town Halls (five in Ibiza and one in Formentera). In accordance with Franco’s concept of the New State, each mayor was directly incumbent to the provincial governor in Majorca, while the municipality itself was exalted as the fundamental unit of polity. As such the Town Halls perpetrated acts of repression as dictated by the military authorities, organized a selective network of social aid, and were the principal broadcasters of propaganda for the nascent regime. As part of their programme, several monuments and public works such as roads and promenades were built, one of the most outstanding being the Paseo de s’Alamera in Santa Eulália, originally inaugurated in 1937 as the Paseo del Generalísimo in honour of Franco’s visit to Ibiza in 1935 when he was the Military Commandant of the Balearic Islands.

It was the Army, however, that formed the central axis of power around which all other governmental organisms revolved. By sheer dint of having staged the military coup that overthrew the Second Republic, the Army felt itself entitled to assume a primary role in the running of government, a danger (as readers will remember) that Azaña, in his day, tried to prevent by curtailing the extraordinary immunities and privileges enjoyed by the Spanish military. With Azaña’s destitution, the Army re-emerged from its lessened status with a vengeance, claiming the right to enforce, at its random discretion, the rulings issued by the civilian branch of government it had set up.

In Ibiza this liberty degenerated into libertinism, for Commandant Montis had to be removed from power within the space of a month. Apparently, his iron-handed ways shocked even the most conservative elements of Ibicenco society for which reason he was replaced on 13th October by the Commandant of Infantry, Gonzalo Arnica Ferrer … who was in turn replaced six months later by Lieutenant Colonel Joan Coll i Fuster, who managed to remain in his post until June of 1938, when he has superseded by Lieutenant Colonel Mateu Llobera i Balaguer.

Falangists Move into Starring Role

The Falange stole the political show in Spain from the earliest moments of the Civil War, rising from electoral oblivion to become, in essence, the only official party in Franco’s Spain. In Ibiza and Formentera, for example, prior to the outbreak of war, the Falangists were hardly more than a tiny club, comprised by some twenty-five active members between the two islands. In an effort to unify the disjointed fragments of his political following, Franco decreed a merger in 1937 between the Traditionalistas (Carlist monarchists) and the Falangists, thus creating an entity that would later be renamed Movimiento National. So powerful was the influence of this new party that the leader of each of its municipal chapters automatically became the mayor of the corresponding Town Hall, thus ensuring the strictest adherence to party policy.

In Ibiza, the politically conservative oligarchy quickly banded with the new power structure in order to maintain their say in island affairs. Consequently, the Falangist-Traditionalist party (known as FET-JONS) encompassed a relatively wide range of rightist ideologies, the crux of which was adherence to Franco’s uprising and the desire to restore the social climate that, in Ibiza, had been so satisfactory before the proclamation of the Second Republic. Two of the more illustrious members of this party in Ibiza were Bartomeu de Roselló (whose avenue leads into Isidoro Machabich in Ibiza Town) and Cèsar Puget. Inevitably, however, the party also became a catch-all for social climbers with little or no political definition. In the frank words of Artur Parron:

“[It] became the refuge of many citizens who found therein security, social prestige, access to jobs, or simply political connections that enabled them to grow rich in the shadow of corruption or gain entry to any type of public career. Hence, the island’s bureaucracy was replete with Falangists and the Blue Shirt became a daily symbol of power…”


Before closing this week, I would like to include a few thoughts on the impact this series may be having on some of the local Ibicencos who read this page. Although there are few people still alive in Ibiza who personally lived through the Civil War, most islanders over the age of, say, thirty have been weaned on stories of the war and are quite sensitive to the subject begin discussed by foreigners whom, they claim, invariably lump all those who supported Franco into the same camp as German Nazis and Italian Fascists. Antonio Ribas Bamberger, our much-loved webmaster at LiveIbiza, raised this subject with me recently, asking me politely but pointedly what made me think I possessed the proper understanding to buy up the rights and wrongs of Spanish government and society in general (and Ibicenco government and society in particular). Quite correctly he observed that I could only view these events from an outsider’s limited point of view. His point is well-taken and I would therefore like to apologize for any misconstructions I may have committed in the name of ‘political correctness’ as defined by today’s standards.

I am pressing to finish this series by Christmas but, time permitting, would very much like to include some of the interesting personal stories told to me about the war by my Ibicenco friends, as many of these stories highlight the valour and integrity of the staunchly conservative Ibicenco populace in the face of marauding anarchists and so-called Republicans. In the meantime, join us next week when we will carry on with the political evolution of the Falangist party as it confronted the Axis defeat of Germany and Italy in World War II. Until then,

Emily Kaufman