Spanish historian, Professor Jose Manuel Algarbani, has researched the Spanish Civil War for more than 15 years and more specifically, in this area, together with the role played by Gibraltar. Mr Algarbani is President of the Geography and History sections of the Institute of Studies Campogibraltareños (IECG). A secondary school teacher and professor at the School of Legal and Economic Studies of the Campo de Gibraltar, he is also the official chronicler of the town of Los Barrios with several degrees including Contemporary History. He is also a member of the Foro por la Memoria del Campo de Gibraltar. He has reasearch, written and spoken widely on the history of the Spanish Civil War and especially throughout the Campo area.
At the Unite the Union symposium Mr Algarbani spoke about the political situation in the Campo de Gibraltar prior to the military coup, the repression in the south of Spain by the invading army and the relationship between a section of Gibraltar society following the Fascist uprising and the relationship of a section of the Gibraltar society with the Spanish republican movement.
He believes the role played by Gibraltar in this war was both significantly important and crucial.
“We are privileged to live where we live which has made us who and what we are because of its strategic location,” he told the Chronicle.
The Spanish Civil War in the whole of Andalusia is one he knows extensively having had the opportunity of interviewing first hand account witnesses. His knowledge is vast.
“The Campo area and the fact that we had a territory such as Gibraltar would prove significant in the war,” he continues.
Gibraltar’s role was significant both at national and at a local level, he adds, especially for the families who lived in the Campo and especially those coming from Gibraltar and who would be forced to move back to the Rock.
But there were also many Spaniards who crossed the frontier and were able to find refuge in Gibraltar and whose lives would be spared just because the territory happened to be here, he insists.
“Since February 1936 when the election was won by the Popular Front there are a few people who would escape leftist Spain and find themselves on the Rock.
“But on 18 July, 1936, at the time of the uprising, the situation was different, even though the fascist revolt had been planned for months.
“There were many people who came from all sectors and from different ideologies all escaping the chaos that ensued.”
He recalls how the Spanish Civil War began with a military uprising in Spanish-held Morocco against the leftist Spanish Republican government.
“And essentially those that escaped to Gibraltar were escaping the military uprising under Franco. The social conflict which existed during the months leading to the Spanish Civil War would make its way into Gibraltar because here too there were people who supported both sides,” he adds.
And he points out that even Gibraltar society at the time would be divided.
“The upper level of society supported Franco at the time, and the working class obviously supported the republic.”
He insists that this conflict was evident even in Gibraltar.
“This is something I want to discuss the symposium and of the differences that existed between the great majority of working class people on the Rock and the official side, the Refugee Camp set up in the airfield and its many local volunteers, and the Chronicle which also played a part publishing several editions in both English and Spanish at the time.”