Ferrol - Urban History
'A Tale of Two Cities'. The Memory of Ferrol, between the Navy and the Working class.
Beginning Chapters: 1 2 3 4 Bib >

Chapter 1

A city charged throughout history with segregation and violence (III)

The people who worked in shipyards and dockyards were called the 'maestranza'.13 They were organized in trades, and it was not an easy task to discipline them. Indeed, discipline was made even more difficult due to the arrears of several months' payment, a situation which would grow steadily worse towards the end of the 18th century. The paralegal practice of picking up 'splinters' -surplus pieces of wood- became an essential complementary income, because it allowed workers to obtain immediate funds. But this fact might conceal larceny, which was the authorities' nightmare together with the shirking of duty and insubordination. Sabotage was easy in dockyards where combustible materials abounded,14 and pamphlets containing threats of arson were common weapons in labour disputes.15 The authorities tried to suppress the habit of smoking at work, and they strived to restrict, although unsuccessfully, the popular custom of burning bonfires during the celebration of 'Saint John's Eve'.16

Military control was needed, either over the forced labourers or the free 'maestranza' workers, hence the early presence in the city of regiments of marines, a total of 3,000 soldiers in 1753. New disciplinary technologies that operated through a coercive organization of space were also developed. The naval facilities were isolated from the inhabited areas. The Esteiro shipyards were surrounded by a wall, which had a single entrance. The seven-metre-high wall that enclosed the dockyards was surrounded by a deep and wide moat. It also had a single entrance, the 'Dock Gate'. The wall and moat managed to prevent the theft of materials and tools, and the 'maestranza' from shirking their duties. They also helped to stop convicts from escaping, and if the 'maestranza' revolted the wall and the moat blocked the access to the Dockyard, particularly to the 'Arms Hall' where the cannons and guns were kept. 'Maestranza' and seamen were subject to military discipline. The Commander-in-chief of the Department was chief of both the squadron and the dockyards. In addition, both groups fell within the Navy's jurisdiction. In 1785, the 'Penal Acts for the Rule of the "Maestranza" in the Royal Dockyards of the Navy' established the daily review, and all forms of offence were punished with imprisonment or by locking the victim's hands and legs in the stocks situated at the Dock Gate.17

Such a coercive organization of space was also the basis for the development of the policies of memory. The dockyards showed an impressive architecture, proclaiming the power of Monarchy. The monumental 'Dock Gate', which was crowned by Carlos III's coat of arms, not only welcomed the workers; it was also displayed before the whole population. The large clock at the top set the pace of work, as well as that of the city life, as did the siren that indicated when the 'maestranza' were to start and finish work. In front of the Dock Gate, a fountain-obelisk was built and crowned with an image of 'Fame', blowing its clarion in honour of the King.

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