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 (VI)

The Navy authorities organized the provisioning of the city and imposed taxes on food and drinks. After 1769, transactions of foods were carried out around 'Dolores Square', near 'Capitanía Palace'. In 1784, peddlers -most of them women- were settled there by force.23 A moral issue prevailed beyond the desire for controlling prices: to discipline women's sexuality since it could carry syphilis, the disease that decimated the troops.24

As the 'women of the town' do not want to work or serve, they look for a scandalous way to spoil humankind [...] the havoc that the Gallic disease [syphilis] has been causing for some years in Spain [...] So these women damage the Royal Treasury and the State, hurt the troops and the seamen, who are always sent to Hospital, and some of them die and some of them are badly cured [...] In Ferrol there must be one hundred impure women who meet soldiers, seamen and other lustful people.25

Those women who went along the streets, as peddlers, walking to their jobs or taking lunch to their relatives, played havoc with the plans to divide the city into watertight compartments, as they passed on information and created possibly subversive solidarity networks. But if in peacetime this reality threatened the coercive organization of space that was displayed in Ferrol, the situation became positively explosive in wartime. As the city was unable to get supplies from the outlying areas and had to obtain most of its grain by sea, the various wars provoked food crises in the second half of the 18th century. Since the majority of the 30,000 people who lived in the city depended directly or indirectly on the salaries paid by the Navy,26 social tension rose to unprecedented heights and the coercive organization of space showed its vulnerability whenever the monarchy found itself in financial difficulties. The 'maestranza' revolts to protest wage arrears became more and more frequent as the century went on: a riot in 1754, strikes in 1781 and 1791, and a revolt in 1795. The situation became more serious due to the Napoleonic wars, when in 1805 the Spanish fleet was destroyed at Trafalgar and many people from Ferrol lost their lives. Coinciding with the Spanish revolt against the Napoleonic occupation, convicts rioted in Ferrol in May 1808, followed by the seamen in June.

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