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 2

Looking for alternatives to social segregation and dependency on the Navy (and IV)

From 1931 onwards, the II República underwent a radicalisation process in both Ferrol and the rest of Spain. When the 'Frente Popular' won the general elections in February 1936, some members of the political and financial elite decided to organize a military rising. On 18th July it was started in Morocco by troops led by Franco. Two days later the revolt triumphed in Ferrol, and the memories of violence and segregation were once again brought to the surface. Both the trade unions and the many seamen in the Dockyards tried to resist, but they were poorly armed and were eventually forced to surrender. The repression was a blood bath, its victims the shipyard workers, the seamen and non-commissioned officers. During the first two years of war 215 Navy personnel were executed following a trial by court-martial, and 239 citizens 'died after assaulting the police', that is, most of them were murdered without trial. The number of executions and/or murders in the whole Ferrol region would amount to 2,000 during the three years that the war lasted.46

During the war, Ferrol played a strategic role as the most important pro-Franco centre for the construction, repair and provisioning of warships. It guaranteed the supremacy of the pro-Franco Navy in the Cantabrian Sea and played a key role in the conquest of the mining and industrial centres located between Asturias and the Basque Country, which had remained loyal to the II Republic. Ferrol's coercive spatial plan was updated in the sense that a single -and accessible- enemy was identified both inside and outside: the political repression against the working-classes became a central issue in the victory against the Republic. The cemetery wall, the walls of San Felipe and La Palma castles and the Dockyards became favourite settings for executions. San Felipe castle, the military facilities in A Graña, the Dockyards' breakwater, and two vessels anchored there became prisons, from which the convicts left to be executed. In the eyes of the 'maestranza' who worked in the Dockyards, in the eyes of those people who crossed the estuary by boat to get to work, the facilities of the Ferrol of the Age of Enlightenment became places of memory - of repression.

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