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 4

Between the transition to democracy and the rationalization of the shipbuilding industry (II)

This lack of stability was also partly the result of the contradictions that existed in the Spanish political situation - and not merely those arising from the tensions existing between the regional Galician government, controlled by the 'Partido Popular', and the Spanish Socialist government. The transition to democracy was based on an agreement between the more moderate forces of the Franco regime and the opposition. Excluded from this agreement, the more radical positions on both sides opted for terrorism and military uprisings. Both phenomena would eventually have an impact on a city in which the memory of Franco's militarism and working-class movement inevitably came into conflict, causing serious difficulties for local authorities. Until 1985, two of the most outstanding characters of the unsuccessful military coup of February 1981 were imprisoned in military installations close to the Ferrol estuary: the eighteenth-century La Palma castle housed Lieutenant-Colonel Tejero, who had taken House of Congress; and Lieutenant-General Milans del Bosch, who had sent tanks out onto the streets of Valencia, was imprisoned in the Dockyards. Adherents of the extreme right travelled long distances to the city in order to visit them, which led to clashes with anti-Franco groups and placed the Socialist local authority under considerable strain. 1987 saw the brief appearance of 'Exército Guerrilheiro do Pobo Galego Ceibe' (the 'Guerrilla Army for the Galician Free People'), the only -and small- terrorist group in the history of radical Galician nationalism. Two of the group's most significant acts were to vandalise Franco's statue in Ferrol twice, using explosives, the first time in 1987, coinciding with the Partido Popular's victory in the local elections, the second just a year later. 59

When such radical groups chose Ferrol for their protests, they competed for the control of the city's history, reinterpreting it to suit their own needs. This fact provides us with a valuable insight in order to understand recent local history. Ferrol's spatial plan, militarised, segregated and associated with an enclave economy, is the repository of a memory of conflict between the Navy and the working classes, which became even more inflamed following the military uprising of 1936 and the Franco regime. Any alternative development project for the city required an in-depth reformulation of the city map, taking advantage of the new urban administrative powers conferred upon local authorities by the democratic constitution. This affected not only the interests of various social groups but also the city's memory itself: in other words, it provided an opportunity to reinterpret the city's history through the use of policies of memory that form the basis used by the various political forces in order to obtain a solid electoral base. In short, two policies of memory have coexisted in Ferrol: the first is based on a working-class memory deeply rooted in the defence of the ship building industry, which attacks the segregation of the city brought about by the Naval base and military facilities and which questions the monuments that recall the Franco regime; the second defends the continuity of those places of memory of the pro-Franco regime -considering them to be 'apolitical monuments'- and the segregation of the Navy installations, advocating the demolition of the working class districts and the closure of the shipyards.

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