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 (and IV)

The 1999 council elections brought a mayor from the 'Bloque Nacionalista Galego' (Galician Nationalist Party) to power, supported by the Socialist Party. The new council government designed an innovative urban policy based on four strategies. First, the reactivation of the shipbuilding industry and the service activities related to the Navy, all of which seemed to be favoured in 2000 by the fusion of the civil and military sections of the Spanish public naval industry. The integration of Astano and Bazán was finally consolidated in Ferrol.64 Besides, rumours claimed that Ferrol could be promoted as a NATO naval base. Secondly, in 2001 the possibility arose to overcome the city's secular isolation, thanks to the commencement of work on a large exterior port at the mouth of the estuary. This also coincided with the start of work on the final section of the motorway that would connect Ferrol with the Iberian Peninsula's motorway network.65 Thirdly, the city was to become a hub for services and urban tourism thanks to the fortresses, military installations, and La Magdalena, 'an example of a city of the Age of Enlightenment'. The demolition of the Dockyard wall was seen as the starting point for a programme aimed at 'opening the city up to the sea'.66 In December 2000, a campaign was launched for the district to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.67 And finally, urban renewal was promoted, but trying to keep residents, thereby weakening the process of 'gentrification'. A 'Plan of Reform of La Magdalena' was passed. And a rehabilitation plan was drawn up for the neighbourhood of Recimil, which included ownership, previously held by the council, being conferred upon the tenants.

During 1999-2000, both the academic world and the media began to debate regarding the overriding presence of places of memory that recalled the Franco period to be found all over Spain.68 Essentially, this debate constituted a discussion and judgement regarding the causes of the Civil War, the harshness of the Franco regime and the 'agreement to forget', upon which the transition to democracy had supposedly been based.69 Ferrol's new municipal corporation could therefore justify its plans for development within the context of a more solid memory policy. Indeed, the start of its term of office was marked by the erection in 1999 of a statue in the 'Alameda' in honour of Camilo Díaz Baliño, a member of local intelligentsia who was shot during the early stages of the military uprising. Nearby, the first plaque in honour of the victims of the pro-Franco repression was inaugurated in 2002. And finally, a project to remodel 'España Square' was designed, which involved the suppression of the equestrian statue. The new Town Hall of Democracy would be built instead, and the demolition of Franco period's town hall in La Magdalena would recreate the original plan of the 'Parade Ground'. After a long debate,70 in July 2002 the council corporation moved the statue of Franco to a less visible place. Most fittingly, this was to be the Navy Museum - in the Dockyards, near the Dock Gate!

In spite of this, and following the elections held in May 2003, the left-wing coalition that had governed Ferrol fell victim to its internal conflicts, and lost its power to a right-wing coalition. Today, the debate regarding the demolition of the Recimil working class district is once again the order of the day, but the 'Plan of Reform of La Magdalena' remains on course, and even though the plan to demolish the Town Hall has long since been abandoned, there are no plans to move the statue back to its original place. The monument to Franco, situated in such a prominent position as 'España Square', was not only a symbol that stigmatised the city and caused controversy among the political forces and the citizens,71 but also an emblem of dubious appeal to a NATO naval base and its recognition as a World Heritage Site. Paraphrasing Paul Krugman we could say, 'It's the economy, stupid!'. Anyway, it could also be argued to be quite simply a question of dignity.

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