An Historical Essay on Modern Spain

Richard Herr



[289] The frail general who watched Prince Juan Carlos take his oath before the Cortes in July 1969 lived on for six more years, suffering from debilitating ailments and dying after a prolonged agony on November 20, 1975. Two days later Juan Carlos, again on the podium of the Cortes, took a new oath to uphold the order as king. Death struck the aged head of state at 83; the young king who now took his place was 37. The contrast was to be symbolic. The transfer of leadership from one generation to another marked the beginning of one of the most exciting passages in Spain’s history.

During the last years of Franco’s rule, Spain seemed on hold, awaiting his disappearance, a tension masked by jokes about his apparent immortality. What would happen when he went? Faced by waves of strikes and continuing assassinations by the Basque ETA, the regime’s hardliners were determined to maintain Spain’s authoritarian unity. In June 1971 Franco, failing in strength, gave up the office of president of the government, that is, prime minister, and arranged for his closest associate, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, to take his place. Franco remained the head of state. In December 1973 as the car of Admiral Carrero Blanco was driving him from his morning mass to his office, an ETA commando carried out a spectacular explosion that blew the car sky-high, killing the occupants. Franco and those around him were distraught and shaken. International events, though not so momentous as those of the 30s, added to the general tension of the nation. For those who looked forward to an end to dictatorship, General Augusto Pinochet’s bloody overthrow in Chile of the liberal government of Salvador Allende in September 1973 seemed an ominous precedent. Then Spain’s right and left observed with vastly different emotions how in April 1974 Portuguese army officers, embittered by a long colonial war, overthrew the neighboring authoritarian regime and within a year seemed on the verge of turning their new democratic state over to the Communists. Meanwhile the economic downturn of the industrialized world caused by the embargo imposed by the oil producing countries hit Spain especially hard, bringing to an end the “Spanish miracle” of the 1960s. The momentous changes of the next decade would take place against an ever-present background of economic hardship.

Franco’s death bore the aura of poetic justice. Ignoring public demonstrations across Europe and appeals from heads of state and the pope, Franco approved the execution on September 27, 1975 of five young men convicted of terrorism. In the next days across Europe mobs attacked Spanish embassies and consulates, and eight west-European governments recalled their ambassadors from Spain, including Great Britain and West Germany (the French ambassador had already left Spain “on holiday”). To rally his people, on October 1, a cold, raw day, despite his feeble state Franco addressed a preassembled crowd from the palace balcony. In other parts of Madrid four policemen were assassinated to avenge the executions. As if cursed by his victims from their graves, Franco fell ill after his effort and never recovered. When life support was removed, he died on November 20, anniversary of the execution in 1936 of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange. For Spaniards on the right it became the prime day to commemorate.

In a solemn telecast ceremony, Franco’s body was laid beside that of José Antonio in the cavernous “Valley of the Fallen” he had carved out of the mountains above Madrid with the labor of Republican prisoners. Spaniards held their breath about their future.Would Spain open up in the direction of democratic Europe or would the defenders of the established order, led by the army, resist democracy, possibly touching off a new civil war?

Spain’s pent-up tension exploded in the next two years. No sooner was the news of Franco’s death broadcast than the scent of long-awaited change was in the air. That Spain would no longer be the same became evident almost at once, as kiosks in the next months offered new newspapers dedicated to reform, El País, Cambio 16, and in Catalan Avui. Beside them the titillating covers of new journals displayed naked girls, convincing evidence that press censorship had vanished. Demonstrators took to the streets and university campuses calling for reform, and illegal labor unions (only the official Sindicatos were legal) called strikes in response
to soaring inflation and increasing unemployment. Riot police met them with force. The ferocity reached a momentary peak in March 1976 when police fired upon thousands of strikers in Vitoria, killing four persons. Other organizations contributed to the violence. The ETA kept up a campaign of assassinations; in October 1976 a commando killed the head of the provincial government of Guipuzcoa at noon in mid San Sebastián. Meanwhile, on the right Fuerza Nueva, loyal to Franco’s memory, mobilized youths to beat up liberal students and bomb bookstores accused of Marxist sympathies.

Tension was at its height a year after Franco’s death, in the winter 1976-77. On December 11 a mysterious leftist group called GRAPO kidnapped Antonio María de Oriol, a notorious minister of justice under Franco. (The acronym stood for the First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group, named to commemorate the assassination of policemen on the day Franco last spoke.) Weeks of searching failed to find Oriol. At Christmas time fighting broke out in Madrid between the police and demonstrators protesting the arrest of Santiago Carrillo, the leader of the illegal Communist party, who had challenged the government by reentering Spain without permission. On Sunday January 23, 1977 right wing gunmen who stood beside the police facing thousands of demonstrators in Madrid shot and killed a student demonstrator. Next day GRAPO reappeared, kidnapping Emilio Villaescusa, head of the Supreme Council of Military Justice, responsible for trying terrorists. That night two masked men entered the Madrid office of a Communist law firm that represented the striking unions and machine-gunned those present, killing five persons, four of them lawyers, and wounding four others. Before the week was out, terrorist attacks in Madrid killed three police and wounded others, with GRAPO taking credit. As the police searched futilely for Oriol and Villaescusa, rumors circulated that GRAPO was really a right-wing group hoping to incite a military take over. Behind these gripping scenes caught by the TV news lay rapid inflation and increasing unemployment. Spain seemed a ship without a rudder, and many ordinary citizens quaked in the apprehension that the army would surely intervene to restore order. When police finally rescued the kidnapped men in February some calm returned.

If the specter of conspiring generals fed popular paranoia, a countervailing public mood for change became more and more a player in the drama. In his homily at the religious ceremony proclaiming the new king on November 27, 1975, which was broadcast and televised across Spain, the archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Enrique y Tarancón urged the need for human rights, just liberties, and justice, placing the Catholic Church on the side of reform. Two days earlier Juan Carlos had issued a limited amnesty cutting time off the sentences of common criminals and political prisoners who had not committed acts of violence. Leftist sympathizers at once declared it insufficient, for it left many political prisoners in jail. In December a meeting of the conference of Spanish bishops called for civil rights, the freedom of political prisoners, and the return of political exiles, as well as measures to end unemployment and redistribute the wealth. Soon the demand for amnesty for political prisoners became an insistent mantra of public discourse. Many persons accused of terrorism had been incarcerated for lengthy periods without trial as result of Franco’s declaration of a “state of exception” which suspended the limited individual rights guaranteed by the Fuero de los Españoles. “Amnesty” thus became a surrogate word for the replacement of his authoritarian system by a democracy and guarantee of civil rights. Since most political prisoners belonged to Catalan and Basque movements, the call for amnesty was associated with the demand for autonomy of their regions.

In the next months demonstrations in favor of amnesty brought out crowds in the major cities. The call came from many sides. On the occasion of the king’s visit to Barcelona in February 1976, the abbot of Montserrat appealed to him for “amnesty, peace, and full recognition of the rights of our people.[1] The public pressure forced the ministry, still Franco’s men, to free all political prisoners not involved in crimes of violence in March. This left many members of the ETA still in jail, and in May massive demonstrations filled the Basque streets demanding “total amnesty.” Police fired on them killing five persons, workers brought the Basque economy to a halt, and students in Madrid and Barcelona staged sympathy protests.

At this point a musical group in beards and jeans caught the reigning public spirit in a song that captured the air waves, Liberty without anger (Libertad sin ira).

The old men say there was a war in this country 

And that Spaniards nurture the rancor of old debts.
            The old men say this country needs a long stick and a firm hand

            To avoid the worst.

  But I have only seen people who suffer in silence 
their sorrows and fear,
          People who want only their bread, their 

girl, and to be left in peace.

  Liberty, liberty, without anger liberty.
                        Put away your fear and your anger,
      Because there is liberty, without anger liberty,

                            And if there isn’t, there surely will be.[2]

The men who remembered the Civil War were old and out of touch with the new Spain that had grown up while they stroked their memories. A young generation wanted a new Spain, in line with the European peoples whom they had gone to work for and who had made Spain their southern home. And as Franco’s men in the Cortes and in the army gnashed their teeth, youth brought forth a system which gave Spain modern rights.

Through the turmoil and anxiety of these years, Spanish statesmen guided the country toward a democratic regime. Those who were hesitant could not ignore the demand in the air for apertura (an opening); those who wanted to move fast tempered their positions for fear of inciting the army. Franco is reported to have said that he was leaving Spain “thoroughly tied up” (“atada y bien atada”) so that it could not break loose from his system. He had concentrated power in his own person, but now power was divided among institutions that could check each other and prevent any one of them from bringing the system down. The king was head of the state in place of Franco and on his accession took an oath to support Franco’s fundamental laws; but whereas Franco had until his last years also been head of the government as president of the council of ministers, this position was now separate and was in the hands of Carrero Blanco’s successor, Carlos Arias Navarro. He was responsible to the king, not the Cortes. The king could dismiss him but had to select his successor from a list of three given him by he Council of the Realm, a body composed of members of the clergy, the armed forces, the Cortes, and other official bodies, persons who could be counted on to protect the status quo. Finally, any change in the fundamental laws would have to be ratified by the Cortes, whose members, except for one fifth elected by heads of household, had been appointed by official bodies or named personally by Franco, and then submitted to a public referendum.

Europeans had been bought up with the sad memory of how between the World Wars, dictators in Italy, Germany, and elsewhere had exploited democratic constitutional means to turn democracies into dictatorships without ostensibly breaking any laws. Now Spanish statesmen would reveal to the world how they could exploit the rules of a dictatorship to reverse the process. Although his hand was not obvious, there is no doubt the critical initiative came from young Juan Carlos, guided by astute advisers, no one more important than his former tutor, the general Torcuato Fernández Miranda.

At his accession Juan Carlos was little known to his people. He promptly took his attractive queen Sofía on symbolic visits to key regions, to Catalonia (where he pronounced the magic words in Catalan “¡Visca Catalunya! ¡Visca Espanya!” [“Long live Catalonia! Long live Spain!”]),[3] to Andalusia (to Seville and also to Algeciras across the bay from Gibraltar, a thorn that unites all Spaniards), and to Asturias (where king and queen donned hard hats and went down a mine). In June they followed Columbus’s path (by air) to Santo Domingo, and then to New York and Washington (the king addressed the United Nations and the US Congress in excellent English) (Franco had refused to leave Spain). The refreshing tone of their new head of state did not fail to affect his subjects.

[293] Juan Carlos’s first official responsibility proved frustrating. He had to appoint a new president of the council of ministers, but the choice afforded him by the Council of the Realm was such that he kept on Arias. Arias gave hints of favoring apertura, but as the months dragged on and nothing happened, disillusion began to settle over the country. The king, however, was working quietly. In January 1976 it fell to him to name a new president of the Cortes. He chose Fernández Miranda. The change seemed innocuous, but it made Fernández Miranda also president of the Council of the Realm. In July, Juan Carlos called Arias to the palace and to his consternation informed him that he was dismissed. The Council of the Realm listened to Fernández Miranda and this time included among the nominees for the presidency of the council of ministers the king’s preference.  Juan Carlos was able to appoint Adolfo Suárez, an obscure young man who had risen rapidly in the official world during the last years of Franco. The public was dismayed by the news, convinced that the king’s choice meant that the opponents of reform were in control; few people knew that during Franco’s last illness Suárez had had the courage to tell the dying man that the future of Spain was inevitably democratic.[4]

Slowly in the next months, the partisans of apertura came to appreciate the king’s astuteness as Suárez threaded his way through the thicket planted by Franco. The new president of the government immediately attacked the primary bastion of the regime by naming as minister of war a senior general sympathetic to democratic reforms, Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, conscious that conservative officers would hesitate to question his authority. His next challenge was the Cortes, still made up of the members chosen under Franco. To overcome their resistance to reform Suárez made use of two instruments relied on by the dictator, the decree law and the referendum. Drumming into the deputies an awareness of the public mood, he got them to approve a referendum to be submitted to public vote that would establish a legislature elected by universal suffrage whose first job would be to write a new constitution. Political parties that committed themselves to work within the law would be allowed to present candidates. The referendum was the means Franco had used to adopt his fundamental laws. Suárez now used it to nullify those laws, forestalling the charge that he was betraying Franco’s legacy. When the popular vote was counted, only 3 percent voted “No” (although 23 percent of the Basques abstained, evidence of their objection to having any decision on their future come out of Madrid). It was December 1976. In the next month the forces on right and left that opposed a peaceful transition to western democracy played their strongest cards, frightening the public with their acts of violence, as described above. Their hope lay in inciting army intervention. With remarkable composure in the midst of the distressing events, on January 29 Suárez appeared on television to call for calm and to assure a horrified nation that the course toward a democratic system would not falter.

Another challenge remained, however, that again threatened the “Opening.” As dozens of parties lined up for official approval, including many representing local regions, the Communists presented a burning question. They met the stated conditions, but they had always been Franco’s most hated enemy and they remained so for the generals who had fought the Civil War to purge Spain of their menace. On the other hand, the Communist parties were legal in European democracies, and European opinion would not recognize a democracy in Spain that denied them representation.Suárez resorted to the weapon of the decree law to end the tense uncertainty. This was a measure provided for in the fundamental laws that allowed the ministry to take action “for reasons of urgency” without need for approval by the Cortes. In April 1977 the government issued a decree law authorizing the Communist Party of Spain to present candidates for election. Eighteen generals countered in outrage with a public censure of the government, but they did not act. The authority of Gutiérrez Mellado as minister of war, and the king, as commander of the army, maintained their discipline. Confident that the spirit of the public was on their side, Suárez with the king behind him had cut through Franco’s knotted institutional web. 
An open campaign replete with appealing posters preceded Spain’s first free election in forty years on June 15, 1977. It was a curious experience; millions of adults whose only political orientation had been a dislike of Franco’s regime now had a welter of choices before them for which they had virtually no tradition or loyalty to guide them. For many it became an existential dilemma to decide what party they belonged to. In their response to this dilemma, they reflected the popular mood that rejected old men and the rancor of old debts. Moderation and youth carried the day. The parties of the center, the newly constituted Union of the Democratic Center (UCD) garnered 34 percent of the vote and the Socialist Party (PSOE) 29; while appealing to the far left, the Communists got only 9 percent and on the right Alianza Popular 8 percent. Voters also were responding to the age of the leaders. The UCD had been cobbled together from different groupings by Adolfo Suárez, who was 43, and Felipe González, recently chosen to head of the PSOE was 36. The Communists boasted popular figures like Dolores Ibarruri (the famous Pasionaria of the Civil War) and the poet Rafael Alberti, a colleague of García Lorca, but Ibarruri and Alberti were about 80, and Santiago Carillo, head of the Communist Party, was 65 and had a murky reputation from the Civil War. Old time socialists had gathered around Enrique Tierno Galván, a university professor expelled by Franco who was sixty years old. Though moderate, his party drew 4 percent. As the political picture evolved in the next years, a whole generation of well known opponents of Franco who had dreamed of this moment found to their dismay that they were being passed over.
[295] Suárez, with the largest party behind him, remained at the head of government. Spain presented a more favorable augury for its new experience with democracy than it had in 1931. The social transformation of the last decades under Franco tempered the sting of current economic bad news, while within the new Cortes, the ever-present apprehension of a military coup muted the kind of ideological conflict that destroyed the Second Republic. In the “Moncloa Pact” of October 1978 the leaders of the parties of the left agreed to press for an end to strikes in return for moderate wage increases and social reforms, specifically a progressive income tax. The acceptance of these terms demonstrated the willingness of the Socialists and Communists and their labor unions to give priority to the consolidation of democracy over immediate workers’ benefits. The different parties showed the same spirit of moderation in drawing up a new constitution for the monarchy. The Cortes adopted the text in October, and another public referendum approved it by 88 percent in December. After Juan Carlos promulgated it, Suárez dissolved the Cortes and called for new elections. Through these months those who disapproved of the new democracy continued to provoke unrest. The ETA assassinated 61 persons in 1978. To counter the protests of leading generals and the extremists of Fuerza Nueva, the king made a special appeal to his people on January 8, 1979.

In writing the constitution, the touchstone was to undo the system of Franco. This meant guaranteeing individual and political liberties (the constitution specifically established equality of all Spaniards before the law, banning discrimination on account of race, sex, religion, or any other personal condition) and establishing a parliamentary monarchy with universal suffrage and a ministry chosen out of and responsible to the Cortes. It also meant destroying the powerful centralized state. Few questioned that democracy for Spain included local authority for its ethnic regions.I n Basque and Catalan eyes, historic rights and democratic self determination justified treating their peoples as unique nationalities, separate from Castilians. The authors of the constitution sought to solve the age-old Spanish conundrum, how to mold one country out of different peoples. Breaking with Franco and the nineteenth-century liberals before him, the new parliamentary monarchy would lean far toward the solutions of the two republics. Article 2 of the constitution proclaimed “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, common and indivisible country of all Spaniards,” while guaranteeing “the right of autonomy of the nationalities and regions that form it.”  Castilian (that is, Spanish) would be the official language, but other languages of Spain would also be official in their respective communities (Article 3). Contiguous provinces “with common historical, cultural and economic characteristics” could establish Autonomous Communities (Article 143). Before the adoption of the constitution, Catalonia and the Basque Provinces were already given “pre-autonomy statutes” setting up assemblies to draft definitive statutes, that, when approved by the Cortes, would formalize their autonomy.

[296] The next years saw Spain testing the waters of democracy. The first elections under the new constitution in 1979 gave UCD the most deputies, closely followed by the Socialists. Adolfo Suárez remained as head of government, but in the face of the continuing economic depression and acts of terrorism, he seemed to have played out his role. He resigned in January 1981, and the UCD, having lost most of its support, disbanded in 1983. In 1979 and 1980 Catalonia, the Basque provinces, and Galicia received their statutes of autonomy. Spain was becoming a multinational state, but determined groups remained who refused to accept the new order. Aggrieved members of the military and vocal supporters of Franco lamented the passing of the unitary state, while extreme groups among the Basques and Catalans would not be satisfied with anything less than independence. Like nationalists before them they wanted their own nation states. The Basque ETA kept up its frequent attacks and assassinations of policemen and political figures. On February 4, 1981 the first official visit of the king and queen to the Basque provinces was the occasion of violent protests in the streets. In the Basque Assembly at Guernica, partisans of independence tried to drown out the king’s speech and fighting broke out among the deputies, until guards forcibly evicted the protesters. In the next days, the suspicious death during police interrogation of an imprisoned member of ETA set off particularly fierce encounters between Basque demonstrators and the forces of order. By now many opponents of the new democracy were convinced that the continuing disorder had made Spaniards nostalgic for the days of Franco. Some military figures who were determined to end parliamentary government and keep Spain “united” believed this to be the moment to mount a response. On February 23, 1981 Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero led a force of civil guards into the Cortes and made the deputies hostage with the intention of overthrowing the constitution. In Valencia General Milans del Bosch sent tanks into the streets and took power. The plotters appear to have been told that Juan Carlos would join them. Instead, as Spaniards kept vigil in the face of this new pronunciamiento, an hour after midnight Juan Carlos appeared on television in full military uniform. He called on the military commanders “to uphold the constitutional order,” saying that he would not tolerate, in any form, actions or attitudes by people who attempted to interrupt the democratic process.[5] His aura of firm authority brought the coup to a sudden end. Tejero and Bosch surrendered, and Spaniards breathed a collective sigh of relief. Three days later a million people marched in Madrid and hundreds of thousands in other cities to show their support for democracy, and for their king. Five years after Franco had been buried in the Valley of the Fallen, the state he had created had finally been laid to rest.

In October 1982 the worst fear of the right wing materialized when an election gave the Socialist party and their young leader Felipe González control of the government. Juan Carlos opened the new session of the Cortes with the words, “The Spanish people have made evident their decision that the designs of a minority that resorts to force shall never prevail over the freely and peacefully expressed will of the majority of the citizens.”[6]   The government would be in the hands of the Socialists until 1996. The great achievement of the Socialist period was the integration of Spain into the community of western democracies. After the failed coup of February 1981, the government had approved Spain’s entry into NATO, a move that angered many Spaniards who recalled bitterly that the United States treaties with Franco had been instrumental in cementing his dictatorship.In their campaign the Socialists had promised to submit the decision to a referendum. Felipe González fulfilled the pledge, but he worked for a favorable vote, and the majority of voters supported him. Rejected while Franco was alive, Spain had become ideologically acceptable to the democracies of Europe. After years of negotiations, Spain was admitted to the European Economic Community (the future European Union) on January 1, 1986, along with Portugal, which had also consolidated its democracy. The European community gave Spain financial assistance to boost its economy, and since Spain’s entry, the economy has indeed advanced, reviving the rhythm of growth of the last years of Franco.

A second major change of government took place peacefully in 1996 when the center right Popular Party under José María Aznar took over from the Socialists, demonstrating the permanence of the new order. The peaceful transfer of rule from right to left and back again in 1982 and 1996 established the commitment of the major parties to behavior as a loyal opposition, not the manipulated turno pacífico of Canovas’s system, but a genuine response to fair elections. It gave the Constitution of 1978 the legitimacy that all previous constitutions lacked and that Franco’s regime struggled in vain to obtain.

In achieving this legitimacy, Juan Carlos has played a key role. When monarchy seemed to be a dying cause in Europe, Spain has demonstrated that a gifted king can be a powerful asset. Under the Old Regime kings of Spain had had the aura of majesty. Theirs was a rule of law, for though laws were often unenforced, they were not openly flouted. Legislative authority lay with the king; he was advised by councils but not bound by a written constitution or hampered by a separation of powers, for the Cortes had become hardly more than a convenient formality called to give the approval of the kingdom in matters of the royal succession. The American and French Revolutions proclaimed the principle of a written constitution. In a monarchy it called for the king to give up his role as fount of law in favor of the representatives of the sovereign people, while maintaining that of father and guardian of his people. The French National Assembly had such a concept of kingship in mind when it wrote the Constitution of 1791. The behavior of Louis XVI clashed with this intention, with fatal consequences for him. Few monarchs were prepared to accept this amputation of their authority. When they found themselves caught in a constitution, their self image as lawgivers led them into personal involvement in political conflicts. Ferdinand VII was a case in point, but the failing was general in Europe. Royal participation in partisan politics invited opponents to replace monarchies with republics, as over the next centuries most countries did. Those monarchs who learned the lesson are still with us, the British case being the most notable.

After France, Spain was the first major European country to establish constitutional monarchy, but its crowned heads failed to adopt the new role. The Constitution of 1837, accepted by both Moderados and Progresistas presented an opportunity for the crown to take a position above politics. But a child queen could not play the role, and her regent mother lacked the necessary aura and in any case was tied to the Moderados. The Constitution of 1876 again presented propitious conditions, and Alfonso XII had the makings of a constitutional monarch, but he died young, leaving another regency, and the mature Alfonso XIII could not keep his hands off the government. Franco’s concept of monarchy also gave the king a political role. In a country that harbored the bitter antagonisms of the Civil War, Franco sought to make the king the guarantor of his own order. At the outset of his reign Juan Carlos did play a role in highest politics, but not as Franco had planned. Sharing the spirit of his generation he used his position to undo the system Franco had made him swear to uphold. Against the military rebels of February 23, 1981 he defended the constitution he had helped engineer, and the masses gave their approval.

It was after February 23 the Juan Carlos showed his full gift for rule, because he understood and fulfilled the role of constitutional king, devoted father of his people and symbol of his country but not fount of law. He and his popular queen have provided a sense of stability and continuity allowing governments to change and the economy to evolve without clash of arms. Max Weber found two ways to establish the legitimacy of a new regime, either the presence of a charismatic leader or the belief in the impartial working of a new constitution. Juan Carlos may not be charismatic in Weber’s sense, but he is genuinely respected, and his abstention from partisan involvement in government has been essential to establishing the practice of a loyal opposition and the legitimacy of the constitution. Recent Spanish history shows that democracy is compatible with monarchy as well as with a republic, provided kings accept the role conceived by the democratic revolution of the end of the eighteenth century. 

Three issues have been at the center of this story of modern Spain, the ideological struggle over the proper role of the Catholic Church, the relation between the center and the periphery, and the oligarchic control of rural society. The concluding chapter above described how the changes taking place under Franco were tempering these issues. Emigration and mechanization had already made the social injustice of the rural world largely a thing of the past. On the religious issue, the Socialists and others on the left abandoned the militant anticlericalism of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, moved by the participation of the lower clergy in workers' causes in the last years of Franco and sensing that the new generation of Spaniards had little taste for such anticlericalism. On their side the Catholic prelates, following the lead of Cardinal Enrique y Tarancón, accepted the broad national desire for an apertura toward democracy and sought to defend the interests and the moral doctrines of the church within the new regime. During the tense months in which he was negotiating the terms of the new democracy, Suárez found it politically expedient, and to the taste of many of his supporters, to meet the essential interests of the church. With minimal protest from the left, his government achieved a settlement that has remained in force with little substantive changes. By a series of agreements signed with the Vatican, the Spanish state gave up the right of nomination for episcopal appointments, freed the church from other forms of state supervision, and agreed to continue the support of church schools and clerical salaries. In return the church accepted the religious freedom of the individual and an end to obligatory religious education in public schools. In the next years, responding to strong public demand, the governments broke down Franco’s strict moral laws, reflecting Spain’s incorporation into the society of western democracies. In October 1978 as the deputies negotiated the last articles of the constitution they made legal the sale of birth control pills, which many Spanish women were already using; and in 1981 the UCD government put through another law to authorize divorce, allowing separated couples at last to clarify their status. When the Socialist government came into power, it legalized abortion; it was forced, however, to limit it to such cases as pregnancies resulting from rape or threatening the physical and mental health of the woman. The Catholic bishops fought this measure fiercely, but neither the Socialists nor the bishops wished to repeat the intransigence of the Second Republic. Despite strong campaigns for the right of women to control their bodies, the right to abortion has remained strictly limited. Although the Socialists had voted against state support of Catholic schools, they did not now challenge the arrangement, but they did impose tighter controls over funds supplied by the state. Catholic schools are still publicly funded and effectively constitute a parallel system to the public schools, teaching about one third of Spain’s elementary and secondary students. (Private self-supported schools educate a minority of the children and youths.) Although the Constitution of 1978 declares that Spain will have no established church (Article 16.3), an effective accommodation between the state and the church has been reached by removing the involvement of the state in the affairs of the church while maintaining the state’s financial support for its activities. That this solution has broad political acceptance shows how different the present atmosphere is from the past.

[300] Shortly after the adoption of the constitution the regions with clear ethnic identities, Catalonia, Euskadi (the Basque land), and Galicia, received their statutes of autonomy, catering to the nationalism of these regions that Franco had stifled. The Socialists, when they came to power, decided to extend the new pattern beyond these self-conscious regions. The fright caused by Tejero’s coup of February 23, 1981 undertaken to restore the unity of Spain dampened the commitment of the left to supporting ethnic rights. Centralized Spain was dead, but the new federalism appeared to establish privileges for the ethnic regions. If all Spaniards deserved to be treated the same, the benefits of autonomy should be extended to all regions. In this spirit region after region became a “community,” seventeen in all, from traditional units like Aragon and Valencia, to single provinces like Madrid, Cantabria, and Rioja that lacked obvious historical or cultural identity but did not fit in anywhere else. The process was termed “harmonization,” but popular parlance mocked it as café para todos, “coffee all around.”

While the democratic concept of equality lay behind the search for "harmony" among the communities, it violated the sense of the Basques and Catalans of being different nationalities from other people in Spain, entitled by history to different treatment. Throughout their provinces crowds took to the streets in massive demonstrations against harmonization, but they were unable to prevent the Socialist government from implementing it and adopting national organic laws that overrode the autonomy statutes in highly sensitive areas like education. In practice, however, the historic regions remained more equal than the others. In addition to using two languages in public life (and actively discouraging the use of Castilian), they had distinct institutions with historic meaning, the Generalitat as the Catalan assembly, the Casa de Juntas of Guernica for the Basques. Euskadi and Navarre received certain fiscal advantages in the collecting and spending of public moneys, echoing their historic fueros; Euskadi and Catalonia have their own police forces. In these regions and in some others with less distinctive tradition, local nationalist or regionalist parties came to the defense of their communities, took over the regional governments, and sent deputies to the Cortes in Madrid. Catalan and Basque leaders, pushed by vocal local nationalists, continue to seek further concessions, but the federalism that has evolved out of the constitutional settlement has both accentuated the pride of these communities in their identity and calmed the conflict between center and periphery, providing a role model for other countries torn by ethnic strife. The Spanish state remains "one," if a very different "one" from the days of Franco's "One, Great, Free" nation, now a country where different nationalities keep separate homes under the same roof.

 [301] The new constitutional structure has not satisfied the committed partisans of Basque independence, and the ETA has continued with only brief truces to conduct its campaign for independence with violence and assassinations.This has been the most publicized problem of the new regime, a blot on its escutcheon. All efforts to crush the ETA and several attempts to come to terms with it have failed to end the menace. It would appear to belie the claim that the democratic monarchy has found a workable solution to Spain’s ethnic conflicts. ETA poses as the defender of a historic past, but it was born out of the struggle against Franco’s Castilian hegemony, and in its discordant way is part of Spain’s integration into contemporary Europe. It is one of a number of post-World War II fanatical revolutionary movements that formed around the conviction that a morally pure minority can use violence to overthrow a corrupt social system which is technologically too strong to be challenged directly, up-to-date versions of nineteenth-century anarchism. Spain’s regional political leaders seek to strengthen local autonomy by peaceful methods, such as exploiting Spain’s membership in the European Union. They are encouraged by the movement within the Union to strengthen the role of regions within the member states.

The major theme that runs through this book is that the period from the eighteenth century to the regime of Franco represents a unique era of Spanish history, the rise and decline of an oligarchic system that I have called the Moderado order. That system arose because of the schism in the ideological unity of the political class introduced by the Enlightenment. Despite the efforts of the liberals and their socialist and anarchist progeny, which the growing urban centers favored, the defenders of the Moderado order, most obviously the landowning oligarchy and the clergy, were able to check the threat by falling back on a countryside ideologically divorced from the urban world. The period of Franco, I argue, by augmenting the migration from he countryside to the cities, broke down the ideological divorce between rural and urban Spain, and the economic “miracle” of the 50s and 60s gave the lower social levels a new stake in society that discouraged a desire to upset the apple cart. I proposed that these developments made it unlikely that Spain would repeat the political violence and instability of the previous century and a half. I believe the last thirty years reinforce this interpretation.

 [302] In the concluding chapter I used the example of my visits in 1951 and 1964 to El Sotillo (the real name of Jaranda) to illustrate the weakening of the rural-urban disjuncture, and the reader may therefore appreciate an account of two later visits to this small village in the rough Alcarria northeast of Madrid. The first was made just before the elections of June 1977 to the Constituent Cortes. At a certain level, if one had taken the evolution observed between the visits of 1951 and 1964 and projected it forward, one would have predicted fairly closely the reality I encountered. One now drove in on a paved road, which ended at the fountain above the town. Beyond it the streets, the responsibility of the town, were still cobblestone, not open to cars. We were greeted by many familiar individuals, mostly now well into their seventies, and from them gleaned news of the town. It had become a dwelling place for a passing generation. There were only twenty-two household (vecinos), perhaps a quarter of the 1951 population. Most of these were elderly couples, for a majority of the inhabitants of working age had left and taken their children with them. I saw only one child, there as a visitor. The grandparents took trips to visit their children, to Madrid and Guadlajara of course and also to Bilbao, Barcelona, and Alicante. And the families who had left would return in their cars for holidays or weekends, bringing with them the flavor of their cities. Many of the houses were empty, uncared for, beginning to fall in, but some former residents were redecorating houses that still belonged to them, creating holiday homes. Rooms sported fancy, cheap furniture, gaudy light fixtures, and television sets. Walls were papered—strong patterns with large designs of leaves and flowers found favor—and beds called for bedspreads. One person had installed a bathroom with taps and a pullchain toilet in anticipation of running water. Meanwhile a bucket of water stood by to flush the toilet, for he had also installed a cistern. Even villagers who had never left were adding wall paper and other touches of modern taste. They did not own cars, but they were doing their best to keep up with house improvements, worried about their image. The hearth that had been the center of the household had given way to new wood stoves, with chimneys tucked through the windows by removing a window pane. These served for warmth and cooking in winter, but for summer the stoves were put away, only recently when we arrived, for it had been a long wet winter, and cooking was again over the wood fires.

If cultural change proceeded along a predictable line, agriculture had now broken with the past. Parcelary concentration had finally reached El Sotillo in 1974, replacing the tiny plots, and strips of grain had been consolidated into fields of a hectare or more. The town had two tractors, whose owners lived in the city and came on weekends to plow for the townspeople. The number of animals had declined. There were still a few mules and goats, but I was told sheep were down from 2000 to some 800. This meant that the ubiquitous cuadra, the stable at the bottom of the house, was being turned to other uses, into storage rooms or even living quarters. I saw one that had become a tiled kitchen with a sink. Crops too were changing, many grain fields had been converted to market gardening, producing cabbage, beans, onions, also potatoes. This required irrigation, and the farmers of El Sotillo had invested in gasoline pumps to bring water from the stream. The land produced much more than before, bringing a certain prosperity to those who had remained in the village. The alcalde who had been about to move to Madrid when we visited in 1964, although he was the largest landowner, had changed his mind and now was making good money growing barley, storing up to 40,000 kilos of it.

[303] El Sotillo was more prosperous than in 1964, but I left saddened by the visit. The empty houses and the lack of young people were disheartening. People had always emigrated, but not the entire young generation. In 1951 El Sotillo was a backwater, but a different kind of backwater. Then it was an integral community, on its own apart from the outside world. Now the outside world had come in and given it a few material advantages in exchange for sucking off its vital organs, its life.

I returned again in 1991, with Spain now a functioning democracy, an industrial economy, and part of the European Union. Paved streets had replaced the cobblestones, and cars drove right down to the church and to the houses that were being built, made of hollow bricks and plastered like modern houses everywhere else in Spain. A new two story building near the church had a bar facing the street and living quarters above. The bartender had returned after thirty years in Madrid, with a wife from Granada. He served the usual bar food, wine, beer, liquors, tapas, chorizo, and sandwiches. He made a nice lunch interspersed with conversation. He catered to the weekend clientele, opening on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and other days only by special request. The house up the hill that was a bar in 1964 was still going at a different pace, serving the permanent villagers. The schoolhouse we had slept in 1951 had gone derelict, with rotted shutters falling off and the sky showing through its roof. A “taxi” paid for by the state now came daily to pick up the two children of school age to take them and others from other villages to Cifuentes, some twenty-five kilometers way. Curiously, the church had been picked up, whitewashed, and some older women were entering for rosary, a ceremony unknown in El Sotillo under Franco. Outside influence had taken many forms.

All the people we had known had died except the woman who had been our young maid in 1951, and with their passing I had lost my main source of information on the society and economy of the village. It still had flocks of sheep and goats, and now four tractors, for farming kept going. A new and profitable market crop was white beans grown in the irrigated huertas by the stream, which before had raised vegetables for family consumption, another evidence of expanding involvement with the urban economy. The census of 1991 counted 63 people, 39 males, 24 females, not much changed from 1977. These were the permanent residents. For second and third generation city people who could trace ties to El Sotillo it had become a weekend town, as villages in the sierra closer to Madrid had done in the fifties for Madrileños recovering from the war. The two bars revealed two societies, the weekenders and the permanent, with different ambitions and topics of conversation. Separate societies but not divorced, however, for second and third cousinships would keep them on speaking terms.

Forty years had waived their wand over the village. My memory recalled the low stone houses and tile roofs that curved around the church and the schoolhouse and ran up the hillside to the threshing ground, the eras. From the hill across the stream, the village, the vegetable plots beneath it, the eras above, and to one side a sloping valley with green plots of grain presented a scene of integrated charm molded to an economy worked by human and animal effort. Recent buildings and paved streets, modern, functional artifacts of a new generation, had destroyed the intimate pattern caught in my old photographs. In 1950 Unamuno would easily have recognized the rural Spain that he traced back to Roman times, the bearer of his intrahistory. Today it is gone. Telling evidence that this “modern” history of Spain is the story of a past era.

When one enters Spain by car, as my wife Valerie and I have on various occasions, one still senses the geography that makes Spain so special, the round verdant hills of Euskadi or the striking coast of Catalonia, giving way to the vistas of Castile and Aragon, stark plains set against mountain ranges.But the human infrastructure now hardly differs from the one left behind. At the border document checks and exchange bureaus no longer exist. One’s credit cards work in stores, and ATMs provide the same Euros as in Spain’s neighbors. The road network burgeoning under Franco now boasts many motorways, including toll roads of the highest quality. For the World’s Fair of 1992 (five hundred years since Columbus’s voyage) a new highspeed rail line opened between Madrid and Seville, and others will soon link Madrid with Barcelona and France. Spain’s birthrate has fallen to one of the lowest levels in Europe, and like other European countries Spain is struggling to absorb legal and illegal immigrants attracted by its standard of living. Franco’s authoritarian regime has become a bad dream; except for a diehard minority his imposing tomb at the Valley of the Fallen is a mere tourist attraction. Spain has become so clearly an integral part of the Western economic and democratic world that the theories of Ortega, Américo Castro, and the others cited at the outset of this book, explaining why in Spain not fitted for modern times, read like fanciful lucubrations.

Notes for the Epilogue
[1] New York Times, Feb. 19, 1976 
[2] Grupo Jarcha:

Dicen los viejos que en este país hubo una guerra

Y que las Españas guardan aún el rencor de las viejas deudas.

Dicen los viejos que este país necesita palo largo y mano dura

Para evitar lo peor.

Pero yo sólo he visto gente que sufre y calla dolor y miedo,

Gente que sólo desea su pan, su hembra y la fiesta en paz.

Libertad, libertad, sin ira libertad.

Guárdate tu miedo y tu ira,

Porque hay libertad, sin ira libertad,

Y si no la hay, sin duda la habrá.

[3] King’s address in Girona, Feb. 20, 1976, Informaciones, Feb. 21, 1976
[4] Stanley G. Payne, The Franco Regime, 1936-1975 (Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 616
[5] King’s address of Feb. 24, 1981
[6] King’s address of Nov. 25, 1982