Story / Historia

In 1969 the only fascist dictator who survived WWII, Francisco Franco of Spain, closed the entrance to the British territory of Gibraltar, isolating 30,000 people without food, water, or telephone lines. In his words, “the Rock will fall like ripe fruit”.

“La Roca” is an epic Romeo & Juliet-type love story between the massive Rock of Gibraltar and its neighboring Spanish city of La Linea. Despite being declared enemies by their countries, the people of both cities depended on each other, got married and lived happily with their bilingual children. They used to be inseparable.

Eventually, indoctrination on both sides and Franco’s sudden decision forced the separation of thousands of mixed families. Over 13 years families met at the border every Sunday to look through binoculars at their estranged lovers, brothers, parents and babies – screaming, “Daddy loves you” from a distance.

How could this happen? What is the story behind this tragedy?

Franco is now dead but the pain caused by the closing of the gates scarred the population for life. Gibraltar and La Linea have never gone back to their initial love and the area still seethes with tension.

En 1969 el único dictador fascista que sobrevivió a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Francisco Franco de España, cerró la frontera de Gibraltar, aislando a 30.000 personas sin comida, agua o líneas telefónicas. En sus propias palabras, “la Roca caerá como fruta madura”.

“La Roca” es una épica historia de amor al estilo de Romeo y Julieta entre la gigantesca roca de Gibraltar y la ciudad fronteriza española de La Línea. A pesar de ser declarados enemigos por sus países, la población de ambas ciudades dependían unos de otros, se casaban entre ellos y vivían felizmente con sus hijos bilingües. Solían ser inseparables.

Sin embargo el adoctrinamiento de las dos partes y la repentina decisión de Franco forzó la separación de miles de familias mixtas. Durante 13 años las familias se reunían en la frontera cada domingo para mirar con prismáticos a sus esposas, hermanos, padres y bebés, gritando “Papá te quiere” desde la distancia.

¿Cómo pudo pasar esto? ¿Cuál es la historia detrás de esta tragedia?

Franco murió pero el dolor causado en la población por el cierre de la Verja aún no ha cicatrizado. Gibraltar y La Línea nunca han vuelto a su amor inicial y la comarca ebulle de tensión.


11 thoughts on “Story / Historia

  1. This story needs to be told. For too long Spaniards and Gibraltarians have only heard a different version of the relationship between the Rock and Spain.

    My great-grandfather was Spain’s vice-consul in Gibraltar, representing both the government of Alfonso XIII and later the Republic, in the enlightened days before the Spanish Civil War when Spain had a consulate in Gibraltar. Sadly in 2011 we can’t even begin to dream of an apparently democratic Spain reinstating direct diplomatic relations with Gibraltar through its own Consulate on the Rock.

    I have seen photos of Spanish generals and officers attending garden parties at the Convent (the British governor’s residence) and members of Spain’s royal family visiting Gibraltar. My great-grandfather was knighted by Alfonso XIII and given the title of Caballero de la Orden del Merito Civil. Interestingly, he was never required to become a Spanish citizen. After the war he was asked to work for the fascist regime and since he refused he was declared persona non grata and never again allowed to enter Spain.

    As the generation who experienced this is dying out we run the risk of only knowing and accepting a warped version of history and the propaganda of politicians who would have us believe that Spain has always held a hard line against Gibraltar and that only through the Spanish colonisation of the Rock can normality be reached.

  2. To DecolonizeGIB
    You’ve left your own small note and that’s great! That’s the idea. I hope you don’t feel that I was inherently anti-Spanish in my post. Like many Gibraltarians, I have Spanish relatives and my post was trying to show that we have had much closer ties with Spanish people in the past than we have now. I haven’t seen “La Roca” yet, but that is what I gather the film is about; how people who had a lot in common were torn apart by national politics. I am dead chuffed by your chat name (DecolonizeGIB) by the way. I couldn’t agree more. Do you think that the relationship between Gibraltarians and Lineses will be that much improved if Gibraltar were annexed by Spain though? Is decolonisation through annexation the way forward or would it simply create a new Catalonia or Basque country in Spain? Gibraltar could become a new Ciudad Autonoma just like Ceuta or Melilla and that would gladden some people, but not the vast majority of Gibraltarians. Simply trying to ignore 300 years of history will not help heal any wounds. To most Gibraltarians, decolonization is not really an aim. We are British citizens by birth, we live in a British territory and we have our own British Gibraltarian institutions which we have created over these past 300 years. Note that I say that we want to remain Gibraltarians (and a British identity is an integral part of this) but not that I am against Spain. I do not wish to become French or German or any nationality for that matter. Is my pride in being a llanito anti everybody else? There are many aspects of Spanish culture that I love and enjoy as well as aspects of many other cultures that I have a deep respect for too. But do I have to become Mexican because I happen to speak Spanish and I’m interested in Mexico’s history?

  3. As it seems that you are trying to open a debate here, I will just reply to a few of the matters you have posed. I can’t assume that any comparison with Mexico, France or Germany, as countries that were to be in a same level of relationship towards Spain. By no means any of those nations share the historic attachment any average Spanish has to Gibraltar, specially in the context of the continuated usurpation of land, sea and air that we still see day after day.

    Of course you are on your very right to chose to affiliate to the country that gave you everything, tha nation that forged the national mindset in order to safeguard its military interests in the area. Let me be clear, the present local population of Gibraltar is instrumental for the UK’s military presence in the Mediterranean. That, of course, has shaped the way llanitos look at Spanish and Spain in general, leave aside the normal crossborder relations. The configuration of Spain as something completely alien to the llanito identity is an esential part of the colonial plan, and I’m not blaming you for behaving as you have been educated to.

    If I have anything to regret is the blindness the local population and their leaders have over the prospect of a closer integration with Spain. Diminishing, disregarding and mocking the possibility of stablishing a political link anytime that the subject is brought to negotiation. Of course, the real masters of the territory, those who sit in Whitehall, are perfectly pleased everytime a new row of confrontation erupts.

    I presume you will refer to the argument of self-det as tantamount to the validity of the statu quo. An argument that is only accepted by the llanitos and the petrified UK masters, and rejected not only by Spain, but also the UN, which had resolved long ago that it corresponds to the Kingdoms of Spain and Britain and NI alone to solve their differences in order to achieve the very much desired full decolonization of the territory.

    Moreover, by no means I can accept any right over land, water and air that was never ceded by any treaty signed by Spain. Like the notorious and much more recent occupation of the isthmus.

    That’s all I have to say.

    • I have enjoyed reading the exchange of views between ‘Expat’ and ‘Decolonize Gib’. It puts the inarticulate Facebook discussions on the subject to shame. A question for Decolonize Gib: let us assume you are correct and the ‘instrumentalised’ population of Gibraltar is not entitled to self-determination. Is the underlying basis for Spain’s territorial claim (a) that the 1713 cession was invalid; or (b) that UN decolonisation norms require that Gibraltar be decolonized, and – given the inapplicability of self-determination – decolonisation must take place by means of absorption with Spain? Or a mixture of both of these arguments?

      ps I like the trailer and very much look forward to watching the film!

    • You complain about blindness of the Gibraltar population, but fail to see the blinness of the spanish govt and many spaniards. There simply IS no “usurpation”, Gibraltar was CEDED. You may regret that spain signed Utrecht, but there it is. There is no need for any confrontation, simply for spain to accept once and for all that when Utrecht said “forever” it meant it, and that the 30,000 human beings of Gibraltar have a right to freedom, democracy and self-determination. We really don’t care what you “accept”, international law is what it is. You have clearly never read anything the UN says, as the right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN Charter. The ICJ has also affirmed that “in the process of decolonisation there is no alternative to the right of self determination, which is a human right”. Spain does not want decolonisation, it wants forced annexation. Read Utrecht again and you will see that the isthmus was indeed included. Read UNCLOS and you will find out about territorial waters. Learn about democracy and you will find out why Gibraltar will never become a part of, nor possession of spain. I’m sorry if you struggle to come to terms with this, but this is the reality.

  4. Dear “Decolonize Gib”- you write of “usurpation”, “colonial plan”, “blindness [of] the local population”, “petrified UK masters”, “notorious and much more recent occupation”. These emotional words only help to cement a status quo more worthy of the mid 20th Century. You have little faith in people making their own choices or making up their own minds- you are the product of many years of Facism in Spain and I’m the product of hundreds of years of British Imperialism; of course we are going to understand our past and present in totally different ways, but better to avoid the rhetoric than to drown in it. Our politicians do enough of it.

    You and I have written about history and this film is about history, but surely we should learn from history that any attempt to re-write history and return to a perceived “golden age” never works. Modern Spain is a reality, Modern Gibraltar is a reality too. To talk of Kingdoms who have stolen and lost land is not about talking about the reality of the world we live in today.

    In Spain people want jobs, security and the ability to provide their families with a good life. Everyone around the world wants this, so do Gibraltarians. But if what we hear from the government of Spain is that they want to stop Gibraltar’s economy from growing, that everything that makes lives for Gibraltarians better should be stopped, then how are we going to listen to Spain seriously? You get to plant your flag on the Rock and then what? This is something Spanish politicians have never answered- what would happen if Gibraltar were to become Spanish. Seriously. What next? Everything Gibraltar has ever done to make itself self-sufficient has been criticised or blocked by Spain. So a Spanish Gibraltar and then what? Mass unemployment? Further unemployment in the Campo de Gibraltar? Or is a Spanish finance centre on the Rock suddenly okay, as long as it benefits Madrid? All for what, so that a different piece of cloth can fly over the Rock? Modern solutions, in a modern world. That is what the people of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar are asking for- not empty rhetoric and a harking back to the past.

    Please don’t get into a huff and say that you have nothing more to say. Engage with Gibraltarians. We are listening- England has given us permission!

    P.S Your English is amazingly good- you wouldn’t happen to work for the Spanish Foreign Office would you? I’m a teacher, by the way.

  5. Hahaha nice one Jesu! DeconolizeGIB que te paso? Also, how come there hasn’t been a screening in Gibraltar?! 😮 Or has there?

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