Portugal and the Spanish Civil War

Members of the Algarve Archeological Association took the opportunity this month, to listen to Chris Pollard at the Sao Bras Museum.  Chris is a thoughtful, clear speaker, so his presentation about Portugal’s relationship with Spain especially during the 1920’s and 30’s, held people’s attention, with numerous questions being asked.   Chris began by explaining  the political context that led up to the Spanish civil war.   In 1920,  Andalusia alone, was owned by just 11 landowners.  Peasants worked the land.   Although tacitly neutral, World war I (1914-1918)  found Spain divided, with conservatives, Church and Army, leaning towards Germany.  1917 witnessed four governments and a succession of labour crises.  In 1919, strikes were being dealt with by the Military.  In 1921, a Prime Minister was assassinated.  In 1923 an Archbishop was killed as workers rose up against oppression.  Spain saw increasing pockets of unrest in the 1920’s and by the time of democratic elections in 1931, King Alphonso XIII, knew that a new society, a Republic, was being called forth.  The Church was disestablished, primary education was made compulsory but it was not long before the Church with the help of the military, fought back, creating fear and spreading misinformation, not least about a Communist takeover and what that would do to Spain.  The elections of November 1933 produced a violent swing to the right.  The next two years saw a centre-right government.  Many Governments came and went. By February 1936, the Republic was dead in the water of hope.  From 1936-39, Civil war ensued.  Germany and Italy sent troops.   Russia sent help.  The International Brigade was formed, made up of a range of idealistic men and women who fought against trained armies, in their belief that fascism had to be stopped.  As the defeat of the left became clear, Franco rose to power, as one of the surviving Generals.  Few wanted Alphonso XIII back in power, so another social structure was created, anti-capitalist, anti-marxist, but with a strong attachment to the Church.

Through a series of images, Chris, showed how a similar social structure had evolved in Portugal, under the Salazar dictatorship, which held to many of the values espoused by Franco.  He explained that Portugal allowed German troops access to Spain, despite the UK sending observers to stop this,  again undermining Portugal’s purported neutrality.    In 1936, Mário Neves (1912–1993) a Portuguese journalist, born in Lisbon covered the Spanish Civil War for the Diário de Lisboa.   Together with Daniel Berthet and Marcel Dany, he entered Badajoz after the fall of the city in the early morning of 15 August. They were the first foreign correspondents in Badajoz after the battle and they witnessed the mass executions inside the city.   Salazar censored this eye witness report and he was not able to write openly about it until 1974.    Salazar’s complicity was also illustrated in the many images that Chris showed, that detailed, the friendly relationship between the dictators.

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