Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Rather Brief, yet Exceedingly Independent Republic of Albox

(Taken from La Voz de Almería this morning)...

At the end of the 19th century, Albox was a town unknown to much of Spain, and therefore to the world. Until 1891, that is. The nearest railway station was a two-day trip and an outdated industry of wool and fabrics for farmers made it possible that many families managed to live frugally. Nevertheless, the population - close to 11,000 people - meant the town was booming and its wealthier citizens could spend time in one of the two casinos that the town boasted, or enjoying a show in the theatre.

At the time the Mayor was José Antonio Mirón Jimenez. "Conservative and influential", according to Miguel Ángel Alonso, a local historian who has rescued one of the most picturesque events of the history of Albox and revives this story of the times...
Local elections complied with the requirements of the time, that is, they were heavily controlled by the local poobah, whose motto would be: "For friends we have the favour and for enemies we have the law." Which worked very well for Don José Antonio. The mayor (they used to call people like this 'El Cacique') ruled thanks to the vote of the wealthiest residents. In particular, to a coterie of 54 persons, who thanks to the specialized voting system of the times were all those who dictated who would occupy the Mayor's office.

But in 1890, a new national party called the Partido Liberal Fusionista revolutionised the political landscape by introducing universal suffrage to Spain. All men over 25 years could vote in the elections. Coinciding with the modification of the voting rules, a humble resident of the Albox neighborhood of Locaiba, Andrés Pio Fernández, ran as a candidate for the elections of February 1891. The conservative mayor never believed that his opponent could pose a threat. However, he was quite wrong and was soundly defeated. The people speak, although their voice is not always accepted with pleasure (nice quote from the Voz article, couldn't resist). But then, the morning after the election day a storm of people surged through the streets waving sticks, guns and swords. Yet, worse than the weapons they were carrying were their banners: "Long Live the Federal Republic of Albox!". At the head of the mob was none other than the defeated former Mayor.
Don José Antonio (now, where have we heard that name before?) and his accomplices proclaimed a "universal declaration of independence and a brand-new country" which would have "nothing" to do "with Central Government in Madrid". The experiment, based and inspired by recent events occurring in Cartagena (they declared independence from Spain on July 1st 1873 and entered into a five month war with Madrid) didn't last long in Albox.

After two days "of terror", the provincial Governor realized that what looked like a joke had little humour about it, so he proceeded to send the Civil Guard troops to regain control. Twenty one rebels were detained, although they were soon released. It was the end of the first - and short-lived - Federal Republic of Albox.

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