Today, February 28th is the Official Andalusia’s Day, where the Andalusian government commemorates the result of the referendum held on February 28th, 1981, when Andalusians voted yes to the autonomy after some years of struggle, demonstrations and fight.
It all started before Franco (Spanish dictator from 1939 to 1975) died, when some students, lawyers and other members of the Andalusian society started to gather and talk about what to do in Andalusia after Franco’s death. Once the democratic process begun and the different countries within the Spanish State started to claim the autonomy that Franco removed with his coup d’état, and therefore, given; other nations asked as well for this autonomy that could not be granted by the Spanish Republic because of the Spanish Civil War. Similarly to what happened in Aragón and the Valencian Country. But the Spanish government in the 70’s was not so keen to give autonomy to other countries, Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country were enough and the rest should be attained to the centralism of Madrid. UCD’s government (center-right) refused to give any kind of autonomy to any other region and rejected any bills proposed in order to achieve that.
But Andalusians and the political figures such as Partido Andalucista and Junta Liberalista de Andalucía were more tan ready to fight for our rights as a people. More tan two million Andalusians demonstrated on December 3rd and 4th, 1977 claiming for our autonomy, our culture and our nationhood. These demonstrations were attacked in some points (heavy riots in Seville from the fascist party Fuerza Nueva) and the assassination of Manuel José García Caparrós in Málaga when he tried to wave the Andalusian flag from a government’s building. He was shot by the Spanish police.
These events led to the conformation of a strong Andalusian nationalist power, with a wide representation in the Spanish Congress (5 seats) and pushing hard towards the wanted autonomy. The Spanish government was forced to seat and negotiate. Both UCD and PSOE started to campaign against the autonomy, but agreed that a referendum was needed in order to avoid it democratically. They set the worst possible conditions (more than 50% of the electoral roll had to vote in favor, disregarding the abstention in all eight provinces), but even though, more than 2,5 million voted in favor of starting the autonomic process and only 150.000 voted against. Only because in Almería the yes votes were 48% of the registered vote and 49% abstention, the referendum was considered as a no victory. Electoral fraud and ballot boxes stolen were unfruitfully reported to the police, without any result. This obvious yes victory led into a political turmoil where the Spanish center-right didn’t want even to negotiate it, whereas the center-left wanted to mild the autonomy in order to relegate it into a second-order one. But as the UCD’s government was falling apart, Partido Andalucista could negotiate with them in order to have a full autonomy as a counterpart for giving their support against the impeachment that Adolfo Suarez was facing.
Ever since, PSOE tried to sell it (and many people bought it) as a treachery, but the treason came from their ranks as they tried to avoid the autonomy and gain control from Madrid. Media and politicians contributed in a huge way, ending in the „Coffee for all“ that gave autonomy to every region in the Spanish State (even without demanding it) to degrade the decentralisation that occured with Catalonia, Galicia, Basque Country and Andalusia. Another referendum was held in 1981 to approve the new atonomy statute that was proposed by PSOE and was widely supported in normal conditions. After that, elections were held, and won by PSOE, who never left the government.
Back in 1981, Andalusia was suffering heavy unemployment rates and emigration of its youth, lack of infrastructures, and a depiction of our culture as folklore, but in the same way the alienation of the most powerful symbols of our culture. We were treated as an indolent, lazy and illiterate people. We were considered the cheap workforce for the rest of the Spanish State. Between 1 and 1,5 million Andalusians left their land between 1980 and 1988.
Well, now in 2016 things changed a lot: PSOE is ruling the Andalusian government. Young people are still emigrating. We suffer a huge lack of infrastructures. From Madrid we are still seen as the lazy, funny people that prefer to party rather to work. And our unemployment rate is the highest in the EU. Indeed, we improved a lot, but in 35 years you have to be stupid not to do so, but not in the same pace as the rest of the Spanish State or the EU. They took the feeble industry we had and turned our productive system into tourism and construction, mistreating the agriculture and exterminating our industry. Kept the idea that if you wanted to succeed, you had to leave your country.
Who defended Andalusia? Well, one party tried to do so. Fought for 50 years to improve Andalusians’ lifes but, in the end, couldn’t go further. Major parties kept ruling their lifes from central government and the Andalusian one, without boosting the economy and mistreating our funding, getting to a debt of over 12 billion € as of 2009. The Spanish government paid it off with 1,2 billion€ and ever since, a new debt of 4 billion € has arisen.
So we ask „Where art thou, Andalusia?“ because it’s still unvelievable that the same party is in power. That no one followed the stream to defend Andalusia’s rights as in the December 4th, 1977 demonstrations, that they achieved to kill that spirit.
Pablo Peñuela / Vice-president for Youth of EFAy