Other Discussions on Spain

Spain: A Reason To Rejoice


    Spain has good reason to rejoice. It has just celebrated the twentieth
anniversary of the 1978 constitution. For two days the congress was open to
the public, attracting crowds. They sat in the deputies' seats and listened
to an array of speakers who discussed the history and importance of the
constitution.  On the second day, King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, and  Crown
Prince Felipe visited both houses, being careful to visit first the Senate,
which is in another part of town. It was widely surmised that the 1931-1936
republic collapsed because it was unicameral. and the lack of a senate made
demagoguery easier.
    At the lower house, in the Palacio del Congreso, the Royal family had
lunch and was welcomed warmly by the deputies, even the Communists. They
toured an exhibit on the history of the constitution, going back to the
original one, that of 1812.
     That is the key to the rejoicing. The Cortes of Cadiz created the
constitution, and its frequent abolition by the monarchy led to the cry
"Constitucion o muerte!"  When a liberal government took over, the main
squares were renamed "Plaza de la Constitucion" until a reactionary
government took over.  When I was in Madrid in 1931 at the time of the
proclamation of the republic, the radio played 'The Hymn of Riego" all day,
in honor of the best-known fighter for the republic.  King Juan Carlos is
in the same class since he went on the air to defend and thus save the
constitution when some members of the Guardia Civil tried to take over the
government.
     Spaniards realize that their constitution is fragile and that they must
act with prudence.  As a result the congressional debates are exemplary,
models of good parliamentary manners which other congresses would do well
to emulate.  This is extremely difficult at a time when Basque nationalists
are going it alone in their new government, and there is to be a plebiscite
in Navarre to see if it will join the three Basque provinces.  The unity of
Spain is threatened.
    Coinciding with this rejoicing in congress, the masses were crowding the
streets to applaud the Madrid soccer team on its return from Tokyo, where
is defeated the Vasco de Gama team of Rio de Janeiro.  This is almost like
winning the world championship.
 

Ronald Hilton, 12-04-98



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