Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Execution Of Antoni Ques

The dates 23 and 24 February hold a great deal of significance in Spanish and Mallorcan history. At national level they were the days in 1981 when the coup attempt was launched and when it was quashed. The choice of 23 February didn't in itself hold any particular importance other than the fact that it was the day when there was to be a vote in Congress to seek confirmation of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as prime minister. Against a background of political crisis, kidnapping, murder, torture and the re-emergence of the far right (expressed in a section of the media), Antonio Tejero, a Guardia Civil lieutenant colonel, and Jaime Milans del Bosch y Ussía, an army lieutenant general, headed the coup attempt. It failed and although there was to be another coup plot in October the following year - one which was kept quiet and was a vain effort to prevent Felipe González and the PSOE socialists from forming the government - the events of February 1981 solidified the movement towards democracy.

The abortive coup of 1981 did nevertheless highlight the ongoing tensions in Spain, ones that have never truly gone away. If 1981 was a manifestation of the clash between democracy in its multiple guises and the former authoritarianism, nowadays the rift is - as it has so long been in Spain - between the crown and the republic.

In the Civil War, the crown, as far as the Nationalists were concerned, was symbolic rather than being a prime institution to defend and restore. In no small part this was because of the historical division in the nature of the monarchy that occurred in the nineteenth century. For much of that era, Spain was in turmoil because of the competing claims on the monarchy that had arisen at the end of the reign of Ferdinand VII in 1833. One of these claims, that of the Carlists, was for a deeply conservative and a Catholic Spain. Franco's Nationalism was in a sense an extension of the Carlists without a monarchical figurehead.

Republicanism and liberalism took root during Ferdinand's reign, especially because of the king's betrayal of the 1812 Liberal Constitution and of those who had sought his restoration and the removal of Bonaparte and the French. While the monarchists were to spend years fighting among themselves and inspiring the Carlist Wars, Republicanism and liberalism bubbled beneath the surface and began to become the breeding ground for an altogether different force in Spain - the middle-class business bourgeoisie.

All this context is important in understanding what was to happen over the years that led up to the Civil War and indeed to events during it. The bourgeoisie, some of it anyway, embraced Republicanism less because of being fiercely anti-monarchist but more because of obstacles presented by the aristocracy. By the time of the Civil War, Republican businessmen represented a movement far removed from other elements which attached themselves to the Republican cause, such as communists and anarchists. They were essentially moderates, defending their business interests.

In Alcudia, 23 and 24 February are significant for very different reasons. The first date relates to the miracle of Sant Crist, which occurred in the sixteenth century. The second date marks the day eighty years ago when an Alcudia businessman - Antoni Maria Ques Ventayol - was executed along with the Republican mayors of Palma and Inca, Emili Darder and Antoni Mateu Ferrer.

There was a ceremony at the weekend to mark the eightieth anniversary. Darder is the best known of those who was executed, but in Alcudia Ques is still remembered: there was a presentation last week in his honour. Ques was far from having been the only businessman who was given a death sentence. Llorenç Roses, Darder's brother-in-law, who was the driving force behind the creation of Palmanova, was another. He had joined the Esquerra Republicana Balear (the Balearic Republican Left), another member of which was Antoni Ques.

The evidence presented against Ques, apart from his membership of this party, was that he was supposedly part of the "Lenin Plan" to impose a Moscow-type dictatorship in Mallorca. A witness, who was later sent to a mental institution, claimed that Ques had amassed over two hundred weapons that were to be used for a massacre. It was a total fiction. The weapons were never found.

Ques was a millionaire. He had known Joan March for many years. He was a shareholder in March's Trasmediterránea shipping company and had established an Palma office in 1915 close to where March had his offices. Yes, he was a Republican but he enjoyed a high social status. A communist he most definitely was not. Unlike March, who had after all founded the Liberal Party in Mallorca but who was astute (or corrupt) enough to know how to shift affiliations, Ques adhered to principles for what he saw as a better political system for business. That was why he was executed.

Ques was remembered at the ceremony at the weekend, a symbol of the tensions that are now some two hundred years old.

* Image is of the poster for the presentation in Alcudia.

Index for February 2017

Adults-only - 1 February 2017
Balearic parliament shenanigans - 5 February 2017, 12 February 2017
Balearics Day - 27 February 2017
Balti Picornell - 9 February 2017
Council of Mallorca - 24 February 2017
Flights increase in Palma - 25 February 2016
Greyhound racing - 19 February 2017
Holiday rentals - 3 February 2017
Mallorca's folk tales - 6 February 2017
Mallorca land - 13 February 2017
Nóos trial verdicts - 21 February 2017, 26 February 2017
Palma urban forest - 17 February 2017
Partido Popular division in the Balearics - 16 February 2017
Picudo rojo and xylella fastidiosa - 8 February 2017
Podemos division - 15 February 2017
Pollensa Sant Antoni cock - 22 February 2017
Puerto Pollensa bus station - 20 February 2017
Quality v. quantity: tourism - 2 February 2017
Republicanism: execution of Antoni Ques - 28 February 2017
Ryanair and lower Spanish airport taxes - 11 February 2017
Saint Valentine's Day - 14 February 2017
Tour operator-hotel relationships - 23 February 2017
Tourist bus services - 18 February 2017
Tourist tax - 4 February 2017
Valtonyc - 10 February 2017
Working conditions in tourism - 7 February 2017

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