Today we are going to Muse about Spain and Gibraltar. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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Some Things Do Not Change
Years ago after graduating from high school a friend, Tex, and I hitch hiked through Spain and France. I have written about this before.
The first stop on our journey was the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. (At the time we lived in Morocco.) The “Rock”, as it was called, was fascinating, a place of steep narrow streets lined with pubs and restaurants with stunning views and home to the only wild monkeys, known as Barbary Macaques in Europe.
There were gunnery stations for cannons in miles of tunnels carved in the side of the rock. These had allowed the British to control the Strait of Gibraltar for several hundred years.
The British have controlled Gibraltar since 1704. This has been a thorn in the side of the Spanish throne and over the several hundred years there were many attempts made by Spain to regain control of the territory. In the 1950’s Franco attempted to pressure the British into relinquishing the territory by restricting movement across the Spanish and British border.
Many of the people who work in Gibraltar actually live in the Spanish border town of La Línea de Concepción. Food and other goods are cheaper in Spain and the residents of Gibraltar do much of their shopping in Spain, then and now.
My friend and I ran a foul of Franco’s efforts. Restrictions allowed a non-Spanish citizen to cross that border only three times in a quarter of a year. Tex and I had been across the border a month or so before this visit when our school senior trip took us to Torremolinos Spain.
When we arrived in La Línea we took a room in a pension for 75¢, stowed our back packs and went into Gibraltar to have dinner and to explore.
Our budget was tight, $2 a day, so a room in Spain was cheaper than accommodations in Gibraltar. When we went into Gibraltar we crossed the border a second time in the quarter of a year. After dinner when we headed back toward Spain the border guard refused us entry. Actually I was OK. I had only two crossings, but my buddy had three. They would not allow him to reënter Spain. The British guards thought this was pretty funny and the yelled to us, “Even your President Kennedy cannot help you”. Gives you an idea of how long ago this was.
We had to get a room in Gibraltar at a budget busting cost of $4. I stayed with Tex so he wouldn’t be hanging out to dry by himself.
The following morning Tex figured out the problem. He had been across the border the year before in that quarter of the year, but only twice in the current year. The guard did not realize the crossings were in two different years. We presented ourselves to the border guard, the same one that had refused us reëntry the day before. We pointed out the date discrepancy and after a long period in which he examined every stamp in our passports we were allowed to pass.
Things do Not Change
I bring this up because I saw this in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
The article says the Spanish are conducting exhaustive inspections of people crossing the border in either direction. People can bring into Spain 10 packs of cigarettes a month. The Spanish say they are checking for cigarette smuggling. The border suffers huge traffic jams and a crossing takes hours. It is taking an economic toll on both sides.
The WSJ suggests the real reason of the exhaustive inspections and resulting slow down is to protest the installation of an artificial reef by the British in the narrow Gibraltar territorial waters. Gibraltar has been upset with the Spanish for fishing in its territorial waters. It installed the reef to deter the fishermen from fishing in its waters. The artificial reef rips the fishing nets apart. This upsets the Spanish. Spain wants the reefs removed. According to the WSJ, “Gibraltar’s chief minister said “hell would freeze over” before the artificial reef is removed”. Spain says that it wants to discuss Gibraltar’s sovereignty and that it can no longer keep its territorial claims on the back burner. It is threatening a £50 fee ($67) for each person crossing the border. Wow!
I find this amazing. 50 plus years! . . . Things do not change.
More to come.
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- British warship sails for Gibraltar amid Spanish stand-off (metro.co.uk)
- Spain PM hopeful on Gibraltar talks (bbc.co.uk)
- Gibraltar – our invincible Rock in a friendless sea (telegraph.co.uk)