Anita Fuentes and Elena Romero - Tilly Nacimiento
Bishop Fitzgerald and Mother Patricia Dwyer
Until 1930 Spain was a constitutional monarchy under King Alfonso XIII but Spain’s political leaders were incompetent and corrupt. General Primo de Rivera took control of the country as Military Dictator with the King’s full support. Primo de Rivera‘s Government brought about improvements but the world depression of the 1930’s hit Spain’s economy badly. As unemployment rose the Army withdrew its support and General Primo de Rivera resigned.
The Spanish frontier ( 1930s Lucien Roisin) (See LINK)
In the 1931 election the Republicans won all the major cities in Spain so King Alfonso decided to abdicate in order, as he thought, to avoid bloodshed. Spain was declared a Republic and the Monarchy was abolished. For the next few years – especially after the Constitution of June 1932 which disestablished the Church and required secular education in the schools – all the Sisters who taught in Castilleja wore secular dress and were known by their secular names. . .
Schools run by Religious Orders were once again closed down and some of the Loreto Convents in Spain felt under threat. On May 28th Mother Teresa Walsh, the Spanish Provincial, Mother Berchmans Gonzalez and several novices from Castilleja came to Gibraltar by bus, dressed in secular clothes. In 1934 all British Subjects were evacuated from Castilleja. One morning at 5 a.m. they boarded the British warship “Shamrock” and headed for Gibraltar. . . .
In July 1936 a leading Right Wing politician, Calvo Sotelo, was murdered. Fascist Italy and Hitler’s Germany feared Stalin’s Russia and the possible spread of Communism. They became enthusiastic supporters of the political Right in Spain which now put its faith in Military Dictatorship. . . General Franco assumed control of the military, took control of Spanish Morocco after overthrowing the civilian Government there and prepared to invade mainland Spain. He set about establishing a military Government and ridding the country of all involved in left wing politics. The Civil War began on July 18th 1936.
In La Linea, the town just across the Border from Gibraltar, it was the opening day of the annual Fair and the fairground, near the bullring in those days, was crowded with Spaniards and with Gibraltarians who had gone over for the evening. “La traca”, a traditional barrage of firecrackers marking the opening of the Fair, disguised and drowned out the sound of gunshots in Calle Clavel and other parts of the town.
Calle Clavel ( 1930s - Postcard )
Word soon got around, however, and the Gibraltarians at the Fair headed for the frontier as quickly as possible. Gunfire was also heard in the Bay. Most of the Spanish Boarders at Loreto Europa had already left for the summer. Twelve-year-old Anita Fuentes was the daughter of the “Administrador de Aduanas” on the Spanish side of the Frontier. She lived with her family in La Linea and was a day pupil at Convent Place, but when the War broke out in Spain her parents decided it would be safer for her to remain in Gibraltar as a boarder.
The nuns in Europa took her in immediately. Her two good friends and classmates were Elena Romero and Tilly Nacimiento, and the three girls would often go for walks together or to the cinema (so long as the nuns knew which films they were going to see!), or Anita would visit Elena or Tilly at home. On Sundays Bishop Fitzgerald used to come up to the Convent to see the nuns and he would often bring sweets or cakes. The three friends would then have tea in one of the small rooms near the parlour.
A group of Gibraltarians on their way to a picnic in Madeira. The photo includes several members of my family including me -my brother on the right holds on to me!. Elena Romero, (see LINK) a friend of my sister sits below and to the right of the girl with the driver's cap.
Gibraltar served as a haven for large numbers of Spanish refugees who fled La Linea at the very beginning of the Spanish Civil War. (See LINK) They were housed in every available room on the Rock, in friends’ houses; even washhouses were cleared to accommodate them. Many of the Loreto nuns from Spain . .
. . . took refuge in Europa and the town Convent. Nuns from other orders came too, and we did all we could for them. Our own nuns from Spain helped in the schools.
Gibraltar postcard showing events at the frontier just after the Spanish Civil War had started as well as the tents erected in the Neutral Ground used to house refugees
Moroccan troops at the frontier ( 1936 )
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