The 20th Century
King Alphonse XIII (1902-1931)
Alfonso became King when he reached sixteen in 1902 and he called upon Mallorcan Antoni Maura to form a new government. Enthusiastic crowds met the pair when they visited the island in 1904 but they both knew there were difficult times ahead.
When Britain ceded Morocco to France in 1904, the town of Ceuta, facing Gibraltar across the Straits, was given to Spain. Spain's wars overseas resulted in many casualties and when the government called up Catalan reservists who were married with children in 1909, the people went on the streets in what became known as the 'Tragic Week'. While Maura stamped out the uprising, his treatment of the situation was criticised across Europe.
On Mallorca there had been a steady increase in the population over the past 100 years and it topped 250,000 by the start of the 20th Century; around 65,000 lived in Palma. Serious overcrowding resulted in the destruction of the city walls, starting in 1902, and they were replaced by a ring road over the next 30 years. The Avenues (Avenidas or Avingudas) still zigzag their way around the old city centre. Check out the City Walls and Town Planning webpage.
The start of the First World War in 1914 stopped Mallorca's budding tourist industry in its tracks. However, Mallorca's economy did not suffer because Spain was a neutral country and the island supplied boots and leather equipment for the French Army. Only the companies benefited and the workers rioted as the economic bubble burst when the war ended in 1918.
Spain's political situation was fragile and it was rocked when Moroccon guerrillas massacred 1,000s of Spanish soldiers, including many Mallorcans, in 1921. While the Left demanded an enquiry, the military overthrew the government in January 1923 and General Primo de Rivera ran the country dictator for seven years.
King Alfonso XIII promoted tourism and Mallorca benefited, with many exclusive hotels being built along Palma's sea front for over 30,000 visitors a year. He also awarded the title Real, or Royal, to the island's football team Alfonso XIII FBC; it is still known as Real Mallorca.
Admiral Aznar held elections in April 1931 and a Republican Government took power under Niceto Alcala Zamora. It occupied the Madrid ministries and proclaimed a Republic, forcing King Alfonso into exile in Italy.
The Second Spanish Republic
The 1929 Wall Street Crash had undermined the Spanish economy and Alcala resigned in favour Manuel Azana after being unable to bring order to the country. Azana too was unable to find a solution and his government lost to a Centre-Right majority in 1933. Over the next three years Spanish politics swung between the left Popular Front and right National Front but there was repression and retribution whichever party won. In July 1936 matters came to a violent head and Spain was plunged into a Civil War. To learn what caused the war and what happened both on the mainland and on Mallorca check out the Spanish Civil War and Porto Cristo webpages.
The Francoist Era (1939-1975)
When the Civil war ended in April 1939, General Franco introduced a strict regime which supported industrialists and landowners rather than the workers and peasants. Money was lavished on the police and army while the people were suppressed.
Over 400,000 Republican supporters had fled over the French border towards the end of the war but the majority returned when German invaded France in 1940. Around 100,000 were executed over the next four years while the rest were imprisoned and used as slave labour. It is believed that General Franco hoped that Germany and Italy would win the war so that Spain could join them as an imperial nation.
When the war ended in victory for the Allies in May 1945, Spain introduced draconian economic measures. It denounced free trade, introduced economic independence and self-sufficiency and based its economic independence on agriculture. It also cut imports and set the peseta at a high rate.
Franco became increasingly isolated from his people, retiring to his palace to make broad policies while the Falangists ran the country. The 1940s became known as the 'years of hunger' and while the country was ruled by corruption and black market activities, Franco knew little of the country's poverty and the people's starvation. Those who could afford to left for Latin America while the peasants moved to shanty towns near cities looking for work.
The regime was bankrupt and inflation was rising at an alarming rate when the religious group called the Opus Dei encouraged Franco to stimulate the economy in 1957. While the new policies worked, the peseta lost half its value, people lost their savings and emigration continued.
Spain's economic saviour came in the shape of the tourist industry and the first package tour to Palma was made by Horizon Holiday Group in 1952; the Balearic Islands were declared a centre of tourism seven years later. The boom in the 1960s and 1970s brought new money into the country and Mallorca spearheaded tourism. Control was more relaxed on Mallorca than the mainland because it was an island but while rules were relaxed for visitors they were not for the residents.
Between 1960 and 1975 the population rose from 363,000 to 525,000, with many immigrants coming from the impoverished Andalusia and Extremadura areas. By 1977 three out of four residents were working in the service sector, looking after four million tourists.
In 1966 Franco confirmed that he would be succeeded by a member of Spanish Royal family and three years later he confirmed it would be Prince Juan Carlos. Although the post of Prime Minister was handed over to Admiral Carrero in 1973, he was assassinated six months later. Carlos Arias Navarro took his place.
Juan Carlos I (1975-)
On 20 November 1975 General Franco died and two days later Juan Carlos was designated King. He introduced reforms, easing Spain back to a democracy, and in June 1977 the first elections were held and.
A year later a new Constitution was introduced, formally acknowledging Juan Carlos as King. While most people warmly accepted the transition from dictatorship to democracy, some did not. In February 1981, 200 armed officers of the Guardia Civil took a packed Parliament hostage. The coup came to an end after King denounced it on television.
In 1983 years the Balearic Islands became one of the seventeen autonomous communities of Spain. Tourism was still going from strength to strength and Mallorca was one of the main beneficiaries.
Spain was governed by the left of centre PSOE from 1982 until it was only brought down by corruption and scandal 14 years later. A coalition of the right of centre PP and Basque, Catalan and Canary nationalist parties replaced it.
Spain was rocked on 11 March 2004 when bombs planted by Islamic fundamentalists killed over 200 commuters on in Madrid. Tens of thousands turned out to mourn the dead and three days later they voted for the PSOE.
Spain, like the rest of the world, has suffered from the credit crisis which began in 2008. The combined collapse of the property boom and the shrinking tourist industry has hit the economy hard. But Mallorca is still a wonderful place to live and a great place to take a holiday... Enjoy!
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