ON MARCH 4 of this year the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and France issued a declaration in which they expressed the hope "that leading patriotic and liberal-minded Spaniards may soon find means to bring about a peaceful withdrawal of Franco, the abolition of the Falange and the establishment of an interim or caretaker government under which the Spanish people may have an opportunity freely to determine the type of government they wish to have and to choose their leaders." At the same time the State Department released the texts of fifteen captured documents -- German, Italian and Spanish -- which demonstrate beyond the shadow of any doubt that in the summer and fall of 1940 Franco was thoroughly committed to entering the war on the side of the Axis. That Spain in the end did not go to war was justified by Franco as the inevitable result of her dire shortage of foodstuffs, oil products, transport facilities, munitions -- in short, of practically everything needed to wage modern war. The Caudillo also complained (in his conversation of December 7, 1940, with Admiral Canaris, then chief of Hitler's foreign espionage organization) that a Spanish attack on Gibraltar would immediately result in an Allied occupation of the Canary Islands and of Spain's possessions in the Gulf of Guinea, thanks to Britain's continued control of the seas.[i] In other words, he cited Spain's overseas possessions as a source of weakness in her strategic situation.

We are not permitted, however, to deduce from this fact that the Franco régime was anti-expansionist. Quite the contrary, as we see from Document No. 1, a memorandum of the German Ambassador in Madrid, dated August 8, 1940. In it he stated that among the conditions which Franco had set for Spain's entry into the war was the fulfillment of certain territorial demands: the acquisition of Gibraltar, French Morocco and the Oran region in western Algeria, as well as the enlargement of Rio de Oro and the colonies in the Gulf of Guinea. A week later, in a letter to Mussolini, Franco explained that northwest Africa had for centuries been a zone of "Spanish aspirations and claims traditionally maintained throughout our history," and that to these "legitimate Spanish aspirations are added in this case the requirements for security, necessitating the elimination of a weak and thinly protected frontier and the assuring of our communications with the Canary Island group."

The Falange has never made any mystery of its imperialist zeal.[ii] In this it has merely followed the pattern already set by its Fascist counterpart in Italy -- a pattern that seems to be an inevitable component of the exaggerated nationalism inherent in every Fascist movement. In the case of both Italy and Spain the zealots of expansion indulged in lurid dreams of reviving past empires -- in the one instance, of Rome; in the other, of Charles V and Philip II. In both cases, also, the chances of bringing about any such grandiose imperial revivals were practically nil. Even an overwhelming Axis victory in Europe would not have opened the path to a new Roman Empire, for Hitler had no intention of sharing the hegemony of that continent with his Italian partner. The Fascist hierarchs were quite well aware of this. In March 1934 il Duce asserted that "Italy has no future in the west and north. Her future lies to the east and south -- in Asia and Africa." Hence the war on Ethiopia and the plans for using Libya as a base for conquests elsewhere in North Africa and the Near East. Franco and the Falange likewise knew that the restoration of the Spanish empire in America was a foolish dream unless the United States were first obliterated as a Great Power and unless the Latin American peoples completely foreswore their independence, won more than a century ago. Even in the unlikely event that the first of these conditions were fulfilled, there was no reason to believe that the second would ever come to pass. Spain, like Italy, must therefore seek imperial glory in Africa -- and also like Italy, only as an accomplice in the Nazis' scheme of world conquest. The irony of this historical imperative lay in the fact that it was precisely in Africa -- in Morocco, to be specific -- that the ambitions of Germany, Italy and Spain clashed and in the end nullified each other. For Mussolini's unwillingness to let Spain have French Morocco is believed to have been an important factor in Franco's final decision to remain "non-belligerent."[iii]

The outward evidences of a revived Spanish interest in Africa during recent years have been various. Franco and several of his generals acquired their early military experience and reputations in Morocco. They are fully aware of the decisive rôle played by Morocco and by Moroccan troops in the critical days at the beginning of the Civil War in 1936. They know how important these Moroccans have been in maintaining order in Spain. They are confirmed Africanistas. This is particularly true of el Caudillo, whose bodyguard consists of picked Moorish troops. In his letter to il Duce (see above) Franco speaks of "the grave tensions that we, along with our Moroccans, have been bearing since our Civil War." This enthusiasm is not shared by the average Spaniard, for whom African adventures have in the past almost invariably spelled unwanted military service, higher taxes and national humiliation. Since the end of the Civil War the Spanish imperialists have tried valiantly to counteract this popular hostility and to arouse a pride in Spain's imperial past, an interest in her present modest colonial empire and a faith in its glorious future.

What effect this campaign of popular education is having on the Spanish people one cannot say. One must record, however, that within the last six or seven years there has been a remarkable renaissance in the serious study of the history, human geography, ethnography, economic resources and political organization of the Spanish possessions in Africa. A leader in this activity is the Instituto de Estudios Políticos of Madrid, which has published a number of volumes on Spain's overseas possessions and sponsors the monthly review Africa. There is also a Liga Africanista Española. The books, monographs, pamphlets and periodical articles on the Spanish colonies, coming out in an ever-widening stream, are on the whole at a fairly high level of scholarship and constitute a valuable addition to the world's store of knowledge about some of its lesser known regions. This literature is well printed -- in contrast to most of the published matter produced by the rest of Europe since 1939. Of course its stimulus is largely artificial and its cost must in considerable part be borne by the Spanish treasury. Here again the parallel with Fascist Italy suggests itself. Under the Fascist dispensation, hundreds of volumes, thousands of periodical articles, and an impressive number of government documents and monographs on Italian Africa -- some of them luxuriously illustrated, printed and bound -- saw the light of day. Many of them were interesting, some were important, but few of them ever sold in large enough editions to make a profit. The state or the Party, that is to say, the Italian taxpayer, paid the difference. The Spanish imperialists have also adopted the devices and lingo of geopolitics. They have discovered that a map and a graph can be very telling weapons in ideological warfare and they are making the most of it.[iv]


The tradition of Spanish intervention in North Africa goes back to the thirteenth century when the rulers of Castile began mixing, sometimes militarily, in the affairs of Morocco. By the Treaty of Monteagudo (1291), Castile and Aragon agreed to divide their spheres of eventual influence in North Africa at the Muluya River, Castile taking the zone to the west and Aragon that to the east.[v] Later, Portugal's paramount interests in the Kingdom of Fez were recognized: the Portuguese took Ceuta in 1415 and Tangier in 1471. However, in 1497, five years after the final destruction of Moorish power in Spain, the Spaniards occupied Melilla. It was perfectly natural that the impetus of the reconquest should push on across the Mediterranean. During seven centuries of Moslem rule Spain and Morocco had enjoyed the closest political ties, and for the Spaniards to carry the redeeming work of their crusade into Africa did not present itself to men's minds as in any way an extraordinary thing. The Spanish have a saying "Africa empieza en los Pirineos" -- Africa begins at the Pyrenees.

In 1505 Spanish troops took Mers-el-Kebir. In the fertile imagination of the great Cardinal Ximénez de Cisneros this was to be the first step toward the creation of a vast Hispano-Mauretanian empire. Four years later Oran was captured, and thereafter Algiers, Bougie, Tunis and Tripoli were taken and held for varying periods of time. But Charles V was too deeply enmeshed in European politics and in his struggle against the Protestant Reformation to be able to apply more than a fraction of his attention to these marginal adventures in the Barbary States.[vi] The Spanish possessions in North Africa hence languished and, with the exception of the Oran-Tlemcen region, fell one after another to the advancing power of the Ottoman Turks before the end of the sixteenth century. It is an article of faith with some Spanish historians that their country thus let slip a marvelous opportunity to become a great African Power. The somewhat precarious hold of Spain on Oran endured until 1792, when that city was abandoned by the government of Carlos IV. This was not, however, the end of Spanish interest in the region. As we noted above, one of Franco's territorial demands was precisely the Oran zone -- a demand based not only on history but on the fact that in the Department of Oran there are estimated to be some 350,000 inhabitants of Spanish birth or ancestry.

Since the abandonment of Oran, Spanish territorial interests in North Africa have been confined to Morocco. The city of Melilla, taken in 1497, has already been mentioned. Ceuta, nestling at the base of the southern Pillar of Hercules, was ceded by Portugal in 1668. The diminutive islets of Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and Alhucemas have belonged to Spain since 1564 and 1673, respectively. The slightly larger Chafarinas Islands, near the Algerian frontier, were acquired in 1848. Ceuta, Melilla and the three island possessions are commonly referred to as the Presidios, or the Plazas de Soberanía. In them the Spanish state is fully sovereign and they are thus on quite a different juridical footing from the two Zones of Protectorate, about which more below. All five of the Presidios have at one time or another been used as penal colonies.

Ceuta and Melilla have been the beachheads from which Spain has moved inland. This process was initiated in the "African War" of 1859-60. During that short campaign the Spanish captured Tetuán and their commander, the famous General O'Donnell, became the Duque de Tetuán. Great Britain, fearful lest Spain become too firmly entrenched on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, vetoed any further advance and in the treaties closing the war Spain merely expanded her Ceuta holding slightly and regularized her occupation of Tetuán. The rest of northern Morocco continued, as before, to enjoy an endemic state of chaos. By the end of the century it was obvious that the country was ripe for partitionment among the Powers. In 1902 the Spanish and French Governments drew up a draft treaty dividing the Sherifian Empire between them. Among the parts assigned to Spain were the ancient kingdom of Fez and other areas in the north, as well as a wide zone in the south including Agadir. The Maura ministry in Madrid, unwilling to antagonize Britain, refused to sign this very favorable arrangement -- thereby giving the Spanish imperialists another "lost opportunity" over which to lament. Subsequent agreements, culminating in the Franco-Spanish Convention of November 27, 1912, drastically reduced the area of the two Spanish Zones to approximately their present proportions.

During the First World War, German agents encouraged the Moroccans, who of course were nothing loath, to make as much trouble as possible. For this and other reasons, Spain's occupation of the Zones assigned to her proceeded slowly, particularly in the mountainous Rif country where Abd-el-Krim was vigorously contesting Spanish penetration. In July 1921 occurred the military disaster at Anual, which led directly to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. By 1924 the Spanish troops operating against Abd-el-Krim had been driven back to the coast. At this point the Riffian leader made the mistake of invading the French Zone and this resulted in the Franco-Spanish Agreement of July 26, 1925, which provided for joint operations against the rebel under the command of Marshal Pétain. By 1927 the Rif had been pretty well pacified and has remained so. Under the Republic, Spanish Morocco became a focal point for anti-Republican conspiracy, and it was in Melilla that the military revolt was launched on July 18, 1936.

At the time of the joint military operations against Abd-el-Krim in 1925, Spain permitted French troops temporarily to occupy certain areas on her side of the frontier in northern Morocco. At one point this French occupation even exceeded the agreed line. Since then, Spain has unsuccessfully sought to get the boundary delimited exactly and to persuade the French to evacuate those areas which, according to Madrid, they are occupying illegally.


The government of Spanish Morocco is a complicated affair. The Spanish authorities do not make it any less so by constantly changing the organization of both the central colonial administration in Madrid and of the various local organs in Africa. In theory the five Presidios, being integral parts of Spain, should be governed separately from the Protectorates. At times the municipality of Ceuta has formed part of the Province of Cádiz, while Melilla has belonged to the Province of Málaga. But they have not enjoyed this status continuously; during the thirties, for example, they were put under a Civil Governor, who, however, appears to have been no other than the High Commissioner administering the two Zones of Protectorate. In any case, the Comandancia Militar of Spanish Morocco is responsible for the defence of the five Presidios, which are also served by a number of technical offices created primarily for the Protectorate. The five Presidios comprise only 82 square miles, compared with the 18,000 square miles under protectorate.

As one can see from the map, the Northern and Southern Zones of Protectorate are simply fringes of the French Zone, which is by far the largest and best part of the country. Though the Sultan is nominally sovereign in the Spanish Zones, he has in actual fact little or no real authority there, for his deputy, the Khalifa, is chosen and directed by the Spanish Government. Under the Franco régime in particular, the Khalifa has paid scant heed to his theoretical sovereign, who is regarded as a prisoner of France. The Khalifa is assisted by a Majzen (analogous to the Makzen in the French Zone) headed by a Grand Vizier and containing Ministries of Justice and of Habous (religious property). The Khalifa also exercises religious jurisdiction over the Moslem inhabitants of the Presidios. At Cabo Juby, capital of the Southern Zone, the Grand Vizier is represented by a delegate and various lesser officials.

The real ruler of Spanish Morocco is the High Commissioner, whose seat is at Tetuán and who in recent years has also been military commander. In addition, he acts as governor-general and military commander for Ifni and the Spanish Sahara. Unless overruled by Madrid, his word is law. In practice a considerable proportion of the civil administration is left to native officials. The natives' right to participate in municipal elections, admitted under the Republic, was withdrawn by the Estado Nuevo. A dahir issued in 1940 also put the Jewish communities, which had been enjoying certain rights of self-government, under direct governmental supervision. In general Spanish rule has interfered relatively little with the customs and beliefs of the natives. We are, indeed, treated to the spectacle of a Spain, long noted for her persecution of the Moors, actually going out of her way to preserve the religion, culture and historical monuments of her Moslem protégées. The fact that the Moroccans are first-class fighting men is probably not without significance here.

The population of the Northern Zone exceeds 1,000,000, all of them Moslems except for some 50,000 Europeans and 15,000 Jews. The Moslems are of Berber and Arab origin, considerably mixed in the western lowlands, less so in the Rif where the Berber type is still very evident. Differences in language also exist among the natives, while in the cities Spanish is widely heard. The European settlers -- Spanish, French and Italian -- are congregated almost wholly in the urban centers, for attempts to put colonists on the land have met small success. This failure is not due to unfavorable environmental conditions. The noted authority Augustin Bernard has pointed out that the westernmost section of the Spanish Zone is "probably the best part of all Morocco, the most suitable for agricultural colonization and European settlement." It is well watered, irrigable in many places, covered with deep soil, the native population is relatively sparse and there is thus much land available for settlement.[vii] It is interesting to note that a higher percentage of the land is under cultivation in the mountainous regions to the east than in this lower western section. Agriculturally, the country is definitely under-developed.

The same is true of its mineral resources. A number of ore bodies have been reported but the only ones exploited on a large scale are the high-grade iron deposits in the mountains behind Melilla. Even the fishing industry could be expanded considerably. Manufacturing is virtually non-existent. Commerce, both domestic and foreign, is small. Imports, which include large amounts of foodstuffs, exceed exports by a wide margin. The Spanish have always hoped that the ports of their Northern Zone would be employed by the transit trade to and from the French Zone. Instead, the French have developed their own ports on the Atlantic, notably Casablanca. The only port on the north coast used by the French is Tangier, connected with their Zone by the Tangier-Fez Railway. When Franco seized the International Zone of Tangier in 1940 and incorporated it administratively into Spanish Morocco, he undoubtedly had his eye on this transit trade, among other things.[viii]

Internal communications have been greatly improved in recent years, though they are still none too good between the east and west. The main highway from Tetuán to Melilla via Villa Sanjurjo is closed part of the year by snow along some of the mountain sections where the altitude exceeds a mile. Ceuta and Melilla are the chief ports of the Northern Zone. In appearance and spirit they are as Spanish as Málaga or Alicante. The population of each exceeds 60,000, of which only a small minority is Moorish.


The Canary Islands are geographically a part of Africa and their possession by Spain has certainly contributed to her position as an African Power. Administratively, however, the archipelago is integrated into the metropolitan government and for this purpose is divided into two provinces--Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The population, approximately 750,000 in number, is Spanish-speaking, Catholic and little different in appearance from the inhabitants of Andalusia. The islands cover less than 3,000 square miles, which makes their population density higher than that of most of the provinces of the homeland. Further, large families are the rule and there is hence a steady flow of emigration.

Most of the islands consist of the peaks of submerged volcanic mountains. They are thus heavily accidented but possess an extraordinarily fertile soil which produces all manner of fruits and vegetables for export to European markets. The mild and dry climate attracts many refugees from the cold winters of northwestern Europe, particularly Britain. Fishing is a profitable occupation, employing many thousands of men. Some authorities hold that the Mar Pequeña -- as the Spanish call the narrow body of water lying between the Canaries and the African mainland -- is the best fishing ground in the world.

The Canaries were claimed by Castile in the early fifteenth century, and after a spirited contest with Portugal the latter recognized the sovereignty of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1479. The islands proved invaluable as a way station along the best sailing route to America. They might also have served as stepping stones for the expansion of Spanish power down the African coast had not this been outlawed by the famous Line of Demarcation established by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, as modified by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Even so, Spain felt obliged to protect her Canary holdings by claiming the adjacent coast of Africa -- where, in fact, the Canary Islanders had for some time conducted periodic slave raids. Portugal recognized this claim in 1509 and a Spanish post was set up at Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña. But this place was taken by the Moroccans in 1524 and from then until 1860 Spain had no foothold on the Sahara coast. In that year the Sultan formally recognized Spain's right to the full occupation "de soberanía" of Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña. Though no one knew just where this was, Spain proceeded during the "Scramble for Africa" of the eighties to obtain the submission of tribes over wide areas in southern Morocco and along the Sahara Coast. Villa Cisneros was established in 1885.

These activities aroused French suspicions, and in the various Franco-Spanish agreements concerning Morocco the claims of Spain were gradually whittled down from over 280,000 square miles to less than 120,000. Not only this, but the territory allotted Spain was cut into two parts: Spanish Sahara and the Ifni enclave. Cabo Juby was occupied in 1916 and La Agüera in 1920. Ifni, though ceded to Spain as early as 1860, was not occupied until 1934 under the Republic. In the following year France obliged Spain to accept still another reduction of the area of the enclave which brought it down to its present size.

Spanish Sahara comprises three parts: the Southern Zone of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco (sometimes called the "Zona del Draa" after the small stream marking its northern boundary), the "Zona de libre ocupación" of Sekia-el-Hamra, and the colony of Rio de Oro. We have already seen that all of these are subject to the over-all authority of the Spanish High Commissioner and military commander in Tetuán. The same is true of the Ifni enclave. However, it is only in the Southern Zone of the Protectorate that Spain acts on behalf of the Sultan. Elsewhere she exercises full sovereign powers.

Figures for the area and population of these districts vary somewhat in compilations from different sources, but the following are probably not far from the mark.


  Miles Population
Ifni 750 35,000
Southern Zone of the Protectorate 10,000 6,000
Sekia-el-Hamra 31,000 11,000
Rio de Oro 75,000 23,000


In addition, there are anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 nomads who temporarily wander into the Spanish Sahara from French territory after the brief rainy season. Order is maintained over this barren and very sparsely populated area by a small air force and a camel corps.

Ifni consists of largely sterile steppe country where a few sheep are raised and such hardy trees as the olive grow. Fishing is the greatest source of income and most of the natives on the coast engage in it. But Ifni is a land of milk and honey compared to Spanish Sahara. This desolate region comes by its name quite honestly, for here the Sahara comes right down and spills into the sea. The natives are, with few exceptions, nomads, and their wealth -- using that term very loosely -- consists of camels, sheep, asses and some scrawny cattle. They represent varying degrees of mixture among Arab, Berber and Negro elements. They all profess Islam, though hardly an orthodox brand. Anthropologists would doubtless find their social and economic organization into four castes to be most interesting. In the world's economy these people play no rôle whatsoever.

The settlements at Cabo Juby, Villa Cisneros, Smara and La Agüera have only a few hundred inhabitants apiece. They are essentially military and administrative posts where a few traders and other hangers-on find precarious lodgment. Cabo Juby and Villa Cisneros have airports laid out to serve planes flying from Europe to South America. In fact, the only circumstance which would seem to endow the Spanish Sahara with any value whatever is its position along some of the world's principal sea and air routes.


Spain's only possessions which could be classified as "colonies of exploitation" are those in the Gulf of Guinea region. Even here the only area that has actually been developed to any degree is the island of Fernando Póo. Continental Guinea, or Rio Muni, is far larger and potentially more productive; but thus far the Spanish have just begun to tap its resources.

Spain made her entrance into this region in 1778 when she acquired from Portugal the islands of Fernando Póo and Annobón, plus commercial rights along the adjacent Guinea coast. Fernando Póo was originally acquired so that Spain would no longer have to depend on foreign slave-traders to provide labor for her American colonies. However, early in the nineteenth century, the slave trade was outlawed and in 1827 the British occupied the island as a base from which to suppress the evil traffic. Up to then Spain had made only feeble efforts to colonize Fernando Póo, and though at first she objected to the British occupation, by 1840 her government agreed to sell that island and Annobón to Britain for £60,000. Public opinion in Spain prevented this deal from going through, and in the following years the Spanish expanded their Gulf of Guinea holdings by annexing Corisco and the Elobeys (1846) and by extending their influence to the mainland around the Muni River. Spanish writers have sought to demonstrate that by 1860 Spain had obtained the submission of several important tracts of the mainland between the Niger and Gabun rivers.[ix] During the seventies and eighties Spanish claims on the coast were subjected to much pressure from the British, Germans and French, and it was only with the Convention of Paris of 1900 that the boundaries of Spanish Continental Guinea were finally fixed.[x]

Fernando Póo is geologically a part of the mountain chain which extends, mostly submerged, from Cameroon Mt. south through the Gulf of Guinea. The highest peak on the island is over 9,300 feet and in general the topography is very rough. Rainfall is more than plentiful, which helps account for the unsuitability of the climate for European settlement. The soil is fertile and since the end of the last century it has been producing increasing amounts of cacao, the island's principal export. Coffee, sugar, tobacco and vanilla are also grown. Many of the plantation operators came from the nearby Portuguese islands of São Thomé and Principe. For half a century labor has been imported for the harvest season, largely from the mainland. The conditions under which these blacks have been employed have led to much diplomatic trouble with the Liberian and other governments. Recently the nascent nationalist and tradeunion movements of Nigeria have protested against the treatment accorded their countrymen by the Spanish "Fascist" authorities.

Fernando Póo has an area of 800 square miles and a population of around 30,000, of whom 1,700 are classed as Europeans. The less civilized natives are of nearly pure African stock, while those living around the coastal settlements are called the "portos" and represent a mixture of Negro, Spanish, Portuguese, Cuban and other blood.

Annobón, another partly submerged volcanic mass, contains 7 square miles and is covered with dense equatorial forest. The island was uninhabited when first discovered, but Negroes from the continent were later introduced and their descendants now number around 1,500, some of whom work seasonally on Fernando Póo. Though acquired in 1778, Annobón was not occupied until 1885, just in the nick of time to forestall German seizure.

Corisco, with an area of 51/2 square miles, was first used by the Spanish as a slave-trading station and later several commercial factories were set up there. The population of not more than a thousand is racially somewhat mixed and engages in shipbuilding and fishing. The two Elobeys -- Grande and Chico -- have between them an area of less than a square mile and only some 500 inhabitants. Such importance as they once enjoyed as a trading and administrative center has now disappeared.

Continental Guinea has an area of 10,500 square miles and a population of about 150,000. Of these only a thousand are whites, the rest belonging in large part to branches of the great Fang, or Pamué, sub-race. Few of these Negroes have been even partially civilized, for most of the country has been effectively occupied by the Spanish only recently. Education among the natives is carried on partly by missionaries, some of whom are American Presbyterians, and partly in government schools. In 1941 there were in all less than 6,000 pupils attending 52 schools. Statistics supplied from Spanish sources indicate that the per capita expenditure on sanitation and health facilities for the natives of Continental Guinea is many times greater than that of Nigeria, the Cameroon or French Equatorial Africa. Natives in need of medical attention are said to come over from the surrounding French territories for treatment by the Spanish.

Spanish imperialist writers complain that their country has failed to take anything like full advantage of the natural resources of continental Guinea.[xi] They insist that Spain at present imports from other countries and their colonies many items which could easily be produced in Guinea with a little help from Madrid. However that may be, the fact remains that continental Guinea sends very little into the stream of world trade. Her subsoil may contain minerals, but none of any importance is now being exploited. Cacao and coffee are produced in small quantities by both European and native planters; but under ordinary conditions in the world market, these commodities face stiff competition. Lumber from the extensive forests is being taken out in appreciable quantities and this industry might be expanded. The only railroads in the colony were built for logging purposes. The primary highway system of 1,000 kilometers is approaching completion. Unfortunately the excessively rainy climate and the many streams make road construction and upkeep difficult.

Administratively, all the Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea are under a single Governor-General, who resides at Santa Isabel on Fernando Póo. There is a sub-governor at Bata, capital of Continental Guinea.


As a result of the virtual extinction of the Spanish colonial empire by the United States in 1898, the Spanish Government found it wise to suppress the Ministerio de Ultramar in April 1901. Since then the central administration of the African territories has undergone a bewildering series of metamorphoses. At present this function is discharged by the Dirección General de Marruecos y Colonias, which is attached to the Presidencia del Gobierno.

All of Spanish Africa taken together contains some 140,000 square miles and 2,250,000 inhabitants. Spain's overseas empire is thus far from impressive. It contributes little to the economy of the country and it cannot possibly help in solving the country's great social problems by providing an outlet for surplus population or by furnishing badly needed raw materials. Whatever importance the empire may have derives from its strategic location. This is especially true of the Spanish Zone in northern Morocco and of the Canary Islands. Everyone knows that the existence of a large Spanish military force in Morocco caused a great deal of anxiety to the Allied High Command at the time of the North African invasion in the winter of 1942-43. There must have been many times when Eisenhower's staff wished that the United States had followed the advice of certain American expansionists and included the Canaries among the spoils of war in 1898. As long as Spain is firmly ensconced on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, she will be excellently situated to be a nuisance or to engage in international blackmail.

At the same time, Spain's meager and scattered possessions in Africa are, as we saw in the opening paragraphs of this article, a source of strategic weakness to her. In any war where she is lined up against the Powers that control the Atlantic, she can expect to lose most of her empire practically overnight. Regardless of how small the intrinsic value of that empire may be, we can be quite sure that no government of Spain, least of all one dedicated to a revival of her imperial glory, will throw it away lightly.

There is, however, another card that the Spanish can play -- and Franco is busily playing it. Some readers may have noticed in a dispatch appearing in the New York Times of April 7, 1946, that a Spanish Moroccan delegate was participating in the non-political activities of the Arab League in Cairo "with the sanction of the Madrid Government." This is no accident but part of a deliberate policy. For Franco to encourage Moroccan nationalism might appear at first blush to be contrary to Spanish interests. In reality, a nationalist movement aimed at freeing only the Spanish Zones would make little sense. What the nationalists want is the freedom of all of Morocco, ninetenths of which is under French rule. Franco can therefore afford to flirt discreetly with the nationalists and thus obtain the reputation of being pro-Moroccan and pro-Moslem, while letting the French pay the bill. He is already known as being partial to his Moors and of doing such astute things as providing transportation on Spanish liners for his Moroccan subjects who make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Unlike the French, who are embarking on an ambitious plan for "assimilating" their colonial peoples, and thereby antagonizing nationalist groups, Franco has no intention of trying to make Spaniards out of North Africans.

Observers are agreed that events are shaping up rapidly in North Africa, and the Spanish imperialists are quite prepared to fish in these troubled waters. When they do, it will be a matter of the utmost concern to all who have learned that the key to the back door to Europe lies on the Barbary Coast.

[i]Cf. Document No. 11. In Document No. 5, a letter from Franco to Hitler dated September 22, 1940, the Caudillo had already declared that "the possibility of a surprise attack on the Canary Islands by the English in order to create a naval base . . . has always been a worry of mine."

[ii]Cf. Thomas J. Hamilton, "Spanish Dreams of Empire," in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, April 1944, p. 458-468. Sir Samuel Hoare (Lord Templewood) quotes Franco as declaring, in a public speech delivered on July 18, 1940, that: "It is necessary to make a nation, to forge an empire. There remains a duty and a mission, the command of Gibraltar, African expansion . . ." (New York Times, April 21, 1946).

[iii] Hamilton, op. cit., p. 466. We also learn from Franco's letter of September 22, 1940, to Hitler (Document No. 5) that Germany desired in Morocco not only "a share in the raw materials of this area "but" the establishment of an enclave for German military bases by occupying both the two harbors of the southern zone." Franco rejected this latter suggestion as "unnecessary in peacetime, and superfluous in wartime." Hoare's memoirs underline the fact that Franco feared Hitler's overriding ambitions in North Africa.

[iv] Examples of their handiwork are: J. Vicens Vives, "España, Geopolítica del Estado y del Imperio" (Barcelona, 1940) and J. César Banciella y Bárzana, "Espacio y Economía" (Madrid, 1945).

[v] This stream now marks the eastern boundary of the Spanish Zone in northern Morocco.

[vi] It must also be remembered that the colonizing enthusiasm of Spain was then being directed into the far more promising lands of the Americas.

[vii]L'Afrique Française, August 1932, p. 448.

[viii] See Graham H. Stuart, "The Future of Tangier," in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1945, p. 675-9, for a recent discussion of the special status of the Tangier Zone.

[ix]Cf. Abelardo de Unzueta, "La Guinea Continental Española." Madrid: 1944, p. 16 ff. In particular, note the maps on pages 17, 28, 49.

[x] See de Unzueta, especially the map facing p. 74 which shows how Spain's claims, which extended all the way to the Ubangi River, were cut to about one-eighth of their original size.

[xi] See, for example, J. César Banciella y Bárcena, "Rutas de Imperio," Madrid, 1940.

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