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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Brief yet Exceedingly Independent Republic of Albox
Monday, March 7, 2022 @ 5:39 PM

At the end of the 19th century, Albox, a town in the wilds of Almería, was a place unknown to much of Spain, and therefore to the world. Until 1891, that is. The nearest railway station was a two-day hike and the outdated industry of wool and fabrics for farmers made it possible that many families managed to live frugally, if not well. Nevertheless, the population - close to 11,000 people - gave Albox a certain allure thereabouts and its wealthier citizens were able to spend time in one of the two casinos that the town boasted, or perhaps the odd evening enjoying a show in the theatre.

At the time the Mayor was José Antonio Mirón Jiménez. A man who was "Conservative and influential", according to Miguel Ángel Alonso, a local historian who has rescued one of the most picturesque events of the history of Albox and revives this peculiar story...
Local elections complied with the unwritten requirements of the time, that is, they were heavily controlled by the local poobah, whose motto would be: "For friends we have the favour and for enemies we have the law". A proposal which worked very well for Don José Antonio. The mayor (they used to call people like this 'El Cacique') ruled thanks to the vote of just the wealthiest - and worthiest -  residents. In particular, to a coterie of 54 persons, who thanks to the specialized voting system of the times were the only ones who decided through the noble institution of the ballot box who would occupy the Mayor's office.
The system nevertheless took a body blow when in 1890, a new national party called the Partido Liberal Fusionista revolutionised the political landscape by introducing universal suffrage to Spain. All men (sorry Ladies!) over 25 years could vote in the elections. Coinciding with the modification of the voting rules, a humble resident of the Albox neighborhood of Locaiba called Andrés Pio Fernández cheekily ran as a candidate for the elections of February 1891.
The conservative mayor never believed that his opponent could pose a threat. However, he was quite wrong and was soundly defeated. The people speak, although their voice is not always accepted with pleasure (nice quote from the historian which I couldn't resist).
But then, the morning after the election day a storm of people surged through the streets waving sticks, guns and swords. Yet, even more sinister than the weapons they were carrying were their banners: "Long Live the Federal Republic of Albox!". At the head of the mob was none other than the defeated former mayor José Antonio.
The indignant politician and his accomplices proclaimed a "universal declaration of independence and a brand-new country" which would have "nothing" to do "with Central Government in Madrid". They sent a letter to Madrid expressing this very sentiment. The experiment, based and inspired by recent events occurring in Cartagena (they declared independence from Spain on July 1st 1873 and entered into a five month war with Madrid) didn't last long in the case of Albox.
History doesn't say what went on in the new republic. Perhaps business boomed briefly in the two casinos and the theatre. It's possible that a new anthem was penned by the old mayor's wife. Certainly a few streets were renamed. They always are.
Maybe the local clink was full to bursting.
After two days "of terror", the provincial Governor realized that what looked like a joke had little humour about it, so he proceeded to send the Civil Guard troops to regain control. Twenty one rebels were detained, once the prison had been emptied of the earlier lot, although it is recalled that they were soon released.
It was the end of the first - and short-lived - Federal Republic of Albox.
Many, many years later, with Albox (now called All-box by its thousands of British inhabitants) once again returned to its habitual serenity, the question arises - can we try that again?

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