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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post re: Spain, Franco and the Rise of Tourism (Sasha Pack, US)
Created by John Eipper on 03/02/09 3:47 AM - re-spain-franco-and-the-rise-of-tourism-sasha-pack-us

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re: Spain, Franco and the Rise of Tourism (Sasha Pack, US) (John Eipper, USA, 03/02/09 3:47 am)

On 1 March, JE asked Sasha Pack for his thoughts on the rise of tourism in Franco's Spain. Sasha responds: Was tourism merely an external windfall for Franco's Spain, to paraphrase Carmen Negrin (1 March)? Yes, but... The Franco government (or, at least, certain elements of it) did harness the massive tourist boom to hit Spain's Mediterranean coasts as a force for broader political and economic change. Although Franco and his closest advisers could not have cared less about foreigners coming in and showing off their hairy legs (as one minister put it), his government was sufficiently pluralist to adopt policies that encouraged the tourist industry to prosper and allowed some constituencies to take considerable economic and political advantage of it. After World War II, some of the Anglo-Spanish ties established during the war did in fact further the ends of British influence on the Franco regime. This is particularly relevant to the issue of tourism. The Spanish ambassador in London, the Duke of Alba, along with the Anglophile director of the Spanish tourist bureau, Luis Bolin, pushed the regime to liberalize its policy toward foreign travelers in the late 1940s. Most of Franco's cabinet was uninterested in or hostile to the idea of opening Spain to tourism at this time. The peseta was supported at something like four times its market value, border security was tight, and laws required all tour groups to register with authorities and hire a Falangist guide to chaperone. Once all hopes of receiving direct aid from the Marshall Plan were dashed, British and American pressure on this front became harder to resist. This issue was below the radar screen of most Spaniards, but Spanish trade negotiators (mostly at the urging of Alba and Bolin) agreed in 1948 to establish a preferential tourist exchange rate and to considerably expand British and American tour operators' freedom of movement. There followed a wave of mostly British investment and a steady rise of tourist movement to Spain, such that by 1964 Spain equaled France and Italy as a tourist destination. By 1952, the best-selling American guidebook for Spain cited the absence of a chaperone as proof of the Franco regime's relative moderation compared to Socialist regimes. Tourism revenue was Spain's most important source of income from 1954 forward. This permitted--even necessitated, because of the pernicious effects of the resulting black market for pesetas--overall monetary reform by 1959. Conservatives and authoritarian neo-liberals (and, for that matter, the leftist opposition) never imagined foreign tourism as anything but a temporary cash infusion that would soon move on Morocco and elsewhere, but the industry proved to be remarkably sustainable. In the 1960s, reformist elements of the regime leveraged the phenomenon of tourism--not only its economic effect, but its irrepressible socio-cultural effects as well--to carve out political space for progressive conservatism as the dictator advanced in age. Official media hyped tourism as much as possible--not only pilgrimages and El Greco, but also the fast-and-free lifestyle of the Costa del Sol and other international resorts. By the end of the 1960s, women soaking up rays in bikinis--blonde Swedes mingling with olive-skinned Spaniards--were regular features of the official newsreel. The government established fiscal incentives (sometimes quite irresponsibly) to encourage Spaniards themselves to soak up the international resort lifestyle. The only aspects of the tourist boom that went unreported were the rampant drug use and open homosexuality in certain areas, but such images would have been equally taboo in democratic societies. While all this was going on, the government was giving grants to interior villages and diocese and building dozens of Paradors to promote other types of tourism away from the beach. One can point to a number of ways the government could have done a much better job managing the tourist boom. But the fact remains that the extension of the European tourist industry to Spain did a good deal to integrate Spain into the main currents of the European economy, society, and mass culture. As a result, the argument advanced by the hard-line authoritarians in Franco's cabinet that Spain is Different (taken, ironically, from a tourist slogan pioneered in the 1920s) and therefore not suited to democratic rule, was untenable. Owing largely to the tourist industry, Spain's economic and socio- cultural convergence with the dominant norms of democratic Europe was largely underway, if not complete, by the time the political transition began in the mid-1970s. Had the socio-cultural and sexual repression of the early Franco period been uncorked concomitantly with a political crisis, as took place in Portugal, a smooth political transition was much less assured. This perhaps begs another counterfactual question: What if Franco had died in a hunting accident in 1961? JE comments: A very informative overview by Sasha Pack. Despite all the "re-fighting" of the Civil War that has taken place of late on the pages of WAIS, I would be interested in learning more about the post-War Franco years--the late 1940s and '50s. -- For information about the World Association of International Studies (WAIS), and its online publication, the World Affairs Report, read its homepage by simply double-clicking on: http://wais.stanford.edu/ John Eipper, Editor-in-Chief, Adrian College, MI 49221 USA


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