The student movements in 1968 of course are rooted back in the 30s when Franco had taken power over Spain. Franco had outlawed labor unions and believed that he had gotten rid of any left-wing ideologies. Professors at universities across Spain were purged, and many students were forced to drop out. Franco had laxed his attitude with student organizations so long as the message that they were sending was still in favor of Franco’s government.
The Communist party had gone into exile when Franco came to power, however the party still had activists in the country. The Communist party ultimately laid the groundwork for the student movements to occur in the late 60s. The Spanish Communists, instead of only allowing communists to join their ranks, were gathering anyone who wanted to see Franco unseated. Joaquim Boix was a member of the Spanish Communist Party, and would form many communist leaning groups. Both of his parents were teachers, he mentions his father losing his job due to his political alignment after the conclusion of the civil war. When Boix had entered university he had noticed problems that needed to be fixed. Problems such as professors showing late to class, or where students had to conduct their internships there was no material for them to work with. In 1965 Boix and others had decided to form the “Sindicato Democratico de Estudiantes” or the “Democratic Union of Students”.
Joiquim Boix and 500 other students, teachers, intellectuals, priests, journalists, and foreign observers had assembled under the Democratic Union of Students between March 9th and 11th of 1966. The gathering was in an effort to ratify the statues of the Democratic Union of Students. This assembly took place in Barcelona in the convent of Sarria, they had decided upon the church due to the standing tradition that churches were free from requiring permission to gather. The Police had “shut down” the gathering shortly after it had begun. Where they would cut the telephone wires so that those inside could not communicate outside of the church. As well as only allowing the priests of the church to come and go. Not only were communications cut off, or so the police believed, but the food at the church had also been taken away, in an effort to starve them out. However the school that shared a wall with the church, according to Joaquim Boix, was able to feed those who gathered as well as give them updates on what was happening.
Boix had known that there would be arrests and had told the attendees to give their name and position at the University and to not answer any questions further than that. According to his testimony torture was utilized to try to extract information, he says that he only suffered mild forms of torture such as sleep deprivation and beatings. He says that others had faced more severe forms of torture, such as women having cigarettes put out on their breasts, or on the inside of their arms.
Joaquim’s mother could not bear the knowledge that the police were torturing her son and spoke up about it. Two months after the events in Sarria two hundred priests would gather to write a letter demanding that the torture would be put to an end. These priests, as Boix puts them, were “progressive priests,” who were aware of many other tortures. These progressive priests used the proof of Boix’s torture to write their letter. When the priests arrived at the police headquarters in Barcelona, instead of receiving them kindly the police had beaten the priests. Creating a rift between the religion and the people that Franco had sought after.
In Joaqium Boix’s testimony not only does he discuss the student gathering at the church in Sarria. He also mentions how other universities in Barcelona the students held protests in solidarity for their movement. Other cities had student movements as well, such as : Madrid, Valencia, and Sevilla. However Barcelona was the city that furthered the move towards democracy the most.
As many of us are aware, the 60s were a time when many students, as well as other walks of life, held protests. This was not an event localized to Spain alone. Globally protests were occurring. The Spanish government under Franco had attempted to censor these events for fear that they would spread into Spain. However the censorship was only really effective in regards to radio as well as television. The written word was much harder to censor. The exiled Communist party would also inform their members that still resided in Spain of the goings on.
In the late 60s in Spain Anti Francoist fever was rising and rising. Globally student movements were already underway throughout the 60s, even Joaquim himself speaks about French universities going through the same. However what makes the movement in Barcelona important, was the breakdown of the structures that Franco had spent the last 40 years building. When priests had gone to the side of the students and were beaten, then made into jokes in newspapers. You can see the glue slowly peeling away in Franco’s Spain.
1 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 1
2 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 4
3 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 5
4 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 7
5 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 6
6 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 7
7 Davis, Andrea, and Macarena Tejada Lopez. Joaquim Boix 7
8 Antentas, Josep Maria. “1968 And the Spanish State: The Year in Its Context.” Verso. Verso, June 19, 2018