Spanish Guinea: out of Paradise
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30 Minuts

Spanish Guinea: out of Paradise

The inside story of the final years of Spanish Guinea.

50 years ago, in January 1964, Spain enacted  the first and only statute of autonomy to be granted since the Civil War. General Franco had not granted these rights of self-governance to any of the Spanish regions that had enjoyed them during the Second Spanish Republic, and which had claimed them historically. Instead, the beneficiary was one of the last Spanish colonies in Africa, Spanish Guinea. This programme features the voices of Catalan emigrants who lived in the former colony, and footage recorded on the Super-8 cameras that were becoming popular at the time. Some of these images are historical documents of exceptional value, due to the lack of documentary sources of any kind from the period.
 
The documentary focuses on the role played by Catalans in the former Spanish colony. In fact, this connection dates back to the second half of the 19th century, when small numbers of fortune-seekers travelled to an African territory that had practically been forgotten by the Spanish administration. By the beginning of the 20th century, these 'entrepreneurs' had established coffee, cocoa and timber businesses, taking advantage of the benefits offered by the colonial regime, and the evangelical pressure brought to bear by the Claretian missionaries from Vic, the majority of whom were also Catalans. Before the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona was the principal port for goods and passengers going to and from Guinea. In the words of historian Jordi Sant, the city effectively became the colony's metropolis. These links meant that many Guineans came to study and live in Barcelona for extended periods.
 
During this period, Catalan companies, including Frapejo, Vila i Morante, Sumco, Blasco S.A. and many others, began to build an economic empire that would thrive almost up until 1969, the year in which the dictator Francisco Macías expelled all Spanish residents from Guinea.
 
The documental looks at the colony's last years through the memories of former colonists, native Guineans, and some of the few surviving public figures from the period, such as the politician Adolfo Obiang Biko, one of the founders of the MONALIGE, the main Guinean independence party, and the commander of the Spanish Civil Guard in Guinea, Luis Báguena. The programme also includes contributions from the small number of Spanish academics who have specialised in the colonial era, including historian and anthropologist Gustau Nerín, and Alicia Campos of the Autonomous University of Madrid. Sadly, neither the Spanish politician Miguel Herrero, one of the authors of the Guinean Constitution of 1968, nor the first Spanish ambassador, Juan Durán Loriga, were willing to contribute to the documentary.
 
The makers of the programme have conducted extensive documentary research into the limited footage that has survived to the present day: hence the importance of family films shot on Super-8. Thanks to the cooperation of former residents of Guinea, they have been able to recover previously unseen footage which shows not only the day-to-day life of the colony, but also political meetings involving some of the main Guinean leaders, the openings of public works, military parades and the celebration of Independence Day on 12 October 1968.
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