Boundaries in Time and Space: Spanish “Minor Sovereign Territories

Fronteras en el tiempo y el espacio: Las “plazas menores” de soberanía

Francisco José Calderón Vázquez

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Resumen

En el presente trabajo se estudia la evolución de la funcionalidad fronteriza de una de las fronteras más sugestivas y complicadas del mundo actual: la frontera hispano-marroquí, la única frontera europea en África. Dentro de los territorios fronterizos hispano-marroquíes, el foco de nuestro análisis se centra en las denominadas "plazas menores", un conjunto de pequeños territorios insulares fronterizos que encarnan con perfección los vaivenes de la historia en el Mediterráneo y su reflejo en la vida y funciones de los territorios fronterizos y de su gente.

Palabras clave: fronteras, funcionalidad fronteriza, fronteras Norte-Sur, conflictos mediterráneos, frontera hispano-marroquí


Abstract

This paper studies the evolution of the border functionality of the moroccan-spanish border, one of the most complicated, thought-provoking boundaries in today’s world, being the only european frontier in africa. among the spanish-moroccan border areas, the focal point of this analysis are the spanish “minor sovereign territories”, a set of small border islands that perfectly embody the fluctuations of history in the mediterranean basin and their reflection in the life and functions of borderland territories and their peoples.

Keywords: borders; border functionality; north/south boundaries; mediterranean conflicts; moroccan-spanish border


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Idioma original


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Notas

The term "border" implies the control of a concrete territorial zone by a specific, unique human community. By separating it from adjacent communities, this limit produces a division between "us" and "them," the cornerstone of both collective identity and the construction of a nation.

In fact, the etymology of the term "border" ("frontera" in Spanish) is "front," in other words, the front that designated the zone of contact and separation from an enemy even though it is a fluctuating line that evolves as a function of the correlation of forces between parts.

In the European Union, the rethinking of the border has reconfigured borders (between member countries) as spaces of interaction-connection between adjacent territories and thresholds of flows entering or leaving the territory (European Commission, 2003). It consists of a permeable vision of boundaries, oriented towards the organization of transborder flows, whether mercantile, commercial, human, touristic or migratory.

Cities administratively classified as Autonomous Cities. They are medium-sized border cities with a small area: Ceuta (19.4 km2) and Melilla (13.4 km2).

The Chafarina Island archipelago consists of three islands: Isla del Congreso (4.5 knr*), Isla Isabel II, (2 km2) and Islote Rey Francisco (0.6 km2).

The microarchipelago of Alhucemas comprises "Peñón de Alhucemas" (0,015 km2), "Isla de Tierra" (0.017 km2) and "Isla de Mar" (0.014 km2).

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (2.2 km2) was originally an island but in the wake of a powerful earthquake in 1934, became a sort of peninsula and is currently linked to the shore by a small, sandy isthmus.

In order for a territory to be regarded as an enclave, it must be completely surrounded by the territory of another state. In other words, it must be physically "locked" inside it. This situation does not occur in our case, since the Major Sovereign Territories are open to the sea while the Minor Sovereign Territories are surrounded by the sea. An alternative terminology would be "exclave" or "semi-enclave" (Ferrer, 2007). Another issue is the fact that widespread use of the term means it has been broadly accepted as a common code.

Such as the problem of the control of the Straits of Gibraltar or the fight against extremist Islam, which transcend the purely bilateral sphere.

As with all types of border problems and friction that lead to the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors, a common tactic during this period (2000-2011).

The Moroccan Constitution (2011) calls for the authentic frontiers of the "Great Morocco," a position that led to a permanent attitude of territorial demands targeting Spain.

This action elicited a Spanish military reaction, which involved capturing Moroccan military men by armed forces. This war led to the virtual severing of diplomatic (although not economic) relations between Spain and Morocco.

A stage of enormous danger for the southwest peninsular shore, which suffered razzias and raids by Berber pirates and the Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean. Circumstances which, linked to the fear of a large-scale Moorish rebellion in the peninsular south and Levant created an enormous sense of insecurity in the emerging Castillian-Aragonese Kingdom, leading to the need to guarantee their territorial security and integrity.

These operations led to the capture of Melilla (1497), Mazalquivir (1505), the Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (1508), Orán (1509), Bujía, Trípoli and the subjection of Algiers (1510). After various North African counterattacks, the African border around the enclaves of Oran-Mazalquivir, Melilla, Vélez del Gomera and Ceuta (subsequently a Portuguese possession until 1640); the Alhucemas Islands were subsequently incorporated into this peculiar "system." (1673). The double fort of Oran-Mazalquivir was abandoned in 1792. Meanwhile, the Chafarinas Islands were incorporated in 1847. This led to the set of "North African forts" as we know them today: Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Alhucemas Islands and Chafarinas Islands.

The term "presidio" can be confusing, since in modern-day Spanish, the term is equivalent to "prison" or "correctional center" whereas in fact it means "fort" or "bastion" located on the borders of the territory.

A distinction must be made between exiles, dedicated to the service of arms and convicts dedicated to the construction and maintenance of the forts.

Since the inhabitants of Melilla used the islands as an area for leisure and recreation and catching shellfish. The Chafarinas Islands were used as quarries (for extracting stone for construction work or as a port of refuge when, in the event of a storm, it proved difficult to berth in the port of Melilla.)

These asymmetrical treaties were very important since their stipulations established, on the other hand, the current delimitation of the Spanish-Moroccan border and on the other, they created a commercial "open door" regime, similar to that currently enjoyed by England in the area, albeit more restrictive, enabling Spanish products to gain free access to the Moroccan market, as a result of extremely low tariffs.

Established by the Ministry of Finance Law on May 18, 1863.

A very different role from that of the "African border." The old presidios would no longer be regarded simply as "stockades" designed to "curb, contain and control" the Berbers and Turks or to house prisoners. Henceforth, their mission would be to open up the North African market to Spanish exports.

Following Eugenio Mariñas (1998), El Peñón de Alhucemas was the only minor fort to engage in intense trade with the North African population in the adjoining area, the kingdom of Nekor. The flourishing trade in the 17th and 18th centuries focused on products such as textiles, salted food, oil and rice among others, from the Peninsula with products from the area such as pickles, wax, raisins, and almonds, creating an abundance of civil population.

At the same time, Ceuta Prison was finally closed down in 1911.

Vélez, Alhucemas and Chafarinas experienced a "civil-urban expansion" of the Tertiary: in Vélez de la Gomera, there would be shops, businesses and bars. In Alhucemas, branches of banks, boat consignment offices and even a Recreation Circle were opened up. Chafarinas, a "white town" par excellence (with businesses, a theater and a casino) developed as a result of construction work, fishing and trade, etc.

Municipal administration of the Minor Sovereign Territories was undertaken by a combined civic-military organization, called an "Excise Board," comprising civilians and military men, which served as a Town Hall and of which the Military Commander of the area was President (Mayor).

Taken from the state population censuses of the period from 1877 to 1970.

In Peñón de Velez, the border cabila residents only visited the fortress in times of relative peace, usually every month, setting up a small market offering cattle, poultry, eggs, fruit and vegetables that were purchased by the inhabitants of Peñón.

Market prices, set by the Military Governor of Peñón de Vélez, remained constant. Moreover, mechandise and food were divided up among the inhabitants of The Rock by peculiar system of distribution, as a function of categories, which led to their fair distribution as a function of the volume to be divided up.

The famous Winchester and Remington automatic rifles, whose proliferation among the locals led to the swift loss of authority of the Majzén over the local cabilas.

According to Pastor (2006:298-299), Spanish authorities alleged that since they were free ports: "Military authorities could not impose any restrictions or constraints on the boats that came into them every week to unload legally consigned merchandise destined for established tradesmen or individuals in the areas. At the same time, the Army was not authorized to intervene in the free trade undertaken in the garrisons."

The point was to develop transport infrastructure (through the construction of highways, bridges, roads, railroads, ports, aerodromes, etc.), urban development (construction of cities and urban nuclei), communications infrastructure (telephony, telegraphy networks and postal service) and basic health and education facilities, thitherto non-existent in the area. As for productive activities, mining production expanded significantly. Likewise, agrarian and livestock production increased steadily until the end of the Protectorate (1958).

The islands and the surrounding marine rectangle providing a sanctuary for wildlife, were of unquestionable environmental value. The world's second largest colony of the Audouin Seagull (Larus Audouinii) nest in Chafarinas, with over 2000 breeding pairs). The islands are also home to a large contingent of the rare Cory's Shearwater. These islands also contain a significant breeding nucleus of the rare osprey. Lastly, it contains marine invertebrates in danger of extinction, such as the limpet (Patella ferruginea).

The incorporation of Chafarinas into the Network of European Natural Spaces, such as LIC, with a Maritime-Land area of 511 ha, is due, according to the Habitats guidelines (EU) (1991) to the existence in the island enclave of types of habitat of community interest together with contextual flora and fauna of extraordinary value, whose conservation requires the designation of Special Conservation Zones.

A double metal fence (triple on the Melilla border perimeter) between 3.5 and 6 m high equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment (infrared cameras, thermal sensors, etc.) and of course the ubiquitous barbed wire.

On land, the armor-plating of the border perimeter has heightened the despair of thousands of Sub-Saharans who gather near the border, waiting for an opportunity to attack the fences. This occurs periodically, resulting in death and injury. In the case of the sea, the introduction of SIVE has deviated the migratory traffic in the Straits of Gibraltar, driving smaller vessels (known as pateras) into uncontrolled alternative routes, considerably increasing the danger of the migratory route.

This islet can be reached by swimmers or even walkers at low tide, since it is 10-30 meters from the Moroccan shore.





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