The comparison of a city which got to the
beginning of 20th century on regrettable condition with the thriving National
State Capital arising from Spanish Civil War, has thrown over Madrid the
suspicion that its huge transforming has not been but the result of an artifice,
of the will of the regime established by General Franco of endowing with a big
capital, an Imperial Capital.
All its recent growth, as well as its
election as capital of the Spanish Monarchy of Felipe II, would not be more than
the result of a political decision, of the forced transformation of Madrid into
the capital of a tumbling-down Empire, and several centuries after, into the
mirror of the empty grandiloquence of pro-Franco regime.
Madrid, the filthy capital of the Old Regime
had become the flourishing capital of the New State, achieving the rank of big
city and peak of the urban Spanish hierarchy, always competing with Barcelona,
due to the only will of the winners of Civil War.
Madrid the artifice, Madrid guilty. Over
this artificial capital has fallen the weight of the guilt for all the
historical failures of the nation to which it should have served as dynamic
Since ancient times has gravitated over
Madrid the veredict of not having knowing nor have been able to carry out that
function, bundle from its origin to the false of its election, permanent
subjected to that reproach.
Travellers arriving centuries later to its
threshold judged it as idle city, exclusively dedicated to the performance of
court issues, with a population lazily lying in the middle of arid plain,
predatory on its environment, germ where to look for the origin of the actual
Residence place of Court and landowner
nobility, of bureaucrats and functionaries, industry lacking, without a
enterprising bourgeoisie, lost the Empire, Madrid would have been the big brake
for Spain to become a modern nation.
Madrid the artifice, Madrid guilty. Happens
so Madrid a historically frustrated capital in the double sense of not being
able to fulfil its capital function and growing, itself, frustrated as city.
It is not new, as can be seen, the reproach,
but surely the most elaborated theory of a Madrid guilty of Spain's historical
frustration proceeds from the first intellectual generation that, even looking
at Madrid with critic eyes, pretends to make of it a big capital.
From professionals and intellectuals of 1914
comes indeed the vision of a Madrid who, because of been court instead of
capital, has lacked of an idea to guide it growth and finds itself, after
loosing the Empire, disorientated, without knowing which way to turn, locked up
on its fence, without means to become European capital.
Madrid for the more conspicuous members of
such generation, among which Manuel Azaña may be the one to make the most
confirming veredict, looked as undone city, grown in liberty, like a blackberry
on a path, a capital as "frustrated as the political
idea to which it owed its rank".
That Madrid had to change from court of a
ruined imperial monarchy into capital of a modern and prosperous nation was
evident, mainly due to its incapacity of setting itself up as Spanish economical
Unique among European cities of its same
rank exclusively communicated by heavy roads or stagecoaches, Madrid was kept
away and isolated from the most dynamic manufacturing and merchandising centres
on the peninsula until advanced on 19th century, the road network was improved
and first railway network was completed.
Without strength to become centre of a
national market, Madrid kept on living of its historical function of consuming
agricultural incomes generated on its region and proceeding from Spain all.
The predominance of consumption over
production and services discouraged the economical growth of the region from
which it was centre and did not give any impulse to those on the surroundings.
Besides not stimulating a national economy,
Madrid had ruined Castilian economy, remaining until 19th century as an isolated
urban centre, in the middle of a rural desert.
This is the reason why this city offered the
visitors on middle 19th century an image of negligence and indolence.
As it did not find a dynamising destiny for
industry and commerce of the rents which capital was consuming, Madrid gave the
impression of a lazy gentleman, rural as the most one, living of lands, his or
another's and what an small store on behalf of a poor relation coming from
Laziness is, actually, the sensation its
social classes gave, organised around a circle of nobles, landowners, merchants
and bureaucrats, and an unsteady mass of immigrants.
If Madrid promoted such sensation, it was
not because they would consume too much at the city and very few was produced,
but because those who consumed were mainly the nobility, people modely lazy,
who literally had nothing to do from the moment they woke up late in the morning
until they went to bed late at night.
The renters and bureaucrats did not take
much advance on them regarding diligence nor tight timetables, not to mention
the small dealers who watched time passing by behind their shop counter.
The incapacity of Madrid to become Spanish
economic capital got the first step on its frustration as politic capital.
On the Modern Age already, instead of
preside over the integrity of an Empire, Madrid just "registered
the sinking of squadrons and lost of reigns".
Chosen as capital of the spaniards Habsburgo
Empire, due to its geometrical centre on the peninsula, crown never felt it
truly as the capital and even did as much as they could to avoid it when moving,
non venturing on its streets.
If it is true that only Madrid was Court, it
is also true that Madrid was only a Court!.
Copyright © 2002 by
JLL / JRP
All rights reserved