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Crime and Punishment in 1930s Barcelona

Did Andres Aranda Ortiz die for his crimes or his anarchist beliefs in a Barcelona prison just before Christmas 1934? Chris Ealham considers an episode that lays bare the social and political tensions of a Spain on the eve of civil war.

On December 21st, 1934, Andres Aranda Ortiz, a twenty- year old anarchist, was garotted in Barcelona prison. Before the executioner ended Aranda's short life, the condemned youth launched a final passionate call of 'Viva la anarquia' (Long live anarchy!), the favoured cry of anarchists condemned to death. Like many anarchists before him, Aranda faced his executioner with stoical contempt. However, Aranda was not executed for killing traditional anarchist targets, such as tyrannical politicians or hated employers. Instead, Aranda went to the executioner for his part in a bungled robbery on a tailors' shop which left a fellow worker dead.

Aranda represented the sum total of bourgeois fears in 1930s Catalonia. During these years, both the local authorities and business interests – what can be called 'Official Barcelona' – were alarmed at the regularity of armed robberies which earned the city the title, 'the Catalan Chicago'. At Aranda's trial, and in the conservative press prior to his execution, 'Official Barcelona' forcefully articulated its accumulated neuroses regarding law and order. In fact, it was the deafening clamour of politicians, businessmen, and military, legal and religious personalities, rather than any conclusive evidence, which provided the basis for the prosecution case that led Aranda to his death.

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