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Covers to Forget: Headlines The Day the Frontier Closed

Soraya Fernández · Fotos: Fran Montes

“In response to recent British measures concerning Gibraltar, the Spanish Council of Ministers has reached several agreements. Among these, the closure of the border, a disposition which will be published in the Official State Gazette tomorrow. The 4,820 Spanish workers on the Rock will be covered with 100% unemployment insurance”

Front-page headlines throughout the Gibraltar and Spanish press on the 8th of June 1969 were all about the closure of the frontier. The images and stories which marked this difficult time are overwhelming.

It is impossible to put yourself in the shoes of those who lived through it. Ordered by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, the closing of the Gibraltar Frontier on Sunday, June 6th, 1969 had unimaginable consequences for thousands of Gibraltarians and citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar.

The closure changed lives and shattered the hopes and dreams of those who lived in the area, separated hundreds of families and proved to be a major impediment on the development of the Campo de Gibraltar, a burden that still persists to this today.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the frontier, an occasion that should serve as a reminder of the difficulties endured. Publications from this era allow us to gain an insight from different perspectives.

The collection of images and devastating headlines are unthinkable today, and yet they remind us that the threats posed by Brexit continue to draw closer. Accessing newspapers of this era proved to be a complicated task. Some cover images immortalizing this difficult day can be found online.

“Spain closes its borders to Gibraltar”, read the headlines of the Spanish daily newspaper ABC on June 8th, 1969, with a cover displaying an image of the Rock of Gibraltar. “In response to recent British measures concerning Gibraltar, the Spanish Council of Ministers has reached several agreements.”

“Among these, the closure of the border, a disposition which will be published in the Official State Gazette tomorrow. The 4,820 Spanish workers on the Rock will be covered with 100% unemployment insurance,” read the front page of this newspaper.

“The Spanish government announces the closing of the Frontier of Gibraltar,” was the headline of La Vanguardia newspaper printed on June 8th, 1969. “Spanish workers on the Rock have been guaranteed full salaries until they find new employment in Spain,” the subtitle reads.

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“Gibraltar, isolated from Spain.” This was the title of an article consisting of five columns printed in El Nuevo Diario on June 16th, 1969, with the subtitle, “This is what the closure is like, minute by minute,” signed by the special envoy to La Línea, Luis Infante Bravo. Unfortunately, we were only able to find the image of the cover.

Various newspapers existed in Gibraltar and the Campo of Gibraltar. On the Spanish side was the daily newspaper ÁREA. Pablo Gómez-Rubio, grandson of the founder and currently in charge of the newspaper, allowed us to see copies from those particular days.

On June 8th, 1969, the daily newspaper, ÁREA, featured an article entitled “As of this morning, FULL CLOSURE OF LA LÍNEA’S BORDER CROSSING POINT.”

“The Government is taking all measures necessary to ensure that workers will not be affected,” it summarized. Right next to it, the feature “Everything has been completed,” which defended the regime’s decision but recognized that the return of thousands of Spanish workers in Gibraltar would pose a problem for Spain. On the back-page of that day’s paper was a photograph of Spanish laborers in a meeting with the Director General of Labour.

No copies were printed on June 9th following the previous day’s occurrences, since it was a Sunday – a day of rest for the Spanish press at the time, and the reason why no newspapers were printed on Mondays. On June 10th, ÁREA’s front-page also covered this subject, with the headline, “Great Britain will not take any kind of reprisal.”

The summary explained that Michael Stewart – British Foreign Secretary – admitted that there would be difficulties in finding a solution to the labour issue that Gibraltar was facing. Along with this information, another grand feature on the first page titled, “Here we are.”

The Gibraltar National Archives gave Reach-Alcance access to old copies of The Gibraltar Chronicle, which covered the closure of the Frontier in a very aseptic manner, in line with the editorial tone of the time, which did not tend to address political issues.

The Gibraltar Chronicle opened its first page on June 10th stating that Stewart suggested tourists would visit Gibraltar, not Spain. It also included a photograph of some of the 700 people who gathered the previous day to protest the closure of the Frontier, waving British flags and chanting, “God save the Queen”.

The Gibraltar Chronicle opened its first page on June 10th stating that Stewart suggested tourists would visit Gibraltar, not Spain. It also included a photograph of some of the 700 people who gathered the previous day to protest the closure of the Frontier, waving British flags and chanting, “God save the Queen”.

The most striking aspect of the story are the photographs that conveyed these difficult times under the title, “Sad Farewell”, which shows Spaniards leaving Gibraltar for the last time with their work equipment, and moments of farewell between relatives and work colleagues – instances where, according to the Gibraltarian newspaper, tears flowed in abundance.

Around that time, there were other newspapers in Gibraltar; El Calpense, which was printed in Spanish, and Vox, although it was impossible to access either of them.

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