Antiauthoritarian Youth Culture in Francoist Spain: Clashing with Fascism


What role do young people have in creating democracy and pluralism? To answer this question, this interdisciplinary project studies how young Spaniards living under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco subverted the régime in their everyday life. Despite living under a dictatorship, Spanish youth critiqued the Francoist régime by participating in a libertine and democratic youth culture that sought to free itself from the grip of Francoism, drawing inspiration from the New York Underground, British Punks, and May ’68ers.  Through interviews and extensive archival research, this project analyzes the emergence of a public sphere and the creation of democratic ideals needed to transition successfully to democracy. By focusing on how young Spaniards of the 1960s and 70s challenged authoritarian oppression through everyday acts of dissent, this research connects the cultural and political changes necessary for a successful transition to democracy. This de-centering of the creation of democracy away from a strictly political narrative not only presents valuable insights to scholars of modern Spain, but also provides comparative examples for scholars examining the Soviet collapse, democratic transitions in twentieth century Latin America, and more recent events such as the Arab Spring of 2011.

Coming from Bloomsbury Academic.


Chapter 1 | Making a Scene: Performance of Everyday Dissent. 11

  • Setting the Stage. 11
  • Literature Review. 15
  • ¡Vista Adelante!: Understanding Youth through Fascism. 24
  • Public Carnival and Performing Dissent: Transgression of Everyday Life. 30
  • From Space to Public Sphere, from Nodes to Networks 34
  • Youth and Space: Finding a Place in Society. 40
  • Revolutionary or Delinquent: Finding Inspiration and Imagining Alternate Universes 44
  • Disobeying Father: Disrupting Patriarchal Authority. 51
  • Chapter Organisation. 54

Chapter 2 | To Study is to Serve Spain:  Learning How to be a Good Spaniard and Catholic  56

  • ABCs of Reading: A Catholic and Fascist Education. 60
  • Defining Fascist Tendencies: What does it Mean to be a Fascist?. 65
  • Making a Good Spaniard by the Book. 71
  • That’s the Way Spain Is: Formation of National Spirit in the Classroom, the Militia as Life, and Historical Non-Truths 77
  • Gender and Heteronormativity Performed in Textbooks 85
  • A Legacy of Bad Education. 92

Chapter 3 | The Revolt of Youth: Funerals, Poetry and Myth Making.. 93

  • Memory as a Space of Contention. 93
  • A Place of Conflict: Strategy versus tactics 95
  • A Theoretical Framework for Memory. 98
  • Institutionalised Repression and Censorship in the University in the 1940s 103
  • The Memory Unamuno’s Last Lecture in action: High Mimic and Low Mimic. 106
  • The Aperture of Political-Literary Space: From Private to Public. 116
  • Poetic Encounters, Young Writers Congress, Private Tertulias and Laic Homages 118
  • Funeral for a Friend. 123
  • Cafés Heating Up: The Limited Reopening of a Space of Discourse. 133

Chapter 4 | Truth, Justice and the American Way in Spain:  Fascist Paranoia and the Illegal Trade of Transgressive Superman Comic Books. 137

  • Strange Visitor from another Planet 137
  • Forms and Functions of Superman Comic Books in the 1960s 142
  • Strange Visitor from Another Planet: Myth and the Super-man. 147
  • Lois Lane: A Super Woman in Man’s World. 151
  • Imagining “Metropolis”: Play and Youth Super-Empowerment 155
  • Supermán Returns: The Search for Truth, Justice, and the Spanish Way. 158

Chapter 5 | The Penetration of Franco’s Spain: Notebooks for Reimagining Democracy   162

  • Pluralistic Spaces of the Pre-War Years 163
  • The Café Culture of Madrid and the Cultivation of Democratic Discourse. 167
  • Disrupting Networks and Traditions 170
  • Cuadernos para el Diálogo: Aperture of the Space of the Literary-Political Discourse. 173
  • Internal Battles and Liberal Tradition. 174
  • Finding a Place: Tactics to Create a Space of Discourse. 176
  • Criticism of American Cultural Hegemony/ Praise for American Counter-Culture. 185
  • Complicating the Discourse: Civil Rights in Spain. 188
  • Reframing the Dissent of the long 1960s to Include Spanish Discourse. 191

Chapter 6 | Clashing with Fascism: (Re)inventing a Carnivalesque Public Sphere in the Long 1970s  193

  • Setting the Stage: The Tradition of the Carnivalesque in Franco’s Spain. 193
  • Spain’s “Coming Out” Party: Dressing up and Playing in the Streets 195
  • Spanish Punk as Carnivalesque: The Place of Popular Culture and the Grotesque. 199
  • The Revival of the Spanish Carnivalesque: Identity, Counterpublics and Imagining a Community  201
  • Networking Underground Cultures: Imagining Carnivalesque Spaces and Making a Scene. 204
  • What was “el Rrollo”?: From Countercultural Spaces to Punk Scene. 210
  • The Street of Liberty: Party, Police, Politics, and a Broader Scene. 221
  • (Re)imagining a Public Sphere: Naked Bodies, Politics, and Partying in the Streets 225

Conclusions | Madrid Kills Me: From Anti-Authoritarian Subculture to Mass Culture  233

  • (Re)defining a Movement 233
  • The Incredible Lightness of a Safety Pin: Subculture as Myth, Voyeurism, and Modern Day Fables 238
  • A Queer and Public Spectacle. 241
  • Conclusions: From New Wave to Movida, the Future is Already Here. 247

Appendix.. 251

Bibliography.. 273

A Little More…

In 1975 the catchphrase “Generalissimo Franco is still dead” first entered American lexicon after being featured in a satirical newscast on the television show Saturday Night Live. The skit mocked the American news media for its obsession with the dictator; in the mid-1970s, all eyes were on Spain. After forty years of rule, both Spaniards and the outside world watched as Madrid, a grey, lifeless city under the Franco, became the centre of both a young democracy and a vibrant artistic scene by the early 1980s. Rejecting the old guard, young Spaniards occupied public plazas, subverted Spanish normativity, and undermined the authoritarian state by participating in a subculture that became known as the “movida madrileña,” or “Madrid scene”. Analyzing quotidian acts of dissent by young people, my dissertation is the first in-depth analysis by an historian to study the creation of the movida and its role in the transition to the modern Spanish democracy. This youth culture, which finds its roots in the early 1960s, reflected a mixture of Americanization, a rejection of the perceived “backwardness” of the Francoist dictatorship, a revival of native Iberian pluralistic traditions found in nineteenth century café culture, and a burgeoning global youth culture that connected the New York Underground, British punks, French Situationalists, and Spanish “frikis” (freaks).

The movida was not an organised movement, but was an intersection of antiauthoritarian tendencies operating from carnivalesque counterpublics. While “movida” is often translated as “movement,” I use the alternate translation of “scene,” as movida implies a (re)appropriation of physical places to create interconnected spaces for “happenings,” i.e., concerts, parties, an art exhibit, or even street drinking. A “scene” further implies movement, interconnectedness and commonality in the spaces that make up the scene—a young Spaniard of the period would ask, “Where is the movida tonight?” Moreover, in using the translation of “scene,” my research analyses the transgressive youth culture found in the period, rather than attempting to liken the movida to a cohesive social or political movement—although the movida certainly had many social and political implications.

This distinction between “movida” as “scene” rather than “movement” is also important in that the Francoist régime called itself the “Movimiento Nacional”. After forty years of dictatorship, Franco left behind what he believed to be a patriarchal, conservative and authoritarian country. However, not only had the young generation already been imagining a democratic, pluralistic, and “modern” Spain before the dictator died, but they had long been creating counterpublics and queer spaces from which to subvert the régime through an attempt to (re)construct Spanish social norms—seen in clandestine reading of forbidden, foreign comic books that subverted gender roles, the revival of the Spanish tradition of holding political-literary gatherings called tertulias (with a punk rock twist), and the creation of music, novellas, and art that sought to spread a libertine, Dionysian message.

In order to better understand the role of young people in the political transformation of Spain from dictatorship to a democratic system of “autonomous communities”, my dissertation studies the everyday life of young people who grew up in Madrid under the Franco, focusing on the years 1955-1984. The Madrid case is particularly of interest as it not only was the stronghold of Franco’s power, but it had been a city that was particularly suppressed by the régime. As a result of the movida madrileña, Madrid became a place of sustained carnival, serving as a model to other Spanish cities yearning to reject Francoism. By the time Franco died in 1975, not only were young subversives already creating their own newspapers, fanzines, films, and comics that implicitly, if not outright, criticised the régime (also known as the falange), but their underground culture had a following that would grow exponentially by the time the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was ratified. Moreover, by the end of the 1970s, young people would be partying in the streets—creating a carnvalesque culture that subverted the ideals of the conservative régime through a culture of drugs, sex, drinking, and art performed in the streets of Madrid. The extension of this transgressive and “post-modern” youth culture throughout Spain not only subverted the régime, but also exemplified the ways young people adopted new technologies to spread their pluralistic message through new and adapted media.

 Check out a preview of the published chapter “Truth, Justice and the American Way in Franco’s Spain” in The Ages of Superman.