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Spains Guardia Civil

Updated on February 2, 2012

The Guardia Civil have a long and chequered history in Spain, albeit not all fondly recorded.

Commissioned in 1844 they were formed to maintain order in a wild countryside where bandits and malcontent's roamed threatening the Spanish monarchy and government.

The peasants were revolting and the state needed to stamp it's mark of authority upon an anarchic situation.

Andalucia was a trouble spot for the central government, always has been and probably always will be, even when Felipe Gonzalez virtually ran the country from his base in Seville, Andalucia has always been difficult.

Remembering that the 'Andaluz' citizen is made up of Jewish/Arab/Romano stock, it's easy to see why there is scant respect for an authority, that basically dislikes and distrusts all of them!

Add to that the fact that until tourism arrived on the table in the mid sixties, the table was mainly bear of food and the poverty was mostly ignored by central government, as Andalucia was not a profit centre.

It had harsh weather, scarcity of water and belligerent populace, why bother with them.

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Paradores have style and character.Yes you can dine in a room like this!Take a quiet stroll in well tended gardens with privacy...
Paradores have style and character.
Paradores have style and character.
Yes you can dine in a room like this!
Yes you can dine in a room like this!
Take a quiet stroll in well tended gardens with privacy...
Take a quiet stroll in well tended gardens with privacy...

Tourism changed all that, and some merit must go to Franco for recognising the potential of this marketplace, even if he was wary of full exposure and initially only allowed tourists to stay in Paradores built or converted especially for the purpose.

The combination of cheap flights, the Spanish weather and package holidays opened Spain up to the modern world, with it's screaming hoards, and 'patata fritas' replaced 'patatas al la pobre' to become the mainstay of the 'international food' which replaced (in public)authentic Spanish cooking.

The Paradores are a lasting heritage from these pre mass tourism days, and charming places to stay for quality and comfort in an age of 'microwave ' tourism.

Some were custom built, but the best are converted castles and grand houses, normally holding prime positions with magnificent views.

Targets for terrorists...too often successful in their murder.
Targets for terrorists...too often successful in their murder.
Classic Guardia tricorn hat, now only ceremonial...
Classic Guardia tricorn hat, now only ceremonial...
Original Mauser shortened barrel Guardia rifle, made for them specially...
Original Mauser shortened barrel Guardia rifle, made for them specially...
..and the modern counterparts..
..and the modern counterparts..
Traffico is where we mostly see them...
Traffico is where we mostly see them...
But they also rescue migrants from Africa who sail to Spain in small boats, many die before getting here.
But they also rescue migrants from Africa who sail to Spain in small boats, many die before getting here.
..and the other main responsibility is stopping drug trafficking.
..and the other main responsibility is stopping drug trafficking.
big or smalltime drug trafficking! it is not illegal to grow up to three plants per adult.. (Thanks IzzyM for the info!)
big or smalltime drug trafficking! it is not illegal to grow up to three plants per adult.. (Thanks IzzyM for the info!)
They even had a Guardia Ferrari until one of them wrote it off last week!
They even had a Guardia Ferrari until one of them wrote it off last week!

Andalucia is the wild card province of Spain, now autonomous (self governing) yet very much an essential part of the national economy, producing 40% of the GDP via property sales and tourism.

When the Guardia was first started it was to deal with the 'bandoleros' who ruled the mountain passes, and many battles took place with these wild men of the mountains and the 'fast response' squads of Guardia on horseback, one bandolero was even granted a pardon and went on to serve in the Guardia fighting the disorder that previously he had created, and the final bandolero was killed in 1934.... 90 years after the Guardia was formed.

During the Civil War the Guardia divided almost 50/50% between the Nationalist forces and the Republicans, whether that was a tactical move to ensure success whoever won, or whether it reflected the specific location of the various Guardia 'cuartels' (barrack blocks built in most main towns to control the area) when the war started, the Guardia fought on both sides in any case.

After the war the Guardia became a strong element in Franco's security forces and maintained strict control over all rural areas, where dissidents were more likely to spring up.

They were a force to be feared by anyone who was opposed to the state and 'status quo' until Franco was dead and King Juan Carlos had declined their offer to rule as monarch when they stormed the parliament for a historic second time, (the first time they brought about regime change) and the King told them to stand down.

From that point the Guardia seemed to disappear from public view, I mean obviously they did not just stay in their barracks for ten years, but it seemed like it, and my first recollection of their return to grace was when once gain I saw the road blocks manned by Guardia, this time no longer chasing bandoleros, but searching for a more deadly enemy, ETA terrorists.

Guardia have always been sent to serve in areas other than where they were born or lived, for obvious reasons, it's possible one could feel a conflict of interests if called upon to arrest or detain someone you grew up with.

But a second reason is that unlike the bandoleros, who killed when cornered, the ETA bands would and did kill Guardia in their homes or in cafés in full view of the public and sometimes the victims children have seen their father murdered in revenge.

So where once the Guardia could walk tall and free to do as they needed, whatever that was, to maintain order, in todays' politically correct world they are curtailed and trained to keep a low profile and be almost servile to the public.

Now when the Guardia make an arrest, they wear masks, and the terrorists publish videos of their exploits without disguise.

What a crazy world.

I remember a German friend of mine who lived in the campo had a recurring problem with a robber who kept returning to steal from his house. He duly filed the 'denuncias' (crime reports) and was told that there was nothing to be done... "If I arrest him he will be back on the street before I have finished the paperwork" Hans was told by the Guardia.

"Well if I catch him trying to rob me he's dead, and I'm going to lie in wait and shoot him with my shotgun" stated Hans, whereupon the Guardia officer said "Well bury him where we won't find him and clean up well"

Another Guardia I met in Sevilla told me that when he was first a Guardia, before Franco died, he would see someone drunk in the street late at night and say "Be in my office 9am mañana" and he would be waiting for me at 8.30 am"..... "Now I would be waiting for him all day"

Democracy brings it's own rewards, but many older Spanish people have lamented to me the 'old days' when Franco ruled with a rod of iron and the only people with anything to fear were those who crossed him. Days when house doors could be left open without fear of robbery and public disorder was unknown.

I remember when I first lived in Spain things were much easier all around, as we passed from the days of Franco into the days of a different type of dictatorship, that of the European Union, who have increasingly inflicted more rules on their subjects!

In the 'old days' if the Guardia caught you driving when, let's say you were 'slightly inebriated' at 3am on the way home from a night out, they would take your car keys, run you home and tell you to collect the keys from the cuartel the next day, when you were sober.

This week the Guardia announced that they were going to carry out 300,000 drink drive tests this Christmas...

OK I know drink driiving causes deaths, and that 25 years ago there were far fewer cars to have accidents with at 3am in the morning, and that those other cars were probably also driven by equally drunk people..... but right now if you drive in Spain with one glass of beer in your system, you are in trouble.... Spaniards visiting ventas and bars not allowed to drink one beer!

25% of fatal accidents are caused by drunken drivers.... so that means that 75% are caused by sober drivers... go figure!

Nowadays most of the Guardia one sees are carrying out traffic controls, (and this Christmas breathalizing drivers) but there is a much larger presence of them that is not so visible, dealing with terrorism, drugs trafficking and organised crime, especially human trafficking into Spain from Africa, a major problem, both in the numbers that arrive on our shores, and in those who die trying to get here.

So the days are gone when the Guardia was a sight to be feared, when they were apparent on seemingly every street corner, holding their rifles and often leaning against a wall using their tricorn hat for a rest.

Today they are a totally modern force dealing with almost every aspect of security in Spain, and as long as you treat them with the respect they deserve, they will be helpful and courteous, however.... don't try to be smart with a Guardia, you will lose big time!

...and do not drink and drive this Christmas!


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    • antonrosa profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing this great hub!

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      9 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Saludos y mejores deseos de mi amigo, gracias por leer y comentar, y disculpas por mi español malo!


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      ola muy verguensa los vesinos brevichadus suy un anteguo guardia civil piro lla soy jubil

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      9 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      My first venture into Spain was 1972, should have stayed!

      I will email you my Facebook id!

      Thanks for visiting, both me and Spain!


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I lived in Spain, 1967-1971, different Spain back then. I remember "Prince" Juan Carlos, he was young back then, as we all were. My country by heart. Spainish people are the kindest I have ever met. Someday, I plan on a visit to my non-native homeland. THANKS for posting. Do you have a facebook page to join???

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      10 years ago from Malaga, Spain


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      this is pretty cool! xx

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      11 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      aguasilver, congratulations for your Hubnugget nomination. :) Yes, do promote and email your friends to vote for your hub. It is allowed. :)

      Enjoy the hubnuggets.

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      11 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Hope you voted for me on the HubNuggets page?

      Actually I love the ghost one best of all, but I gotta canvass for votes!

    • Miss Belgravia profile image


      11 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Thanks for a great hub -- I really learned a lot, and am looking forward to my first visit to Spain. I hope I can arrange that very soon.

    • IzzyM profile image


      11 years ago from UK

      Wow! You certainly know a lot more than me about 'how to get round the system' LOL

      I came here as an EC resident so never had those problems, well not after I got my NIE. Still not got my residencia as they did away with its necessity 5 years ago, but their beaurocracy still insists on it? They can GTF as far as I'm concerned, I'm Scottish and proud of it, and I ain't exchanging my GB driving licence either.

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      11 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Hi IzzyM.... gotta agree in part, but also must say there are thousands of people here who kinda forgot the paperwork and renting or buying can be done without even an NIE (numero identificacion extranjero... or foreigners id number) as (for instance) you buy a Costa Rican SL company (which is recognised as a Spanish company by the tax authorities, even though it's a bearer bond company with nominee directors (Oh Oh I feel a hub coming on!)and use that to buy or rent your accomodation, and come into the country as a tourist, now strictly speaking 50C would need to register after 90 days here, but there are literally thousnad of folk who don't bother.... if you want to do anything legal here, you need a number and an identity before you can sign anything, but to just live here....!! No hay problema.... unless you do something stupid!

      When I first came here (pre EU days) it was difficult to get a residencia or work permit (and still would be for non EU citizens) and as a result I have been here legally 20 years having lived here nearly 25 years.... the first five years problem except when I wanted to buy a car I needed a friend to front for me who had residencia...

      I have friends who came her in the 70's and never had a residencia until 1992 when we joined the EU, and run businesses, owned houses, drove cars, had children in school.... just got on with it, and (as said) unless the officials got fed up with you (i.e. you crossed someone who had enchufe) you were left alone.

      Maybe I should just take out a Spanish nationality and be done with it! the passports only 12€ compared to 180€ for a 'Brit' passport...

      Gotta get writing a hub on this!

      Thanks for commenting ;o)

    • IzzyM profile image


      11 years ago from UK

      IN addition to what aguasilver says, Caliber, in order to buy or rent here you have to apply for a NIE number first, and you would need your passport to get that. As far as I know there are no restrictions on Americans coming here - I know a few who have been accepted easily enough. Obviously it's easier for us Europeans because of the EC, but you'd have to apply for rsidency same as everyone from outside Europe, but its just more paperwork and the Spanish love paperwork!

      Great hub, aquasilver, by the way:)

    • aguasilver profile imageAUTHOR

      John Harper 

      11 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      If you could get here, you could probably stay here, think like this was America say 40 years ago when the Immigration Service were concerned about 'foreigners' as in (our case) Moroccans and Africans, and kinda left those who 'fitted in' alone unless they did something to attract adverse attention.

      We have relatively liberal gun laws, in that you could get a permit to own a handgun or shotgun/rifle if you owned a 'finca' (small farm, but we really do not need to carry here, the only people apart from the police who use guns are the East European Mafia, and they only shoot each other!

      Besides which, your appearance would make you virtually immune from problems of the negative kind! - added to which any robber would need to be really dumb to pick on an ex Marine!

      No, if you could get into the country you could probably live unnoticed for a whole long time unless you did something stupid, like I said.

      We have (in Andalucia) about 2 million non resident Brits and Germans plus real tourists, and about 500,000 resident Brits and others.... the place is crawling with 'extranjeros' and obviously at any particular moment a large number of tourists can be American, so who's to know?

      Well the Guardia would for a start, because (especially) if you bought a farm inland the Guardia would know who you are real fast, and provided your 'vecinos' (neighbours) thought you were OK, the Guardia would leave you alone, they chase bad guys in Spain, not harass ordinary people.

      Like I keep saying, Spain is Different!

      As for your passport, take a rental apartment somewhere to qualify for the passport?

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      11 years ago from Arizona

      Very interesting bits of history blending into present day. What is Spain's protocol on citizenship? I am unable to procure a passport because I have no physical address. I would have to register with our "911" agency and the dirt access road would have to be given a name and then my property would have to get an address. To me that would be inviting government intrusion that I don't want. I could get a dirt road named in my behalf, would that make me famous? Back to the question..... is there a limit on property ownership and length of stay? Your hubs are making me think about a visit to Spain, and if the US turns to communism as it seems is our course the reasons to stay here get less and less as time passes. What about gun control as well, can you legally possess and carry?


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