- Spanish counterculture during the Transition
With the death of Francisco Franco in November 1975 after 39 years of dictatorship, Spain began a process of political evolution, called la Transición, towards a system comparable to the European democracies. This process would affect many spheres of Spanish society and especially young people, who had already started to demand freedoms that Franco’s regime had denied them in the final years of his dictatorship.
The influence of American counterculture, pacifist protests against the Vietnam War, and the new rock and punk trends coming from the United Kingdom left a mark on the Spanish youth, who began to demand greater political freedom at university. At the same time, in the peripheral neighbourhoods of Barcelona and Madrid – which had been hard hit by the economic crisis of the 1970s and were more socially aware – a countercultural movement emerged that would express itself through its own publications.
Magazines and fanzines proliferated as a vehicle for expressing disenchantment against a system from which young people felt more and more alienated. Despite the continuous problems with censorship in the last years of Franco’s regime, which subjected many such publications to closures and bans, they were the main mouthpiece of a youth that tried to create their own cultural channels in opposition to the official culture, which had no room for their concerns.
Star and Ajoblanco: loudspeakers of the counterculture
Of all these publications, the magazines Star and Ajoblanco were the most influential exponents of Spanish counterculture, but from different points of view. Star, initially dedicated to comics, evolved towards music and film criticism, reports and interviews, always outside the official channels, reaching a circulation of 25,000 copies. Ajoblanco, which achieved a circulation of 100,000, had a more libertarian slant, and kept its focus on political and social analysis.
Under the protection of the new freedoms, which they managed to broaden, in its pages they openly talked about those subjects that had been forbidden and which the official culture did not want to cover, such as rock music, sex, drugs and homosexuality.
Figures such as Mariscal, Nazario, Ceesepe, el Hortelano, Ouka Leele, Alberto García Alix or Pedro Almodóvar himself published their first comics and pictures in Star, which also made the most rebellious hard rock or punk groups known, such as Leño, Asfalto or Barón Rojo later on, or those who simply wanted to express themselves in a free and festive way without the constraints of more conventional music, such as Alaska y los Pegamoides, Nacha Pop or Radio Futura.
Many of these artists, who embraced the counterculture to make a place for themselves in a society where they did not feel represented, evolved towards less political or social and more playful positions in an atmosphere of continuous cultural effervescence. This gave shape to what became known as the ‘Movida’, and it was the banner of the modernity of the new democratic Spain in the world.
This post is part of the editorials of Europeana SUBTITLED, a Europeana Generic Services project including seven major national broadcasters and audiovisual archives from seven European countries.
Under the theme of 'Broadcasting Europe’ our editorials showcase how society has been reflected on the television screen in the past eight decades during times of conflict, restrictive regimes, political change, and peace. To this end, we’re using a diverse range of material from Europeana, with a focus on lesser-known and newly aggregated AV content. For more information about Europeana SUBTITLED, visit this page on Europeana Pro.