The Rock. (Other Nations)

Article excerpt

"Nation-Making in Gibraltar: From Fortress Colony to Finance Centre" by David Alvarez, in Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism (Nos. 1-2, 2001), University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada C1A 4P3.

Call it the mouse that didn't roar. Tiny Gibraltar, the one-square-mile "Rock" at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, has been a more or less happy colony of Great Britain for nearly 300 years. It's only because Britain withdrew troops and slashed subsidies in the 1970s and '80s that the Rock's 30,000 inhabitants are now thinking of loosening ties to the mother country.

"Mother country" is something of a misnomer. The native Spanish inhabitants fled after Britain took control in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, and they were replaced by new arrivals from Britain and from all over the Mediterranean. The local culture was largely Catholic and Spanish-speaking. During World War II, the British evacuated nearly the entire civilian population from the strategic enclave, notes Alvarez, who teaches at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. The experience deepened the Gibraltarians' loyalty to the Crown--many of them wound up in Britain--even as the jarring reminder of the Rock's precarious position fostered interest in independence.

About one thing most Gibraltarians have been united: They want as little as possible to do with Spain. …