Friday, March 11, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Bombing of Atocha


Estacion Atocha, the main railway terminus in Madrid, was first opened by Spain's Queem Isabella II in February 1851; 40 years later the original edifice was destroyed by fire, and extensively rebuilt in its current glass and wrought-iron form by Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who'd collaborated with Gustave Eiffel. In 1977, during the country's transition to democracy following the death of Franco, the area was the site of a massacre of labour leaders; in 1992 the old station was taken out of service and repurposed for commercial use, the centrepiece of which is an indoor palm garden (shown above) and a new station was added to the complex.

It was at this new station on this day in 2004 when Spain got its first taste of modern terrorism, having spent the previous thirty years getting over being governed by it; al-Qaeda inspired operatives set off a coordinated series of 7 suicide bombs aimed at disrupting the morning commute, killing 191 people and wounding 1,755 - exactly 911 days after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

The following day Spaniards in their millions took to the streets in protest, still thinking the bombing had been the work of Basque separatists with the ETA; three days later there was a General Election, at which the ruling right-wing People's Party was defeated by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, owing in large part to Prime Minister José María Aznar's mishandling of the situation. Not only had he supported the war in Iraq (which many in Spain felt was to blame for the attack), he then blamed the ETA for the bombings (when it was already clear that it had been the work of jihadists); he'd also asked King Juan Carlos I to postpone the election which His Majesty, being better versed in constitutional law, refused to do.

Today there is a 'virtual shrine' at the front of the station, which was unveiled by the King and Queen and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on the third anniversary of the attack; within its cylinder are contained thousands of messages of condolence. Visitors to the site may also leave their handprints via special computer consoles.

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Anonymous said...

A dark moment in the history of Spain. But no, neither the King or Zapatero ordered the invasion of Morocco to "liberate" their people,. Only weeks after all the suspects were behind bars.

R.I.P. to the victims.


michael sean morris said...

I never even discussed the supposed invasion of Morocco theory; Ceuta and Melilla aside, Spain has always dealt with Morocco diplomatically (such as with Western Sahara) so it seemed to me just a rumour started by jihadists that Spain was willing to go to war over the bombings.

Interesting Footnote: Right after I posted this I decided to take a break, and watch Amistad; featured in that film is Anna Paquin playing... Isabella II!


Anonymous said...

Nah, I just wanted to compared how different is the foreign policy between USA and Spain in dealing with terror.

I'm afraid Ceuta and Melilla is like the Falklands,if the citizens have to choose between King Juan Carlos I or King Mohammed IV...

Anna Paquin! How is that from a girl from Winnie eh!