01/07/07 - a novel vacation

In today's excerpt - a novel vacation:

"People looking for a highly unusual vacation on the eve of the second European conflagration might have been attracted to the following advertisement placed in tourist offices throughout major cities in Europe:

"National Spain Invites you to visit the War Route of the North (San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Gijon, Oviedo and the Iron Ring). See history in the making among Spanish scenery of unsurpassed beauty.

"So began a tourist brochure created in April 1938 by the Spanish Nationalists' newly formed National Spanish State Tourist Department. The Nationalists beckoned European tourists to visit the 'War Route of the North' while the Spanish Civil War was still in progress. Along with its messages targeting markedly different groups of people—those who wanted the authenticity of the battlefield experience and those who just wanted a relaxing, scenic vacation—the brochure called on tourists to 'Form your own judgment of the real situation in National Spain today.'

"The Spanish Nationalists began running organized tours of the recently secured northern front on July 1, 1938. They added a War Route of the South through Andalusia in December of that same year. Collectively known as the Rutas Nacionales de Guerra (National War Routes), these tours began every other day, between July 1 and October 1 in the north, and between December and April in the south until the end of World War II. For eight pounds or its equivalent in other European currencies, the Nationalists offered nine-day bus tours, which included three meals a day, accommodations in first-class hotels, incidental expenses and tips. Spain was still in the midst of war, yet the tours attracted thousands of people from throughout Western Europe.

"Although battlefield tourism had been around since at least the Battle of Waterloo, organized visits to battle sites increased dramatically after World War I, when the unfathomable death toll compelled many people to travel to places such as Verdun or the Somme as pilgrims wishing to hallow the dead or as thrill-seekers desiring a vicarious experience of trench warfare. But the Nationalists' Rutas Nacionales de Guerra were different from these forms of battlefield tourism. This was the first time that a regime whose claim to legitimacy remained very much in question had sponsored and conducted tours before the completion of a civil war. The tours also inaugurated a novel combination of solemn battlefield tourism with a more traditional brand of recreational tourism, juxtaposing the great deeds of Nationalist soldiers alongside 'attractive seaside resorts.' ...

"Tourism could bring much-needed cash to the regime's war economy. More important, the very idea that the Nationalists could conduct tours during wartime gave them a legitimacy that they wanted and needed from the international community."


Sandie Holguin


'National Spain Invites You'


The American Historical Review


December 2005


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