Contraband, industry and culture

Contraband, industry and culture
1950s. La Línea. Men and women display their wares in street in La Línea. Source: Blog 'La Línea de la Concepción en Blanco y Negro’, Luis Javier Traverso.

Contraband, industry and culture

As in other cross-border areas, the dominating social groups on either side of the border between La Línea and Gibraltar were involved in large-scale contraband at minimal personal risk, relied on the local population. The tobacco industry in the colony, as with others, saved on tariffs and transport, and got profits thanks to the huge social inequalities in the region.

In El Campo de Gibraltar small-scale contraband was part of legal transport networks, the «recova» (purchase of local farm products for resale), small businesses and bartering. Given the personal risks involved, it was an option when there were no safer forms of income or as a complementary salary. Its success depended on the implicit acceptance and protection of and by the community. Spanish workers in Gibraltar complemented their salaries by trafficking goods which arrived in Gibraltar and adulterating tobacco, soap and other products which were valued in Spain.

Children in the region played «smugglers and policemen», or «the smuggler’s game», in which a group of police officers chase the contrabandists or backpackers. The contraband culture is also transmitted through oral literature. The following chacarrá couplets, a typical fandango from El Campo de Gibraltar, were recorded by the Asociación Litoral:

«Tienes una cinturita
 que parece un contrabando,
 que tos los contrabandistas
 andan por ella penando».

[You have a slender waist
that looks like contraband,
and all the smugglers
are sighing to get it.]

This one by Francisca Aguilar specifically to women black marketeers:

«Debajo de la capa de Luis Candela
 se lleva el estraperlo la Micaela

[Under Luis Candela’s cloak,
Micaela moves the black market.]