Francesc Macià i Llussà

122nd President of the Generalitat of Catalonia

Francesc Macià i Llussà was responsible for negotiating the restoration of the Generalitat of Catalonia under the Second Spanish Republic and became its 122nd president in 1932.

Macià was born in Vilanova i La Geltrú on September 21st 1859 and and died on December 25th 1933 and began his career as an army officer in favour of modernising Spain.

However, like many Catalans of his generation, events at the start of the 20th century gradually pushed him towards support for the independence of Catalonia.

This led him to forming various political parties, leading an attempted invasion of Spain and proclaiming the Catalan Republic.

By the time of his death, Macià was the senior statesman of Catalan politics and, a much loved figure, was popularly known as L'Avi or Grandfather.


Childhood and Military Career

The son of Joan and Maria, Francesc Macià i Llussà was the second of seven children and was born on September 21st 1859 on La Rambla de Sant Josep in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the capital of the comarca of El Garraf.

His father was in the olive oil business in Les Borges Blanques and died in 1881, when the young Francesc was only twelve years old.

When he was sixteen Macià enrolled in the military academy of Guadalajara in order to begin training as an engineer of bridges, railways and telephones in the Spanish Army.

During his early career he was based in various places, including Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla, and open in his support of the modernisation of the army, was promoted to the rank of captain.

Still only eighteen, in 1887, Macià was transferred to Lleida, where he met his future wife, Eugènia Lamarca, with whom he would have three children, Joan, Eugènia and Maria.

His engineering studies allowed him to combine his military career with occasional engineering projects and in 1894, the ajuntament of his hometown, Vilanova i La Geltrú, commissioned him to redesign the city's sewerage system.

In 1893, Macià acquired the patent for reinforced concrete and directed Spain's first construction using the new material, which was a water tower in Puigverd in Lleida.

Given his interest in technology, throughout this period, Macià wasn't just in favour of the modernisation of the army but also of the modernisation of Spain as a whole and he was promoted to the rank of colonel.

Conversion to Catalanism

On November 25th 1905, in an act of revenge for a cartoon it had published attacking the army, a group of soldiers attacked the offices of the satirical magazine ¡Cu-Cut!, which were also home to the newspaper La Veu de Catalunya.

Rather than punishing the soldiers, the authors of the cartoon were tried by court martial under the new Ley de Jurisdicciones, which decreased freedom of speech in Catalonia and led to the forming of the pro-Catalan coalition Solidaritat Catalana.

Despite his rank of colonel, Macià spoke out against the attack on the ¡Cu-Cut! and as a result was transferred to Catabria.

In the elections of April 21st 1907, stood as candidate for Solidaritat Catalana in Les Borges Blanques and was one of the 44 out of 47 Solidaritat Catalana candidates elected to the Congress of Deputies in Madrid.

Macià left the army and re-elected to Congress in 1914, 1916, 1918, 1919, 1920 and 1923, he gradually moved from a position in favour of modernising Spain to out and out republicanism.

In 1919, he founded Federació Democràtica Nacionalista, which favoured a federal Spain, and in 1922 was involved in setting up Estat Català, which was to become a Catalan pro-independence party.

Invasion of Spain

Following the coup d'etat of Miguel Primo de Rivera of September 1923, Macià fled to Perpignan and began contacting with anarchists and communists.

He managed to obtain funding from Catalan expatriates in Latin America, gave his support to all actions against Primo de Rivera's dictatorship in Spain and even contacted the Soviet government in Moscow in search of support for the independence of Catalonia.

In Prats de Molló in French Catalonia in 1926, Macià contracted up to 100 Italian mercenaries and, along with his band of Catalans from Estat Català, tried to invade Spain.

The invasion was aborted by the French gendarmerie due to the information they received from the Italian fascist spy, Ricciotti Garibald, but the event was reported widely in the press and Francesc Macià's popularity grew in Catalonia.

Forced to flee to Belgium the Argentina and later Cuba, Macià founded the Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya and drafted the Constitution of the future Catalan Republic between September and October 1928.

Following Primo de Rivera's fall from power, Macià returned to Catalonia on February 22nd 1931 and as leader of Estat Català, joined the new left-wing coalition Esquerra Republican de Catalunya.

The Catalan Republic

Following the municipal election results of April 14th 1931, which were won by Esquerra Republican in Catalonia and left-wing parties in Spain, Macià went to take possession of the presidency of the Diputació de Barcelona.

The president of the Diputació, Joan Maluquer, famously stated that "I will only give up the palace by force" and placing his hand on his shoulder, Macià gently replied "consider this an act of force".

Then from the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat, he proclaimed "the Catalan Republic within the Federation of Iberian Republics", just hours before Niceto Alcalá-Zamora proclaimed the Spanish Republic in Madrid.

Macià's declaration worried the Spanish Republican government and on April 17th, the ministrs Fernando de los Ríos, Marcel·lí Domingo, and Lluís Nicolau d'Olwer arrived in Barcelona to negotiate with Macià.

After tense conversations, Macià agreed to withdraw the proclamation of the republic in return for the restoration of the Generalitat of Catalonia, which had been abolished by Felipe V over 200 years earlier in 1714.

The provisional Catalan government drew up a Statute of Autonomy, known as the Estatut de Núria, which defined Catalonia as an autonomous state within the Spanish Republic, and was after a massive vote in favour in a referendum in Catalonia, was finally approved by the Spanish Parliament on September 15th 1932.

In the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia of November 20th 1932, Francesc Macià was reélected and became the 122nd President of the Generalitat of Catalonia on December 14th 1932 until his untimely death a little over a year later on Christmas Day 1933.

His death was mourned by massive crowds in Barcelona. The remains of one of Catalonia's greatest leaders lie in the cemetery of Monjuïc and there is a monument in his honour in Plaça de Catalunya.

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