Spanish Guinea

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Spanish Territories of the Gulf of Guinea
Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea
Spanish colony



Flag Coat of arms
Location of Spanish Guinea in central Africa.
Capital Santa Isabel (now Malabo)
Languages Spanish
Political structure Colony
 -  1962–1963 (last) Francisco Núñez Rodríguez
High Commissioner
 -  1963–1964 (first) Francisco Núñez Rodríguez
 -  1966–1968 (last) Víctor Suances Díaz del Río
 -  Established 11 March 1778
 -  Independence 12 October 1968
Currency Spanish Guinea peseta
Coat of arms of the Spanish Río Muni colony.

Spanish Guinea (Spanish: Guinea Española) was a set of insular and continental territories controlled by Spain since 1778 in the Gulf of Guinea and on the Bight of Bonny, in Central Africa. It became the independent nation of Equatorial Guinea in 1968.


18th—19th centuries[edit]

The Spanish colony in the Guinea region was established in 1778, by the Treaty of El Pardo between the Spanish Empire and the Kingdom of Portugal. Between 1778 and 1810, the territory of Equatorial Guinea was administered by the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, based in Buenos Aires.

From 1827 to 1843, the United Kingdom had a base on Bioko to combat the slave trade,[1] which was then moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, it became known as the "Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea".

20th century[edit]

Spain had neglected to occupy the large area in the Bight of Biafra to which it had treaty rights, and the French had been expanding their occupation at the expense of the area claimed by Spain. The treaty of Paris in 1900 left Spain with the continental enclave of Rio Muni, a mere 26,000 km2 out of the 300,000 stretching east to the Ubangi river which the Spaniards had claimed .[2]

Colony of Spanish Guinea[edit]

Between 1926 and 1959 Bioko and Rio Muni were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. The economy was based on large cacao and coffee plantations and logging concessions and the workforce was mostly immigrant contract labour from Liberia, Nigeria, and Cameroun.[3] Military campaigns were mounted to subdue the Fang people in the 1920s, at the time that Liberia was beginning to cut back on recruitment. There were garrisons of the colonial guard throughout the enclave by 1926, and the whole colony was considered 'pacified' by 1929.[4]

However, Rio Muni had a small population, officially put at a little over 100,000 in the 1930s, and escape over the borders into Cameroun or Gabon was very easy. Moreover, the timber companies needed growing amounts of labour, and the spread of coffee cultivation offered an alternative means of paying taxes. Fernando Po thus continued to suffer from labour shortages. The French only briefly permitted recruitment in Cameroun, and the main source of labour came to be Igbo smuggled in canoes from Calabar, Nigeria. The British made this current of labour migration legal in 1942. It was this agreement which really permitted Fernando Po to become one of Africa's most productive agricultural areas after the Second World War.[2]


The post-war political history of the colony can be divided into three fairly distinct phases:

  1. 1946 to 1959: when its status was raised from a 'colony' to a 'province', following the approach of the Portuguese Empire;
  2. 1960 to 1968: when Spain attempted a partial decolonization to keep the province within the Spanish territorial system, which failed.
  3. October 1968 onwards: after the province became the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Independence was conceded by Spain on 12 October 1968, and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea came into being with Francisco Macías Nguema elected as president.[5]

Agricultural economy[edit]

Towards the end of the 19th century Spanish, Portuguese, German and Fernandino planters started developing large cacao plantations.[6] With the indigenous Bubi population decimated by disease and forced labour, the island’s economy came to depend on imported agricultural contract workers.

A Labour Treaty was signed with the Republic of Liberia in 1914, the transport of up to 15,000 workers was orchestrated by the German Woermann-Linie.[7] The Liberian labour supply was cut off in 1930 after an International Labour Organization (ILO) commission discovered that contract workers had ‘‘been recruited under conditions of criminal compulsion scarcely distinguishable from slave raiding and slave trading’’.[8] The persisting labour shortage in the cacao, coffee and logging industries was only overcome by the mushrooming illegal canoe-based smuggling of Igbo and Ibibio workers from the Eastern Provinces of Nigeria. The number of clandestine contract workers on the island of Fernando Po grew to 20,000 in 1942.[3] A labour treaty was signed in the same year, and a continuous stream of workers arrived in Spanish Guinea, so that by 1968 there were almost 100,000 Nigerians in Spanish Guinea.[9]

Colonial demographics[edit]

The population of the Colony of Spanish Guinea was stratified as:[10]

  1. PeninsularesWhite Spanish population, whose immigration was regulated by the Spanish government.
  2. EmancipadosBlack African population, assimilated into the Peninsulares' culture via Spanish Christian educations. Some of them descended from freed Cuban slaves, repatriated to Africa by the Spanish Royal Orders of 13 September 1845 (voluntary), and of 20 June 1861 (deported). This group included "mestizos" and "mulattoes," descendents acknowledged by a white Peninsular father.[11]
  3. FernandinosCreole peoples, multi-ethnic or multi-race populations of Spanish Guinea.
  4. "Individuals of colour" under patronage — included the majority of the indigenous Black African people, and the parentally unacknowleged "mestizos−mulattoes" returning from the Americas. Of the different indigenous ethnic groups, most were Bubi and Bantu peoples. This group was not allowed to own property, and were available for forced labour.
  5. Others — primarily Nigerian, Cameroonian, Han Chinese, and Indian people.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fernando Po", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
  2. ^ a b William Gervase Clarence-Smith, 1986 "Spanish Equatorial Guinea, 1898-1940", in The Cambridge History of Africa: From 1905 to 1940 Ed. J. D. Fage, A. D. Roberts, & Roland Anthony Oliver. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press>[1]
  3. ^ a b Enrique Martino “Clandestine Recruitment Networks in the Bight of Biafra: Fernando Pó’s Answer to the Labour Question, 1926–1945.” International Review of Social History , 57, pp 39-72.
  4. ^ Nerín, Gustau. "La última selva de España: antropófagos, misioneros y guardias civiles. Crónica de la conquista de los Fang de la Guinea Española, 1914–1930. Catarata, 2010.
  5. ^ Campos, Alicia. "The decolonization of Equatorial Guinea: the relevance of the international factor." Journal of African history (2003): 95-116.
  6. ^ Clarence-Smith, William G. "African and European Cocoa Producers on Fernando Poo, 1880s to 1910s." Journal of African History 35 (1994): 179-179.
  7. ^ Sundiata, Ibrahim K. From slaving to neoslavery: the Bight of Biafra and Fernando Po in the era of abolition, 1827-1930. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1996.
  8. ^ "Slavery Conditions in Liberia", The Times 27 October 1930.
  9. ^ Pélissier, René. Los Territorios Espanoles De Africa. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964.
  10. ^ Anuario del Instituto Cervantes (2005). Panorama de la literatura en español en Guinea Ecuatorial, Justo Bolekia Boleká, Introducción histórica
  11. ^ Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, Serie V, Hª Contemporánea, t. 11, 1998, págs. 113-138, Penología e indigenismo en la antigua Guinea española, Pedro María Belmonte Medina

Coordinates: 1°35′N 10°21′E / 1.583°N 10.350°E / 1.583; 10.350