National Geographic : 1966 Jul
"Pescado-fish," cries a vendor in the town of Gibraltar. Except for some fish and fresh produce, Spain in 1964 barred all exports to the peninsula. Gibraltarians have turned increasingly to North African suppliers. bueno," a good day. Disagreement has be come a conditioned reflex on the frontier. Finally, four inspectors attacked the car with tools. One dismantled the trunk; another probed under the hood with a screwdriver; the third prodded the upholstery; the fourth inserted a length of wire into every crevice. Most of the morning had slipped away when they finally waved me on. But I was lucky: Some motorists have spent as long 106 as two days struggling through customs. On the return trip it was the same story. Such troubles are nothing new to the mas sive 1,398-foot-high limestone boulder that juts from the southern tip of Europe. In its long history, this natural fortress-the key to naval control of the Mediterranean-has faced 15 separate sieges. The Rock's most re cent occupants, the British, have survived three of them, all at the hands of Spain. "And we will survive this one as well," an officer of the Royal Navy informed me matter of-factly. Continents Once Met at Gibraltar The ancients knew Gibraltar and its Afri can counterpart across the strait as the Pillars of Hercules, limits of the familiar world. Lime stone strata of the two areas bear striking similarities, indicating that in some distant epoch Europe joined Africa here (pages 108-9). The Phoenicians, sailing the Mediterrane an, left their artifacts here 1,100 years before Christ, and Roman geographers knew the Rock as Mons Calpe. But Gibraltar did not gain strategic importance until the Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.* Sweeping across the strait from Barbary, a Moslem host under Tariq ibn-Ziyd landed at Gibraltar in A.D. 711 and went on to over whelm the Visigothic rulers of Spain. Im mediately recognizing the importance of the Rock, Tariq built a castle on its slopes. His troops christened the place Jabal Tariq Mountain of Tariq-which the centuries have slurred into Gibraltar. Save for a short interruption, the Moors occupied the Rock until Spanish armies cap tured it in 1462. Then in July, 1704, Sir George Rooke, commanding a fleet of British and Dutch ships, seized Gibraltar, which even tually came under exclusive British control. After sacking the city, Rooke's forces permit ted the 6,000 Spanish residents to depart or remain as they chose. Fewer than 100 elected to stay. The rest crossed the isthmus and set tled at San Roque. The Spanish Government still regards the population of this town as "in habitants of Gibraltar residing at San Roque." The resulting human vacuum filled slowly through 21/2 centuries of British rule. Soldiers took Spanish wives and settled on the Rock. Sephardic Jews, their ancestors expelled from Spain by the Inquisition in 1492, drifted back from Morocco. Genoese traders, Portuguese mariners, and Hindu merchants gravitated *Bart McDowell wrote of "The Changing Face of Old Spain" in the March, 1965, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.