After the death of Franco in 1975, Juan Carlos – son of Alfonso XII – then in exile – became the new King of Spain. A new democracy was brewing until the 1978 Constitution, turning Spain into a constitutional monarchy.
Over the course of late 1970s the issue of autonomy was strongly pushed by Catalunia and the Basque Country. The 1978 Constitution recognised those two as prime autonomies and 17 other regions as a lesser autonomy, with much smaller powers. At some point there was talk of annexing Valencia to autonomous Catalunia, due to extensive cultural ties. This sparked massive civil unrest in Valencia in 1979, with strong disturbances by the Valencianist movements. As a result, a new article of the Constitution was created specifically for Valencia, making it an “in-between” autonomy – that is with more independence than the 17 lesser autonomies, but with less powers than Catalunia and the Basque Country. Thus Valencia once again became autonomous Comunidad Valenciana, for the first time since the beginning of the XVIII century. The first elections into the government of the Comunidad took place in 1983.
In 1981 Valencia had tanks on the streets, in a failed attempt at a coup d’etat. Milans del Bosch, the then military chief of this third of Spain happened to have Valencia as his base. As he orchestrated the infamous hold-up of the parliament on 23 February 1981, he simultaneously mobilised the armed forces to take the crossroads of Valencia and declare martial law. However, the coup had so little public support (nor that of the rest of the military) that not many even got worried. The coup caved in when the King addressed the nation in the evening and called for the restoration of democracy. It is important to note that Valencia as a location of the military mobilisation was a mere coincidence – this is simply where del Bosch happened to have been appointed and these were the forces at his disposal. It had nothing to do with the local political climate or leniences of the Valencians, and the whole city was simply perplexed on their way to the supermarket and the office.
Over the course of 1980s Valencia was under a largely left-wing government, until in 1991 it swang to favour the right. The conservative government has been in power ever since, to the present day.
Valencia has entered the 3rd Millenium with full colours, having undergone another explosive thrust of modernisation, truly turning it into a vibrant and dynamic XXI century European city over the last 10-15 years. Many locals will say that 10 years ago you wouldn’t have recognised Valencia. The economy has been steadily rising, mainly due to an expansion in services and infranstructure, commercial tourism (Valencia is one of the main European locations for trade fairs and conferences, plus it has an economically very dynamic coast) and a big bang in construction which has created a massive property market and attracted much investment. This construction craze (still very far from the end) has also expanded Valencia territorially – the city has grown much and the population has now reached 1 million. Although the agriculture in the countryside is still strong, Valencia of XXI century is less about that or the industry, and more a major serrvice provider and a facilitator of international commerce (not to forget that Valencia has the second largest commercial port in Europe). In addition, Valencia has shown a spectacular performance as a tourist destination, with 10 years unbroken growth. Valencia of today has got quite wealthy and puts a lot of that money into further improvement of public services, cultural events and projects (more and more international), and a face-lift to the historical parts of the city, as well as spectacular new projects, such as City of Arts and Sciences. This is all reminicent of the end of the XV century Valencia – the Golden Age. Yet through all this cyber-age development, Valencia has not simply painted over its past – it conserved all its traditions intact, and its cultural identity is still present everywhere. This is why they call it the city of contrast – you see XXIII century projects side by side with a still very lively and cared for XIII century church. Valencia is truly marching into the future while remembering its past, and it gives this city unbeatable charm as a mutli-purpose tourist destination for all tastes and fancies.
- accountant in Valencia,