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Gonzalo Arias: The Man who Jumped the Frontier Gate During the Closure

Martín Serrano

[GALLERY] Gonzalo Arias: The man who jumped over the Gibraltar-Spain frontier fence and led the struggle for human rights

It had become common since that fateful August 8, 1969, when the Franco regime decreed the closure of the frontier to Gibraltar, for an eleven-year-old boy to accompany his parents to exchange a few words with the Gibraltarian side of the family and take photos of them – from a distance.

Gonzalo Arias
Gonzalo Arias ‘The Man who Jumped the Frontier Fence’

One among the tens of divided families that, on a given day at a fixed time, would head to the frontier to play in the wind and dodge the inhumane prohibitions that weighed heavily on the area; part of a policy of intentional harassment and destabilization of the Gibraltarian people that, history shows, failed miserably.

It was here that the well-known, non-violent activist and renowned pacifist, Gonzalo Arias, arrived in 1973. From then until 1981, he climbed over the frontier fence from Gibraltar to La Línea several times.

Gonzalo Arias Jumped Gibraltar-Spain Frontier Fence Franco Closure

Gonzalo Arias and his wife Hilde also staged a twenty-day hunger strike in protest at what he considered to be a flagrant assault on the human rights of Gibraltarians, but also of those Spaniards, who were cut off from their families by a cruel cloud of separation. He collected signatures demanding the reopening of the frontier and free passage through it.

As a pacifist, Gonzalo Arias did what no one else had the guts to do. Even so, after one of his jumps, the eleven-year-old boy who was by now journalist wrote a stinging article berating the pacifist for the public disorder caused by his actions when it coincided with the La Línea Fair.

In time however, justice was served and Gonzalo Arias, his wife and their six children moved to El Zabal to build their new home, ‘Casatuya’ (Yourhouse), and to open his heart, his ideas and his sense of integrity to a large number of people who ended up forming sincere friendships with him; among them the young journalist, yours truly..

With the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the frontier, many have been the occasions on which this singular man has been mentioned; the man who jumped over the gates of infamy and intolerance using non-violence and an exquisite education.

Gonzalo Arias

Gonzalo Arias remained in La Linea until 1997, when he decided to move to Cortes de la Frontera, where he died of anaemia on January 11, 2008.

His works include:

  • ‘Those on the Posters’, 1963
  • ‘Non Violence: Temptation or Challenge’, 1973
  • ‘Gibraltarians and Gibraltarhaters’ ,1975
  • ‘The Non-violence political project’ (various authors) 1973
  • ‘Operation Anti-frontier’,1979
  • ‘The anti-coup (a hand book for a non-violent response to a coup d’etat), 1982
  • ‘Gibraltarhatred and other non-violent tales’, 1984
  • ‘Tomorrow’s bloodless army (on a new defence model)’
  • ‘The branching out of history’, 2007

Gonzalo Arias: The man who jumped over the Gibraltar-Spain frontier fence and led the struggle for human rights

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