Cartas Españolas: Franco's "Nazi" Time Change

Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid, October 2017

Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid, October 2017

It's that time of year where things start to get dark and dreary, and hibernation doesn't seem like such a bad deal, really. For many of us, these feelings are due in large part to Daylight Savings Time's dreaded, "Fall Back," a day that hit this Sunday for most of you.

Interestingly, that day hit last Sunday for me over here in Spain, so I've actually been living an hour earlier than the rest of you for almost a week!

More intriguing however, is a nerdy time fact that I learned a couple of weeks ago. Unlike it's neighbors Portugal and contrary to its orientation about the Prime Meridian, Spain is actually one hour ahead of the rest of the region, aligning with most of Eastern Europe and giving it much later sunsets than anywhere else in Southern Europe. But why?

Well, that answer is actually rooted in recent history. You see, Spain's former dictator Francisco Franco seized control of the country after the Guerra Civil due in large part to the help of friend and rising world power Adolf Hitler. Actually, it was Hitler that helped Franco pull of the aerial bombing at Guernica that is depicted in Picasso's, "La Guernica." The massacre was a training ground for Hitler's aerial bombing squadrons ahead of another, more well-known, global conflict a couple of years out.

So, needless to say, the two were buds, and as buds do, Franco decided to give his guy Hitler some props. As a show of his respect for the German dictator, Franco decided to switch the clocks to match those in Nazi Germany, a move that has persisted into the present day.

Many attribute this change to forming current Spanish culture. For one, Spaniards are creatures of the night, not eating dinner until 10 p.m. or later on most nights. Theoretically, this could be because the late sunsets don't happen until around that time. Also, some argue that Spain's long workday is another direct effect of the time change, with days starting around 8 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. (with a hefty 2 hour lunch break in between, of course). Then of course, there is the issue that Spain's stock market opens and closes earlier than most of its European colleagues, probably not the best look for a country that has yet to truly rebound from its 2008 economic crisis.

There have been rumors that Spain hopes to abolish the Franco-era time change, but so far nothing official is in the books. Until then, we'll just have to enjoy our sunsets a little later and try to forget that we can thank Hitler for that late puesta del sol.