Monday, January 30, 2012

Guns of Spain

Museum of the Civil Guard / Museo de la Guardia Civil
01/30/12 - Calle Guzmán el Bueno, 110

This obscure but diverting museum nestles within the headquarters of Spain's military-status police force. Be prepared to show a passport at the entrance. Once inside the compound's courtyard, you'll walk past a construction site, as well as live examples of military brass, to the museum entrance. Upstairs, hundreds of guns fill the first room of the collection (Sala de Armas): old revolvers, pistols, carbines, rocket-launchers, guns in the form of pens, pearl-handled guns, stiletto-guns, guns confiscated from terrorist groups, and tiny guns from the 1950s that might hide in a satin evening clutch. Not to mention hand grenades, machetes, swords and wavy-bladed daggers.  Looking ahead, the final room has a bicycle from 1914, built to suspend a German Mauser along its frame.

The Civil Guard was created in 1844 to protect travelers from bandits along Spain's wild mountain passes, especially in the southern parts of the country. 


Goya, "Assault of a Coach," 1786-87
The Civil Guard also broke up demonstrations, monitored poaching, and patrolled the borders and the coast. Its role grew in modern times to include foreign peace-keeping missions, anti-terrorism, intelligence, and many other duties. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Guard split its loyalties down the middle, when almost half supported the rebel forces under general Francisco Franco.

The tricorne hat of the Spanish Civil Guard

The second room presents the history of Civil Guard uniforms, with the help of life-size mannequins. 

Early uniforms.  The striped version was worn in Africa.

Finally, the third room contains miscellaneous objects.  Lining the walls, dozens of miniature dioramas dramatize historical scenes from the lives and deaths--in the line of duty--of the Civil Guard in Spain and the Spanish colonies.  An engraved brass plate describes each scene. For example: a group of Guards in "Equatorial Guinea" (Cameroon) encounters a huge snake; two officers are killed and mutilated in 19th c. Granada by a family of criminals; four officers are killed in Castilblanco when they try to break up an illegal demonstration (31 December 1931); officers are killed by E.T.A. terrorists at a traffic stop (7 June 1968).  The displays are meticulously crafted, down to the smallest fallen branch or piece of broken chair.  In this museum, amidst the weaponry and violence, children will have a field day.

Hours: M-F, 9:00 - 14:00.  Metro: Guzman el Bueno.





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