Fascist Longbow Archery in Spain: Campeonatos Nacionales de Tiro con Arco 1951

Visiting a Spanish tapas restaurant in Stockholm, I notised a poster on the wall, advertising the National archery championship in Spain 1951. Two things interested me, being both an archer and a scholar studying international fascism.

  • First, the bow depicted on the poster is an English longbow, seemingly a self-yew bow, held and angled in the classical way, used by medieval English archers, even though the poster shows that the target is an archery butt at a relatively close distance.
  • Second, the organiser of the competition was the sports section of the Spanish fascist party, the F.E.T. y de las J.O.N.S., thus indicating that the tournament was a political manifestation of Spanish fascism. The awkward abbreviation stands for the even more cumbersome party name ”Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista”.

Usually called ”the Phalanx”, Spanish fascism was a national-syndicalist movement, originally lead by the flamboyant ”el senorito” José Antonio Primo de Rivera, who was killed in 1936 during the Spanish civil war. The party symbol was in fact five arrows, indicating a connection between Spanish fascism and archery. The story behind this stretches back to the Reconquista, starting in 1492.

In Spanish heraldic tradition the five arrows (flechas) and the yoke were elements which were often joined by leaves and the pomegranate, as well as the motto Tanto monta, monta tanto (”equal opposites in balance”), the personal motto and prenuptial agreement of the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. With the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, the bundle of arrows meant the union of Castile and Aragon to create Spain. One of the elements included in this heraldry was a yoke, symbolising imperial monarchy holding Spain together.

In the 1930’s the five arrows and the yoke was adopted by the Spanish fascists of the Phalanx, who took the emblem as their party symbol. The number of arrows in the symbol had varied before fascism. The Phalanx decided upon five arrows since they represented the five kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Granada and Navarre.

Fascist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera with National-Syndicalist banner of the Phalanx.

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