Spanish Territories in the Gulf of Guinea


Map of Spanish Territories in the Gulf of GuineaFlag of Spain between 1945 and 1977






















The first inhabitants of the region that was formerly Spanish Guinea and is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who emigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Río Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. It is said the Igbo of Nigeria (mostly Aro) slave traders arrived and founded very few tiny settlements in Bioko and Rio Muni which expanded the Aro Confederacy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via São Tomé.


The Portuguese explorer, Fernão do , seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("beautiful [isle]", a name later applied to Taiwan), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer, albeit spelt "Fernando Poo". The islands of Fernando Poo and Annobón were colonized by the Portuguese in 1474. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogooué Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of El Pardo).


From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The mainland portion, Río Muni, became a protectorate on 9 January 1885 and a colony in 1900. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled in 1900 by the Treaty of Paris, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule. Between 1926 and 1959 they were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. During the First World War, German troops retreated into this territory from German Cameroon because Spain was neutral during the war.


Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of the twentieth century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as labourers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa (USD 332). The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities. However at the time of independence, the number of native doctors and lawyers was in the single digits.


In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with the same status as the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, it was ruled by a governor general exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Cortes Generales (Spanish parliament). Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. A paradoxical effect of this autonomy was that Guineans could choose among several political parties while metropolitan Spaniards were under a single party regime. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.


In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on 11 August 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favour of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.



Capital:                      Santa Isabel

Government:              Spanish colony

Area:                         26.659 km²

Population:                 170.000 (1949)

Currency:                   Peseta (100 centimos)






Spanish Guinea in Wikipedia.

Flag of Spain between 1945 and 1977 in Flags of the World.




Stamp catalogue


UPU 75th anniversary

date:                  10 October 1949

designer:            -

printer:               Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre de España (FNMT), Madrid, Spain

perforated:         12¾:13


1     4 PTAS.        two natives in a cayuko (canoe), text "U.P.U. 1874-1949"


                          (cat. Michel 240/SG 329/Yvert )


Spanish Territories in the Gulf of Guinea - stamp as described above









Up - Home



last revised: 7 October 2008