Spanish Territories in the Gulf of Guinea
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 Pó, 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
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
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
Guinea in Wikipedia.
of Spain between 1945 and 1977 in Flags
of the World.
printer: Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre de España (FNMT),
1 4 PTAS. two natives in
a cayuko (canoe), text "U.P.U. 1874-1949"
(cat. Michel 240/SG 329/Yvert )
last revised: 7 October 2008