Perhaps there is some irony that is in St Ignatius's home country that establishment of the Society of Jesus has experienced one of its most unstable histories. Even entering the 20th Century the Jesuits in Spain were not able to shake off the damaging stereotypes that had been created by their enemies in the years of Suppression and Exile. Numbering about 3200 men in three provinces by the outbreak of WW1- -their 'black legend' proved to be more resilient and troublesome than in other provinces. In Spain it was being constantly updated to portray them as steamship owners who were exploiting great wealth from their Moroccan mines. Untrue but curiously resistant and toxic to Spanish ears.
Spain had become highly fragmented and polarized. Generations had lurked from reactionary monarchy to brutal republican revolution. When King Alfonso XIII forced Primo de Rivera to resign in January 1930, the king hoped to stabilise politics under a constitutional monarchy. However even among socially and economically conservative voters, less were now in favour a monarchical form of government. Those that were only preferred the monarchy to the republic because of Spain’s bad experience during the short-lived First Republic (1873-1874), but they were not passionately committed to the defence of the monarchy for its own sake. Otherwise the political landscape was made up of socialist republicans, or anarchists with a very small minority of Communists.
The elections held in April 1931 for town councils, but were viewed them as a referendum on monarchy versus republic. Early results, mostly from the larger cities, showed a majority of republican votes. King Alfonso XIII was disheartened and left the country on April 14, 1931, and a republic was proclaimed. Significant numbers of Catholics, especially in the larger cities, had voted for republican candidates, and many others were willing to give the new regime a chance. One of the provisional government’s first measures was a declaration of religious freedom and the separation of Church and State. It assured Catholics that no religion would be persecuted however few welcomed the disestablishment of the Church, nevertheless the initial reaction of ordinary Catholics, and that of the Catholic hierarchy, was restrained. The majority accepted the new regime, perhaps with misgivings but without overt hostility. The situation changed dramatically on May 10, 1931, as a result of the “Burning of Convents” link . The Jesuits were one of the first groups to suffer.