Friday, November 27

When America invaded Doana … and paid for it

Sunday, 22 November 2020 – 08:29

Some military maneuvers in January 1960 went out of control and caused serious damage in 33 hectares of the preserve that the American army had to compensate

Marine landing in Mazag

Marine landing in Mazagn in Operation ‘Steel Spear’ in 1964.

In January 1960, when Doana was a hunting ground owned by Jerez winemakers and the national park was not even seen, an incident occurred that was never reported in the newspapers. Normal, if we take into account that it was carried out by the United States Army, installed a few years before in the base of Rota. It was a invasion in full command of the preserve by the marines, during maneuvers that went hand in hand. The event ended with the winemakers’ demand for compensation for damage to flora and soil. And they got it. They weren’t wrinkled families.

Perhaps it is the first case of ‘who pollutes, pays’, or better of who destroys, restores, in the still almost blank history of Spanish environmentalism in 1960. Not in vain in those years the lagoons were drained by unhealthy -as It happened to the Janda-, and they paid from 10 to 15 pesetas to those who killed lynx, eagles or foxes; that is to say, alimaas.

According to the report to accompany the payment demand drawn up by the family Gonzlez Gordon -one of the four owners of Doana at the time, and owner of the Gonzlez Byass winery-, the events occurred at the end of January 1960 due to “maneuvers by the American Fleet on the coasts of the province of Huelva according to the Spanish Government “. It was, in particular, the third battalion of the eighth marine regiment.

In Cao Guerrero -now part of the tourist development of Matalascaas (Almonte) – “some ships were established, from which motorized units supported by airplanes and helicopters disembarked” that launched units that occupied the heights of the dunes. “They landed tanks and jeeps that quickly drew some tracks in the bush, and went about 6 kilometers deep” into Doana.

American tanks crossing the pine forests of the Coto de Do
American tanks crossing the pine forests of the Doana preserve.

For three days the Marines were in the preserve, and “the tanks crossed the area in every way.” There was no human or material damage, but to the flora. The Gonzalez Gordons detail to the US that they were obliged to plant pine and eucalyptus by the state since 1942, on the state idea that Doana was nothing more than an unproductive wasteland.

For this work, they paid wages to plow the soil with teams of animals, uprooting the original vegetation and planting pions. The task is not simple. “He takes care to eliminate birds and rabbits until the pine is one year old with a nursery, traps, rockets and other means.” The following year it is replanted and scrub is removed; at six years of age they could. The same with the junipers, although it is “much more difficult.”

During the three days the marines drew many tracks, including three main ones, one 6 kilometers long and five meters wide from Cao Guerrero to the house in Las Mohedas. The complaint report details the layout of these routes and the type of vegetation affected. In summary, 33 hectreas damaged by military maneuvers.

But when it comes to trees, the numbers are more resounding. 36,000 pines and 7,000 junipers – highly valued for their branches to make fence posts -, almost all of them small, as they are the fruit of the plantation. In total, the Gonzlez claimed 304.000 pesetas, when counting 4.5 pesetas for pine and 20 for juniper.

In August of that year, the Foreign Claims Commission, located at the Torrejn de Ardoz base, communicated to the Coto Palacio de Doana company that it would pay 209,000 pesetas “as compensation and final settlement of their claim against the United States.”

A cami
An American army truck disembarks from an amphibious vehicle.

In October 1964 there were other landing maneuvers on the Huelva beach of Mazagn, the Operation Steel Spear, which mobilized a whopping 29,000 marines, 2,000 vehicles and 100 ships and submarines. Nothing like it had been seen since the Korean War.

The invasion that did succeed

The fact is that an invasion from Rota did stay, triumphant, in Doana. The hand of man always finds an opportunity to alter nature. Today it can be seen through the dunes of the park, the area of ​​Marismas del Odiel, and the coast of Rota the presence of a exotic plant and invasive that even changes the shapes of the dunes, which go from elongated codons to low mounds.

Is called Oenothera drummondii, and everything suggests that it came with the supplies transported to build the base from the US, where it is native in the Gulf of Mexico, since it appeared in Rota and in 1953.

According to the criteria of

The Trust Project

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