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Felipe González Márquez: 1942—: Spanish Prime Minister - Found Socialism During College

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalFelipe González Márquez: 1942—: Spanish Prime Minister Biography - Found Socialism During College, Garnered Support For The Psoe, Change And Victory For The Psoe

Found Socialism During College

González was born on March 5, 1942, in Seville, the largest city in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia. His parents, Felipe González Helguera and Juana Márquez, owned a small dairy. The family made a relatively respectable living, but Spain in the 1940s was a difficult place to live. In the mid-1930s the country was split by a bloody civil war that left a military dictatorship in charge, with Generalissimo Francisco Franco as its head. Spain did not participate in World War II, but Franco's regime eliminated many civil liberties for Spaniards. All political parties were banned, as were all trade unions except those sanctioned by the state. There was no free flow of information, and those who opposed Franco risked detention in prison labor camps. Many of those prisoners were eventually executed.

One of Franco's labor camps was near the González family farm, and young González and his family heard tales of repression from former prisoners who had served out their sentences. This experience, combined with a strong sense of values instilled in González by his parents (particularly his mother, whom he once described as a "driving force" in the family), set the stage for his later political activity. González attended local schools run by the Claretian order of priests. He was not an inspired student and he studied little, yet he displayed a strong sense of purpose and drive for things that interested him, such as middle- and long-distance running which he took up despite childhood asthma. This drive, along with encouragement from his parents, propelled González through high school and into college; the only one of the four González children to attend.

It was during his college years that González became interested in politics—in particular, socialism. Although socialism was officially banned in Spain, college campuses throughout Europe were being exposed to a variety of political ideas, some of them radically different then the ruling government. Even the campuses of politically repressive Spain were not immune to the flow of ideas. In 1962 González joined the Socialist Youth movement, which was then an illegal underground movement. Through Socialist Youth he met Alfonso Guerra, a like-minded student who became his close friend (and who would later become his deputy prime minister). In 1964 González joined the Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), another illegal group. After graduating from the University of Seville in 1966 with a degree in law, González won a scholarship to the Belgium Catholic University where he continued his studies for two years. While at college in Belgium, González was able to gain access to books and other information that was banned in Spain. The experiences of his college years helped inform his political beliefs, and they furthered his resolve to help change his government.

At a Glance . . .

Born on March 5, 1942, in Seville, Spain; married Maria Carmen Romero, 1969; children: Pablo, David, Maria. Education: University of Seville; BA, 1966; Belgian Catholic University, 1966-67.

Career: Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), executive commission member, 1970-74, party leader, 1974-97; Spanish prime minister, 1982-96.

Awards: Charlemagne Prize, 1993; Great Golden Cross for Merit, Republic of Austria, 1997.

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