Bernardo de Galvez, an American hero from Malaga

cathedral malaga

April 30th 1789. George Washington was being invested as the first president of the USA. He was accompanied by someone very important to him. This man was the ambassador of Spain, who was standing on his left side at the ceremony. That very same day, the only foreign vessel docked at the New York port was the Spanish ship called Galveztown. This fact represented a proof of gratitude to the owner of that ship, Bernardo de Galvez.

Sometimes history is not fair with people who contributed to make it, and Bernardo de Galvez was one of them. But this injustice may be solve really soon. A big portrait of him is going to be hung on the senate´s walls at the USA. But who was this guy to get such an honor?

bernardo de galvez
Bernardo Gálvez´s portrait

Let´s go back to 1776. Bernardo, a young colonel from a small coastal town of Malaga, Macharaviaya, was named governor of Luisiana. He lived in its capital, New Orleans, where he arrived in January 1777. The thirteen British colonies had already stirred up to the British Empire. Luisiana helped these colonies providing them with food, medicines, arms, uniforms, etc. But not only this. When finally Spain and France went to war with Great Britain, Bernardo managed to conquer some British cities along the Mississippi with a small contingent.

The decisive point in his military life and an inflexion point in the Independence War was when he entered Pensacola Bay with his fleet. The flagship run aground at the entrance of the bay and refused to enter again. Attacking the British forts at the Bay was decisive, so Bernardo had it clear; he would go on with his ship, the Galveztown, even if he had to do it alone.

The result was unexpected. British troops would surrender and Gálvez got the honor to be made count by the King of Spain, and have his own coat-of-arms, in which it says “Yo solo” which means “Me alone”, reminding how he entered the Pensacola Bay on his own and won the battle. If you would like to know more about this story, watch it here.

statue bernardo de galvez
Statue of Bernardo de Gálvez, Spanish Plaza, Mobile, Alabama

Not only the King of Spain acknowledged Bernardo´s efforts. The Congress of the United States of America approved to hang a portrait of this hero on its walls. This was back in 1783.

That promise made more than two centuries ago, it is going to be completed nowadays. At the beginning of December, 2014, Bernardo de Gálvez has been named honorable citizen of the USA, recognition only given to 7 more people, among them, Lafayette, Winston Churchill or Mother Theresa of Calcutta. A few days later, his portrait finally is hanging from the Senate walls in Washington. So we could say a poetic justice has been finally made to Bernardo.

Bernardo couldn´t be at George Washington’s investiture. He died from a disease not long before it. He is actually buried in Mexico City, where he lately was paid homage. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, at his hometown in Málaga, they celebrate each 4th of July as a traditional festive day because of Galvez and his great feat.

plaque málaga usa
Commemorative plaque at the Cathedral of Malaga about the help of the city to the USA

But not only this fact relates Malaga to the founding of the United States of America. Our unfinished south tower from the Cathedral has a good story about it, which we explain at the end of our “Le Grand Tour”.

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