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Sombras de Mayo

Christian Demange
Pierre Géal
Richard Hocquellet
et al.



Texte intégral

Juan López Tabar

The flourish of the pen. Afrancesado writers (1814-1850)

It is only recently that inroads have begun to be made in our ignorance of the careers and works of the Josefinos after the War of Independence. This article seeks to demonstrate the wealth of output that the former afrancesados left behind in manifold fields, and in this way draw attention yet again to the suppressed importance of their labours in these years of transition from the Old to the New Regime.


Gonzalo Butrón Prida

The myth of popular mobilisation. From enthusiasm to indifference in cadiz in the final years of the ancien regime

Like other episodes in the War of Independence, Cadiz’s resistance to Napoleon’s siege rapidly acquired mythical status. Political literature swiftly turned Cadiz into a bastion of freedom and independence, presenting the people of Cadiz as models of patriotic fervour —as people who put all their human and financial resources into the fight against foreign domination. In 1823, a scant ten years after that legendary demonstration of valour and heroism, new attempts to mobilise the people of Cadiz, by both liberals and absolutists, fell flat. A central or a subsidiary part of the discourse and the propaganda on both sides appealed to the memory of the War of Independence. The liberals sought to revive the watchwords which prompted the resistance to French domination; the absolutists sought to mobilise the protagonists of the war by calling on the members of the various corps of Distinguished Volunteers who held out in Cadiz during the war. However, these new appeals failed to repeat the successes of the past. This article attempts to explain the particular conditions that prompted the people of Cadiz to fight in 1808 as a means to understanding better the response in 1823.


Richard Hocquellet

A complex experience. The «War of independence» seen through the careers of some of its protagonists

The War of Independence was an event that left its mark on all those who lived through it. It marked a break, but of different kinds depending on the past of the individual and the kinds of experiences that it put them through. From the accounts that these people gave of their experiences on the occasion of nominations for decorations, pensions or candidatures to the magistracy, it is possible to isolate the way in which they perceived the event, what they retained of their experience, and finally the view that they built up of what happened. This series of studies deals with the memory of the War of Independence that was constructed by those who lived through it. The realities of the situation from within which they tell their tales interact with what has survived of their experience, which no longer matches exactly what they recall. And finally, the expectations of the deciders who will read the presentation of their candidature or their petition also to some extent mould the way in which they present their experience of the event; hence, as the years intervening between event and account lengthen, we find a discourse emerging which is ever more stereotyped and whose statement, like so many other «memory boxes », seems to be tailored to fit the objectives pursued by the author.


Antonio Moliner Prada

Juntaism in the first half of the 19th century as an instrument of political socialisation

The juntero movement of 1808, which emerged in response to the power vacuum produced by the political crisis following the French invasion, served as a model and was used in every one of the succession of political crises that marked the 19th century. In the collective imagery imposed by liberalism, the juntero movement symbolises the synthesis of the Spanish revolution and is therefore seen as a basic instrument of political and social change in nineteenth-century Spain. The Juntas undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the socialising of political culture among the middle and lower classes, and to the configuration of the first political parties. For their part, Spanish federal republicans always viewed the juntero movement as an expression of federalism and the formation of a Central Junta as its most compelling image.


Lluís Ferran Toledano González and Maria Gemma Rubí i Casals

The Battles of el bruc and the construction of national political memories

This paper deals with the various accounts of the battles at El Bruc in June 1808, built up over the course of a century by the different political traditional in Catalonia. The article questions the existence of a single founding myth of the Spanish nation and looks more closely at the contradictions in the complex liberal/republican family, at the attempt by the Carlists to appropriate it, and at integrism. It goes on to discuss the supposed failure of government commemorative policy in Catalonia and the responsibility of the Lliga Regionalista in that failure. On the other hand, the centenary was a great popular success in the celebrations held in central Catalonia (Manresa, Igualada, El Bruc), where the Lliga and the Carlists were clearly the protagonists. By that time various different views of the past had taken shape and the memory of the French War was no longer necessarily synonymous with a single national identity.


Christian Demange

National construction as viewed through the celebrations commemorating the first centenary of the War of Independence

In the 1890s the workers’ question and the moral crisis triggered by the Cuban disaster prompted the development of a movement of renationalisation conceived as an antidote to the class struggle and as a necessary assertion of the unity of the Spanish nation. The first centenary of the War of Independence provided the State and the entire nation with an opportunity to conclude the nationalising process launched by the Cortes of Cádiz. Who would take on the task of relaunching it in the new context of peripheral nationalisms and of ever-sharpening social conflicts? Around what programmes and with what prospects? These are the questions that this paper attempts to answer, on the basis of the centenary celebrations held in Madrid, Zaragoza, Cádiz, Astorga, Medina de Rioseco and Pontevedra - Puente Sampayo, and on an analysis of the actors involved (State, Army, Church, local corporations and semi-private associations), as well as examining the different aspects that it presented (fragmentation in time and space, greater popular participation, superimposition of local and regional identities and linkage with national identity). Once mobilised, the people transcended the bounds of what Galdós styled «patriotismo oficinesco» and imposed a sense of nation as something self-evident, proposing new ideas and new ways of consolidating Spanish nationalism (enhancement of citizenship, economic progress, support for national feeling as an undercurrent of regional identity, etc.) of which the elites in power, divided and paralysed, would fail to take advantage.


Pierre Géal

Monuments to the Ward of Independence a hundred years on

Where and when were monuments erected to the heroes of the War of Independence? Who were the promoters of these commemorative sites? Were they generally accepted or were they controversial? By adopting a particular chronological approach and examining plans as well as actually completed projects, this article reveals that the commemorative urge was strongly present even at the time of the War of Independence; this undoubtedly has to do with patriotic propaganda needs, but at a deeper level it also has to do with the construction of a new image of the nation. The years 1833-1868 —probably in part because of the demise of many protagonists of the War during that time— saw a relatively high level of monumental activity. Monumental inaugurations multiplied on the occasions of the Restoration and the Centenary, but it will not do to overrate the phenomenon given the veritable «statue fever» which characterised the period. This approach also helps to appreciate the practically omnipresent linking-up of local with national sentiments, which generally worked through the exaltation of an outstanding hero —frequently with the implication of his /her descendants— or of an act of collective local heroism.


Ángel Duarte

An indomitable people. The War of Independence in the historical memory of Spanish republicanism

From the Sexenio democrático until the mid-19th century the memory of the Second of May in the War of Independence served as a time reference and as an paradigm of conduct for Spanish republicans. Because of the manifold manifestations of federal or unitary, popular or mesocratic democracy associated with it, the War of Independence became a milestone in the construction of a nation of citizens. What this article proposes is to articulate a number of ideas on the origins of the myth, how it worked and its limits. The geography of republican Spain and the models of conduct demanded of federales or progresistas, posibilistas or reformistas were fed by a highly-codified memory thanks to the press and to liberal and democratic national histories, which were passed on from generation to generation within the family or in loci of social inter-course. The value of the people or the municipality —the first as the guarantor and the second as the ultimate repository of national freedom— or the transition predicted by republican discourse from dynastism to patriotism, from loyalty to the Crown to the loyalty reserved for the nation in arms, are two of the principal features of a founding moment which good republicans felt bound to commemorate.


Javier Fernández Sebastián

Uprising, war and revoluton. Spanish liberalism: the importance of its origins

The advent of liberalism in Spain was profoundly marked by the special circumstances surrounding it, in the midst of an extraordinarily deep political crisis and war which eventually brought about an overall transformation in the foundations of the system. Indeed, leaving aside the decisive stamp of the cultural mould in which the early Spanish liberal movement was born, some of its most characteristic traits —for example exaltation of the people, a strong historicist tint and a vigorous national and monarchical sentiment, added to a very marked penchant for local and provincial forms of organisation (juntismo) and for the forcing of political change through the use of arms and insurrectional methods— would be hard to account for without these traumatic beginnings. Such features and peculiarities of Spanish liberalism —patriotism, monarchism, populism, historicism, localism, insurrectionalism— which were to mark the movement for a long time, are closely interrelated, so much so that it is not easy to talk about one in isolation without eventually referring to one or more of the others. On the basis particularly of some of the most outstanding works of 19th-century liberal historiography, the author of this article stresses the fundamental importance of the legacy left by the process unleashed in 1808 for an understanding of some of the predominant features of 19th-century Spanish liberalism.


Emilio La Parra López

The myth of the Rey Deseado or Longed-for King

In 1808 the juntas went to great lengths to emphasise their rejection of the Bayonne renunciations and to make it clear that they were fighting for the immediate reinstatement of Fernando VII to the Spanish throne. In this way they sought to deliver the message that all Spaniards were united around their legitimate king and prepared for extreme sacrifices. At the same time they made it clear that both the goal and the duration of the war were determined by the situation of Fernando VII. This message, which was intended —among other things— to eliminate political debate, rested upon a mythification of Fernando VII as an innocent and yearned-for prince untainted by any responsibility for Spain’s misfortunes. The myth was not created in 1808. Since 1806 the partido fernandino had been developing it as a tool to dislodge Godoy from power, and it was further amplified in 1808 to fuel the struggle against Napoleon. The circumstances of the war helped the myth take root, so that neither the change in the nature of the monarchy wrought by the Constitution of 1812 nor the political debate that commenced in 1809, nor yet Fernando VII’s own actions, were enough to dissipate it in 1814.


Fernando Molina Aparicio

The nation on its ethnic periphery. Memory of the War of Independence in teh Basque Country (1868-1898)

Social actors (intellectuals, politicians, academics, journalists) on the ethnic periphery of the nineteenth-century Spanish State built up a notion of the common nation — Spain— that was strongly linked to the notion of their own ethnic/local community. All were parties in the construction of a common national treasury of myths, symbols and historical images closely tied to the political practice of liberalism. In the Basque Country, the cult of local memory of the War of Independence, one of the principal integrating myths of nineteenth-century Spanish nationalism, was essential to the socialisation of the idea of a nation. This occupied a prominent place in the local public sphere, where the press and publicists daily conjured up the image of the nation by means of commemorations and highly-popular traditions, such as the War of Independence. All this commemorative universe was founded upon a patriotic culture which linked local with national identity and built up a public memory that would represent the nation on the ethnic periphery of the State.


Marie Salgues

The War of Independence and the theatre. The attempt to create and retrieve a popular epic (1840-1868)

Between 1840 and 1868, the theatre was the second most popular form of entertainment for Spaniards after bullfighting. The Isabelline monarchy, aware of all that could be made of such success, followed closely the ways that dramatists portrayed the War of Independence, and at one point actually made an open attempt at «propaganda» to celebrate the memory of General Castaños. With the first Carlist war only recently concluded, an allegedly liberal view had begun to prevail, and theatrical memory adapted to these new political «standards» while exalting heroic commanders. In order to soften the impact of the deaths of family members, a development of the Napoleonic wars, the conflict as portrayed on stage was very rarely mortal. The model developed in this way was taken up by other nations undergoing a comparable process of construction of an identity, among them Colombia. The author has examined some thirty works from the period to gain an insight into the construction and the working of a memory so useful to the government authorities.


José Saldaña Fernández

Autobiography and myth. The War of Independence betwixt individual memory and collective reconstruction

The War of Independence has attracted attention both in individual terms —there are numerous autobiographical accounts dealing with one or other aspect of it— and in collective terms, to the extent that it eventually came to be one of the most significant myths in the make-up of Spain’s national identity. That moment of history is, then, a particularly good viewpoint from which to analyse the way in which collective and individual memory interlink —a process which is by no means one-way given that both dimensions, the individual and the collective, are mutually interdependent; after all, while it is true that individual accounts were instrumental in consolidating an archetypal version of the conflict, it is equally true that they were influenced by the interpretations that had been established collectively. Therefore, on the basis of the analysis of a series of autobiographies, this paper seeks to gauge the influence of collective formulations on individual memory, never losing sight of the intellectual and narrative conditions bearing on an autobiographic account, and the scope and limitations of the former as instruments of social analysis.


Luis Martín Pozuelo

Want to remember the Second of May? Popular prints the of War of Independence

There are many ways of looking at the Second of May 1808. Numerous events, protagonists and interests came together on that date. Out of all such stories that could be told, the artists of the time made a selection which has since been subject to constant revision, reinterpretation and reformulation. One possible way of approaching events through the History of Art is to scan the different viewpoints that artists reflected in the prints, to examine how they circulated and the media that made them a part of everyday life, and to look at the scenarios and actors portrayed there who were crucial for subsequent appropriations and reinterpretations of the tales. This article seeks to add to our understanding of the War of Independence through the «popular views» depicted in artistic representations which were at once highly expressive and doomed to an ephemeral existence.


Stéphane Michonneau

Álvarez de Castro. The forge of a hero

Álvarez de Castro, defender in the third siege of Gerona, very early on became a national myth. This article does not propose to recount the history of the politics of memory that built this myth, but rather to grasp what Marie-Claire Lavabre calls «the common memory» of the event —that is, the mark left by the event experienced or the personality known; the sum of the individual experiences that leave memories behind for as long as direct witnesses to the events survive. To that end it is better to eschew the idea of reconstructing the substance of these memories —how can we grasp so fleeting a thing as a memory 200 years after the events?— and examine the categories of remembrance that remain. The research thus functions on three levels: the persistence of a religious apprehension of the event; the effort of memory made by Geronese society —an effort as evanescet as memory itself— and the changelessness of an account which reflects a typically oral art of memory. Finally, while it is impossible to say for certain what a citizen of Gerona recalled when evoking the figure of Álvarez de Castro, it is possible to determine the way that memory worked —the characteristics defining the shape of a shared memory that was extremely vivid in its time.


Clément Thibaut

From fiction to myth. The discourses of war in the mirror of national construction

The role played by the plainsmen of the Orinoco basin during the wars of independence provided the kernel for a patriotic myth in Venezuela. This article seeks to show how the plainsmen were retrieved by republican memory to discharge a function that is essential to any modern political system founded on popular sovereignty —the imagery of the people. The choice of the mestizos of the lower plains as a metonym for the nation made it possible for them to signify the integration or the rejection of popular groups in Venezuelan political imagery. And indeed, before becoming the heroic defenders of Bolivar’s homeland, the victors-to-be of Boyacá and Carabobo had been traitors paid by the Spaniard Boves at the time of the great loyal revolt of 1813. Thus, different strands of the national memory were able to take advantage of this foundational ambiguity to project an image of the Venezuelan people designed to legitimise certain authoritarian regimes, such as the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez


Élise Marienstras

The North American War of Independence. A nation invented through civil war

To designate the armed conflict that took place in 1775-1783 between Britain’s colonies and the metropolis, North Americans tend preferentially to use the word «Revolution ». In this way, history as collective memory situates the military events in a process of conflict that is much broader in terms of events and in terms of its duration, given that the conflict proceeded first successively then simultaneously on the political, constitutional, fiscal and above all the national plane. Following an opening discussion of the classification of American wars, this article looks at the internal conflicts of civil war, conceived by those involved as being among family. The article shows that in the revolution in Britain’s American colonies that eventually led to the creation of a nation, the revolutionaries were less at pains to bring down the social order than to break down the feeling of belonging. The debate, and later the armed conflict, revealed a confrontation with the British Empire carried on by brothers —colonists and natives— united by the colonisation that both had suffered. The goal was to create a new family relationship, as citizens of the nascent United States of America.


Vittorio Scotti Douglas

The guerrilla war and the Constitution of Cádiz. Two model milestones for the Italian Risorgimento

The early years of the Restoration marked a hiatus in political discussion within the Italian «liberal» sphere. However, the case of Spain —and above all the Constitution of Cádiz— remained a stimulus to patriots and a threat to sovereigns. It was undoubtedly more an object of speculation than a political demand. Things changed radically in 1820, when news reached Italy of the successful conclusion of Riego’s pronunciamiento: in a matter of months two revolutions broke out, the first in Naples (July 1820) and the second in Turin (March 1821), in both of which the Cádiz Charter was used as a banner and insignia, albeit the Italian liberals did not accept all of its principles. Guerrilla warfare —so successful in Spain in the fight against the French— was the other important model studied and vindicated by some patriots especially known for their knowledge of military affairs; indeed, until 1848 it was considered the best if not the only way to successfully rid the Peninsula of its Austrian occupiers and the various absolutist sovereigns and thus achieve a unified, independent State.


Véronique Hébrard

The oligarch, personification of infamy in Venezuela at war (19th century)

This article proposes an analysis of the rationales in the construction of political identities as they developed in Venezuela after independence. To that end the author attempts to map the contours of a national identity in which stigmatisation of Otherness, a necessary condition for group cohesion vis-à-vis the enemies of the moment or the undesirables of the nation alike, was a decisive element. The figure of the oligarch, the true backbone of this anathemisation of the Other, achieved all the more efficacy in that it carried the negative values embodied since the War of Independence by the detested figures of the godo, isleño or español, all references to external enemies. By referencing at once the Other as a foreigner from outside and the Other as the internal enemy —and as such under suspicion of having «foreign» origins— the use of the substantive «oligarca» reflects not only a political culture inherited from the unanimism of the Ancien Regime which imposed the confinement of political enemies in social terms and their expulsion to the status of otherness, but also a fragile sense of identity in that those believed not to share the values of the national community were ostracised.

© Casa de Velázquez, 2007

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