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A virtual tribute to the Malaga hero of American independence

Mayor of Macharaviaya, Antonio Campos, during the virtual celebrations.
Mayor of Macharaviaya, Antonio Campos, during the virtual celebrations. / SUR
  • The Axarquía village joined the US cities of Pensacola and Galveston to celebrate 4 July in honour of Bernardo de Gálvez

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of hundreds of events throughout Malaga province in the last four months. However, one of the annual events to still go ahead, albeit by video conference, was the Independence Day celebrations in the small Axarquía village of Macharaviaya.

Each year on 4 July the village pays tribute to Bernardo de Gálvez, a Spanish soldier who played a key role in the battle of Pensacola during the American War of Independence.

After 10 years of organising reenactments of the battle, which saw Macharaviaya-born De Gálvez and his troops beat the English, this year the reenactment had to take place via the internet.

During the 75-minute video conference, messages were exchanged between the cities of Pensacola and Galveston in Florida and Macharaviaya in Malaga as well as other parts of the world.

Macharaviaya, Pensacola and Galveston are "sister cities with great historic connections", said the local mayor, Antonio Campos, during the session.

From the village square, where since 2014 the Bernardo de Gálvez sculpture has stood, and dressed in period costume as well as the obligatory face mask, the mayor thanked the two US cities for their participation and said that despite the "critical situation we are experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic we cannot lose our history".

He went on to describe De Gálvez as a "hero shared between Spain and the United States".

A number of spokespeople from different authorities in the two US cities went on to give further tributes to the Malaga soldier.

Sculpture

While the Covid-19 crisis has slowed down progress to a sculpture of De Gálvez upon his horse being created by Erik Kaposta, the sculptor has been able to continue with his work, which will be placed in a park in Galveston, the city which is named after the celebrated soldier.

De Gálvez went on to become governor of Louisiana and viceroy of Nueva España. As well as the sculpture, composer Mary Carol is working on an opera in his memory.

Malaga historian Manuel Olmedo, who is also vice-president of the Bernardo de Gálvez association, added that 2021 will mark twenty years since research into Bernardo de Gálvez began.

"We have corrected and clarified many historical errors, including the fact that his second surname wasn't Madrid but in fact Gallardo, and that he didn't die from falling off a horse, or from being poisoned, but from a serious illness which he contracted in New Orleans," Olmedo who has written five books about Gálvez, pointed out.

Teresa Valcárcel, who is originally from Galicia but lives in the USA, also took part in the video conference. Valcárcel is behind an initiative which led to a portrait of De Gálvez being hung in Capitol Hill. The Spanish hero has also been named an honorary citizen of the USA. Only seven other historical figures have been awarded the title, including Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill.

Last Saturday's event finished with members of the local association staging a brief parade in costume around the soldier's statue in Macharaviaya, before the Spanish and US flags were raised while the national anthems of both countries were played.

Participants are hopeful that next year's 4 July celebrations will be able to take place with the usual US visitors.