Spain, “forgotten” counterfeiter of United States independence


The Maritime Museum claims with an exhibition the crucial Spanish military and diplomatic contribution to the birth of the North American giant. “We wouldn’t be an independent country without you,” President Joe Biden acknowledged in front of Felipe VI at the Royal Palace

Spain’s military, political and diplomatic participation in independence from the United States is as crucial as it is unknown to the general public. To alleviate this unfair “oversight”, the Maritime Museum rescues its protagonists in the exhibition ‘From the Caribbean to the English Channel’. It discusses the role of our navy in the war against the British for American independence and legitimizes many of its actors, figures buried today by the train of history, such as Luis de Unzaga, Juan de Miralles or Diego Gardoqui.

George Washington himself thanked Charles III in a letter for his help in the fight for freedom. The current President of the United States, Joe Biden, acknowledged it at the last NATO summit in Madrid. “Without you we would not be an independent country,” he assured in the presence of Felipe VI, successor to Carlos III, the Bourbon sovereign who sent ships and troops to fight against Imperial England determined to destroy the independence colonies.

It is the Maritime Museum’s first temporary exhibition after its reopening in 2020 and its curators are historians Berta Gasca and Inés Abril. It is structured in four areas, based on an approximation of the pioneering Spanish presence in North America, which dates back to the early 16th century.

The second part contextualises the war episode during the reign of Carlos III, with a special focus on the situation of the navy in the 18th century, when the enlightened, liberals and reformists wanted to strengthen the military and naval power of the state.

The third part deals with the war milestones in which Spain participated after the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 -of which a facsimile is on display-, when George Washington – whose portrait signed by Joseph Perovani is on display – understands his need to go to Spain and France to gain superiority at sea.

The exhibition concludes with an analysis of the results obtained after the signing of the peace agreement and a reflection on the deep cultural imprint that Spain left on North American countries and which marked the subsequent history of the United States. In this way, it explores a common past of more than 300 years. Three centuries of the decisive Spanish presence in the United States can be traced, from Florida explored by Ponce de León to California, Alaska or free Louisiana ruled by Antonio de Ulloa or Bernardo de Gálvez.

“We were the first European nation to advance and settle in almost unexplored areas,” says Berta Gasca. The pioneering Spanish explorers documented the natives’ habits, geography, climate, flora or fauna, “providing scientific and anthropological knowledge that opened Europe to new horizons of knowledge.” Some expeditions followed by the cartographic collection of the Maritime Museum, one of the best in the world.

The exhibition, on display until February next year, brings together 104 pieces, 43 of which are on loan from institutions and museums such as the National Library of Spain, the General Archives of the Indies, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts or the Prado Museum.

At the end of the 18th century, the Spanish Crown supported the Thirteen Colonies in their struggle for independence against the common enemy. : England.

The Navy’s intervention in the United States’ War of Independence enabled the nascent nation to achieve a quick and advantageous victory and thus, along with France, became a powerful ally against English naval power.

From the coasts of the Caribbean to those of the Channel, the Spanish-French squadron’s operations weakened the English navy and protected the ships bound for the United States with human and material aid and captured other enemies, forcing operations on the country for General Washington to victory.

The exhibition shows how “Spain has achieved many of the goals it set itself when it entered the war,” the curators explain. The first was ‘Weaken and defeat England for the first time in the eighteenth century. The second, to restore much of what was lost at the turn of the century, areas such as Menorca and Florida. It was also possible to restrict England’s access to the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua and Campeche and continue to control Caribbean trade.

Source: La Verdad


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