Cadiz Up with La Pepa

05/12/2012 17:04

Fernando VII, por la Gracia de Dios y la Constitución de la Monarquía española, Rey de las Españas, y en su ausencia y cautividad la Regencia del Reyno nombrada por las Cortes generales y extraordinarias, á todos los que las presentes vieren y entendieren, sabed: Que las mismas Cortes han decretado y sancionado la siguiente Constitución política de la Monarquía Española.

(Fernando VII, by the grace of God and the Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, King of Spain, and in his absence and captivity the Regency of the Kingdom appointed by common and extraordinary Parliament session, to all who see and hear these, let know: That the Parliament have decreed and sanctioned the following Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy.)

So read the headline of one of the first pages of the Spanish Constitution enacted in 1812. This page and all the following the king employ as toilet paper after restoration at the end of the Peninsular War. Anyway still inspired most  South American constitutions after their emancipation from the metropolis and also in Spain was applied along the liberal triennium 1820-1823, and during the brief period when 1837 Constitution was prepared .

First Spanish Constitution redaction was made during the occupation of the peninsula by Napoleon's troops. But occupation was not complete; some cities resisted the French troop’s sieges. The Spanish government adopted to host the royal city of the Isla de León, today San Fernando, near the city of Cadiz. Even despite the blockade that was submitted by sixty thousand troops under Marshal Claude Victor, a September 24, 1810 sworn deputies arrived to the island.

On November 28, is reported to Parliament the sending of three congressmen to Cadiz to find a suitable location for holding plenary sessions. On December 3 Members Morales, Cea and Aguirre report that the best place was San Felipe Neri Oratory, on San Jose Street, corner with Santa Inés. The inner decoration of the temple was reformed, the entrance modified by the altar and on the heading was hung a portrait of the monarch. Inside a semicircle of benches and chairs left a central space for the president and secretary.

After fourteen hundred discussion sessions text took shape. In its 384 articles were first established the concept of national sovereignty and the separation of powers, recognizing the citizenship of peninsular, American and Filipino Spanish as equal, freedom of speech, press and print, the right to personal freedom, inviolability of the home and gave process and criminal dues. Finally was solemnly and publicly proclaimed on March 19, 1812, the day of San José. Hence his nickname: Pepa.

San José day awoke cloudy in Cadiz. Clouds above Guadalquivir River mouths covering San Sebastian Castle weren’t forecasting a pretty sunny day. The procession that started up from the Customs House to address the Oratory was destined to get certainly wet anyway. They walked by Santa Inés street to reach San Antonio square. In Alameda strong wind could not even let hear the French guns shoots. In the Carmelite church was officiated a Te Deum. According to writer Perez Galdós: hasta los mendigos, mancos, cojos y lisiados abandonaron sus puestos corriendo hacia la Cortadura, con la intención de recoger abundantes limosnas. No pedían en nombre de Dios y la caridad, sino en nombre de aquella otra deidad nueva, diciendo:-¡Por las Cortes, por las Cortes!  (Also beggars, lame and crippled walked off their job running to the Cortadura, with the intention of collecting abundant alms. They did not ask for God and charity, but on behalf of that other new deity, saying: - For the Parliament, for the Parliament!).

The next day, for just one real, those times currency, the newspaper El Conciso picked up the news about the places where the brand-new constitution was proclaimed: the Plazuela de San Felipe, quoted San Antonio square, Cruz de la Verdad square and in front of the Customs a cuyo efecto en estos sitios se ha dispuesto un tablado y un dosel con el retrato del rey Fernando VII (whose effect on these sites has been provided a platform and a poster with the portrait of King Ferdinand VII.)

Diario Mercantil de Cádiz on Thursday March 19 1812 began echoing in its pages that the sun would rise at 6 hours and one minute and sunset would be at 5 and 58, with the first low tide at 12 hours and 13 minutes, to continue announcing the publication of the Spanish Constitution á despecho de los franceses y de los serviles. (In spite of the French and servile).

 Two hundred years later, regardless official celebrations, has also revamped the Constitution Museum, now Museo Iconográfico e Histórico de las Cortes y Sitio de Cádiz in Santa Inés street, near the Oratory. The museum first opened in 1912, on the Constitution first centenary. At the entrance is preserved the marble slab placed in 1837 on the cover of the Oratory. In its magnificent and bright interior features the room where is the colossal scale 1:250 model of the city, made of wood, mahogany, ebony, cedar and some details, such as the facade of the New Cathedral in ivory carvings. The model was mounted between 1777 and 1779. And above it hangs the huge canvas Promulgación de la Constitución de 1812 by the painter Salvador Viniegra.

The municipality of the city suggests visitors a walking itinerary following the scenarios from constituent Cadiz proclamation day. As in 1812, starts from the Customs House, now the Province Council. This was chosen as the site of the Regency during the Napoleonic siege and hence the motorcade departed to proclaim Constitution in front of the palace, a few meters from the Spain square, where a monument, designed by Modesto Lopez Otero, to pay tribute those Courts. Started in the centennial year was finished in 1929, seventeen years later.

The route passes by Four and Five Towers Houses to get into the San Carlos neighbourhood, continuing on Alameda Apodaca walls. Continue to the Church of Carmen, the one of the Te Deum, facing Candelaria bastion to get to the old place of the Cruz de la Verdad (Cross of the Truth). There were cliques where gossip exchanged enough freely. Thus the square became the Cross of Lies and hence the current Mentidero.

Three crossings away is the large square that was once the Campo de la Jara, by the well of the same name that supplied water to the township. Later took the name of San Antonio, for the venerated holy shrine that would become church. Here La Pepa was enacted for the third time in that unforgettable day. In this square are admirable the Banking Aramburu baroque facades, former headquarters of the financial institution, and also the Cadiz Casino, building that once belonged to the family Istúriz and was renovated in 1857 to house the city casino.

The route now takes up the renewed San Felipe Neri Oratory, seat of parliamentary sessions and besides the Constitution Museum cited above, both restored to mark the bicentenary.

Reaching the Calle Ancha (Broad Street), bound walk in downtown, turn left to find San Francisco square where a plaque commemorates the American deputy Jose Mejia Lequerica.

It's easy to close the loop in the neighbouring Hotel de las Cortes, where the rooms instead of having numbers are identified with the names of illustrious members of the Constitution time. At least they try it.

© J.L.Nicolas


See more pictures