This Independence Day, let us all remember the allies who made the American colonialists’ rebellion successful in the first place. No, I’m not talking about the French, I’m talking about the Spaniards!
Now, back when the Founding Fathers were fomenting rebellion up in the 13 Colonies, the King of Spain, Charles III —who was no friend of the British crown — decided on the sly that he’d help the Yankees out. Once the declaration of war became public, King Charles officially committed Spanish resources in the aid of the American cause.
But for the two years before it became official, between 1777 and 1779, Spain was already aiding the nascent United States via trade, supplies and weapons delivered via Spanish-controlled New Orleans and the Mississippi River. Leading the covert assistance efforts was Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Louisiana.
In June 1779, Spain officially made a declaration of war against Great Britain. By that point, Gálvez had already taken possession of portions of western Florida (current day eastern Louisiana) and had his eyes set on recapturing the rest of Florida from the British and back into Spanish hands.
Gálvez’s meddling in the war raised the ire of British forces and King George, who quickly ordered an attack on Gálvez’s seat of power, New Orleans. Fortunately for America, Gálvez intercepted the communications ordering the attack on his lands and he was able to not only prepare for any attack, but thwart them, too.
Subsequently, Gálvez and his forces were able to free much of the present day Southern gulf states, with victories at Baton Rouge, Mobile, Natchez and Pensacola. His victories crippled the British, leaving them with no bases on the gulf coast, meaning all those access points were free to supply the Colonialists.
At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Gálvez was rewarded with a slew of new ranks and titles, governorship of Florida and Louisiana, and had resecured Florida as property of Spain.
And he was memorialized in many places across the present-day South, including having a town in Texas named after him: Galveston. (Side note: more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Galveston became the site where slavery finally ended for good as Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger came ashore on June 19, 1865 and announced the end of the Civil War and of slavery. We celebrate that moment today as Juneteenth).
Ultimately, Gálvez ascended to the rank of Viceroy of New Spain, after the previous viceroy, his uncle, died. But were it not for him, and his incredible string of victories, the Revolutionary War may have had quite a different ending. So, as you celebrate American independence this Fourth of July, raise a glass for Lt. Gen. Bernardo de Gálvez and Spain.
Y, como diguen mi gente, viva la independencia nacional!
Happy Fourth of July, Oppo. And remember, it’s rude to exclude your allies by forgetting their integral contributions to your own independence, threatening their descendants with walls and deportations, and perpetuating anti-Latino racism in general.