Tag Archives: Spain

Las Posadas – A Novenario of the Latinos

Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

Chimayo Las Posadas (Photo - Mark Nohl)


The festival of Las Posadas celebrated chiefly in Mexico, Guatemala and parts of the Southwestern United States has its origins in Spain. Observing Las Posadas has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years.

The Spanish phrase “Las Posadas” means  “accommodations”, “The Inns”, or “lodgings”.

This traditional nine-day festival re-enacts the cold and difficult journey of María and José from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for a room at the lodgings in Bethlehem.

Even though the roots of this celebration are in Catholicism even Protestant Latinos follow the tradition.

The festivities of Las Posadas start in full swing on December 16th and ends on December 24th. These nine days are, in fact, a novenario – nine days of religious observance signifying the nine-month pregnancy of María carrying Jesús in her womb.


A red Poinsettia (Photo - André Karwath)
A red Poinsettia (Photo – André Karwath)


Devotees enact Las Posadas by carrying a doll or a statue representing the Christ Child and images of José and María riding a burro. The doll is left at the chosen home and picked up on the next night when the processional begins again. This continues for eight nights.

In certain areas, individuals play the part of María and José, with the expectant mother riding a real burro with attendant angels and shepherds; or the devotees would carry images of the holy family and the saints; followed by musicians, with the entire procession singing Posadas. Children may carry poinsettia flowers.

Holding candle lanterns the procession ambles through the streets of the community, stopping at previously selected residences, singing a Posada such as Para Posada (Asking for a place to stay). At each residence, the innkeeper responds to José’s query by singing a song.



nombre del cielo
Os pido posada
Pues no puede andar
Mi esposa amada
Joseph asks:
In the name of heaven
I request you grant us shelter
Given that she cannot walk
She is my beloved wife
Aquí no es mesón

Sigan adelante
Yo no puedo abrir
No sea algún tunante
“Probable” host answers:
This is not an Inn
Please continue ahead
I cannot open
You may be a robber
No seas
Tennos caridad
Que el Rey de los cielos
Te lo premiará
Joseph replies:
Do not be inhuman
have mercy on us
Since the King of heavens
will reward you for that
se pueden ir
Y no molestar
porque si me enfado
Os voy a apalear
Still “probable” host answers:
You can already go away
and do not bother
because if I get upset
I will beat you up
Desde Nazaret
Yo soy carpintero
De nombre José
Joseph insists:
We come exhausted
From Nazareth
I am a carpenter
named Joseph
No me
importa el nombre
Déjenme dormir
Porque ya les digo
Que no hemos de abrir
Still unconvinced host replies:
I don’t care about your name
Let me go to sleep
Because, as I said
We shall not open
Posada te pide

Amado casero
Por sólo una noche
La reina del cielo
Joseph expects reasoning:
She asks you shelter
Dear innkeeper
for just one night
She, the queen of heaven
Pues si es
una reina
Quien lo solicita
¿Cómo es que de noche
Anda tan solita?
The almost convinced host asks:
So, if it’s a queen
who’s asking for it,
how is it that at night
she travels so alone?
esposa es María
Es reina del cielo
madre va a ser
Del divino verbo
Joseph answers:
My wife is Mary
She’s the Heavenly Queen
And she’ll be mother
Of the divine word
¿Eres tú José?

¿Tu esposa es María?
Entren peregrinos
No los conocía
Convinced host finally offers shelter:
Are you Joseph?
Is your wife Mary?
Come in, pilgrims
I did not know you
pague, señores
Vuestra caridad
Y que os colme el cielo
De felicidad
Joseph gratefully says:
May God reward, sirs
for your charity
And may heaven heap you
With happiness
Dichosa la casa

Que alberga este día
A la virgen pura
La hermosa María
Host replies:
Joyful be the house
That this day hosts
The pure virgin
The beautiful Mary


The innkeeper after recognizing María and José allows them and the group of guests to enter their home.

All sing together:



¡Entren santos peregrinos!
¡Reciban éste rincón!
Que aunque es pobre la morada
¡Se las doy de corazón!
¡Cantemos con alegría!
¡Todos al considerar!
¡Que Jesús, José y María
nos vinieron hoy a honrar!
Come in, holy pilgrims!
Receive this corner!
Because even though the place is poor
I offer it to you from my heart!
Let’s sing with joy!
Everyone at the thought!
That Jesus, Joseph and Mary
Came today to honour us!


Once inside, all kneel around the Nativity crib to pray the Rosary. The hosts provide refreshments.

The final location of the sojourn, most likely, would be a church where the devotees would sing villancicos at the end of each night’s journey.



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December 20, 1803: The Day United States Bought Louisiana for a Song – for Less than 3 Cents per Acre.


By T. V. Antony Raj 


“Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song.” – Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson, July 18, 1803

Never did the united states grab so much for so little.” – Henry Adams


French Tricolor Flag - 1803
French Tricolor Flag – 1803

US Flag of 15 stars - 1803
US Flag of 15 stars – 1803


Vente de la Louisiane” or “Sale of Louisiana” also known as “The Louisiana Purchase” considered the greatest real estate deal in history took place on December 20, 1803.


The Louisiana Purchase of 1803
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 (marked in green).


Louisiana has a long rich history. Native Americans settled there first, and then it became the mainspring of an empire, and finally it got incorporated into the United States. Various cultures: Native American, French, Spanish, the Caribbean, African, and the English influenced Louisiana, evolving it into a region of exuberant and intrinsic blend of ethnicity.

In 1528, a Spanish expedition led by Panfilo de Narváez  were the first European to visit Louisiana. They located the mouth of the Mississippi River.

When the first Europeans set foot in this region many native groups inhabited there such as: Acolapissa, Adai, Appalousa, Atakapa, Avoyel, Bayougoula, Caddo, Chawasha, Chitimacha, Choctaw, Houma, Koroa, Nakasa, Natchitoches, Natchez, Okelousa, Ouachita, Quinipissa-Mougoulacha, Taensa, Tangipahoa, Tunica, Washa, Yagenechito, Yatasi and so on.

In 1542, another Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto ventured into the north and west of the region where they encountered the Caddo and Tunica groups. In 1543, they followed the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico. As they drifted along the river, hostile tribes besieged them. The natives followed their boats in large canoes. Continually shooting arrows they killed 11 Spaniards and wounded many more.

Gradually, Europeans lost interest in Louisiana until the late 17th century, when sovereign, religious and commercial aims surfaced once again. The French established their first settlements, on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast, and claimed a vast region of North America. France then set out to establish a commercial empire and a nation under the French rule that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.

In 1682, the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, or Robert Cavelier de La Salle (November 22, 1643 – March 19, 1687)named the region Louisiana to honor France’s King Louis XIV. In 1699, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, a French military officer from Canada established the first permanent settlement, Fort Maurepas, at what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi.

The French explored the Mississippi River valley and established scattered settlements in the region. By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power. The French colony of Louisiana originally claimed all the land on both sides of the Mississippi River and north to French territory in Canada.

The following present-day states were part of the then vast tract of Louisiana: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

In 1719, two ships, the Duc du Maine and the Aurore, arrived in New Orléans, carrying the first African slaves to Louisiana. From 1718 to 1750, transportation of thousands of Africans to Louisiana from the Senegambian coast, the west African region of the interior of modern Benin, and from the coast of modern Angola took place. The  influx of slaves from Africa strongly shaped the Louisiana Creole culture.

Having suffered damaging defeats in the Seven Years’ War against the British, the French wanted to prevent losing its Louisiana territory and the city of New Orléans to them. So in 1762, King Louis XV of France ceded the French American territory west of the Mississippi River to his cousin, King Carlos II of Spain by the Treaty of Paris of 1763. However, in 1763, France transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain.


Napoleon in his study
Napoléon Bonaparte


At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte after grabbing the French throne looked westward to enlarge his empire. In 1800, the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso between Spain and France gave the son-in-law of King of Spain power over Tuscany in trade for returning the Louisiana Territory to French control.


Thomas Jefferson Painted by Rembrandt Peale, 1800
Thomas Jefferson (Painted by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).


After about two years, the United States government discovered the re-transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France. At this time, the Mississippi River had become the chief trading route for goods shipped between the states it bordered. President Thomas Jefferson sought to acquire New Orléans because of its vital geographic position at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The acquisition would ensure its right to sail its vessels down the Mississippi River through Spanish territory, and unload goods at New Orléans for shipment to the Atlantic coast and Europe.

In 1801, President Jefferson sent Robert Livingston to France to negotiate the sale of New Orléans; but Napoleon refused to sell the city.

In early 1803, the French commander Vicomte de Rochambeau lost a fierce battle in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). This battle consumed much-needed resources and it also cut off the French connection to the ports on the southern coast of North America.

Napoleon realized that France did not have a strong enough navy to maintain control of its lands far away from home separated by the Atlantic ocean. Napoleon’s sole aim was to consolidate his resources to conquer England. To raise funds for the troops and materials to wage an effective war against England, he decided to sell the French territories in North America.

Again in early 1803, President Jefferson sent James Monroe to France to negotiate the sale. However, in April 1803, just days before Monroe arrived in Paris Napoleon offered to sell to the United States not only New Orléans but all of Louisiana.

The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of the 15 present U.S. States and two Canadian provinces. The Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, Napoleon’s minister of the treasury negotiated the terms of the Louisiana Purchase with Livingston and Monroe.

The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; most of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orléans; and small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.


Louisiana Purchase Historical Document
Louisiana Purchase Historical Document


The United States of America purchased Louisiana for 50 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of the claims of its own citizens against France worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars – less than 3 cents per acre.

Upon concluding the purchase Robert Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, said of the transfer:

We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives … From this day the United States will take their place among the powers of the first rank … The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures.



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Do Bulls Get Angry When They See Red?


By T.V. Antony Raj



In the above video, was the bull infuriated by the red coloured shawl worn by the Hindu sadhu?

Incidents such as this raise the perennial question “”

We have always been told not to go near a bull while wearing a red dress, or something similar to red that would make a bull angry.  Is it true?


A matador gets a bull's attention by waving his muleta. (Credit: Bull Fighter via Shutterstock)
A matador gets a bull’s attention by waving his muleta. (Credit: Bull Fighter via Shutterstock)


Bullfighting (Spanish: corrida de toros or toreo; Portuguese: corrida de touros or tourada) is one of the most popular and controversial traditional spectacular sport prevailing in Spain, Portugal, parts of southern France and in some Latin American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru.

In some areas, people classify bullfighting as a blood sport, but in other areas, it is not considered a sport but a cultural event, a spectacle and art form with no elements of competition in the proceedings.

Some claim that bullfighting is an art form wherein professional toreros (bullfighters) seek to evoke inspiration and an emotional connection with the audience while attempting to subdue and slaughter the bulls.

The most senior torero who actually kills the bull is called a matador.

The matador executes various formal moves with the muleta (a small red cape) and a sword. A snorting bull charges at the muleta waved by the matador. The angry bull appears to see the red cape and charges angrily towards it.

After hooking the bull multiple times behind the shoulder by the matador, the bullfight concludes usually with the killing of the bull by a single sword thrust, called the Estacada. In Portugal, the finale consists of a tradition called the pega a, where men (forcados) try to grab and hold the bull by its horns when it runs at them.

The use of the muleta by Spanish matadors in bullfighting began at the beginning of the 18th century. From then on the myth that “red makes bulls go wild” perpetuated.

A group of MythBusters set out to find whether bulls really hate the colour red? Test this myth they decided to put makeshift matadors into an arena, each holding a cape or muleta of a different color including a red one.

The red, blue, green, and white capes got equal, mild attacks when they were motionless. Bulls, just like other cattle, do not differentiate between red, blue, green, and white colours. Only when the matador waved the cape, the bulls lose their temper and charge aggressively. Moreover, the bulls used in bullfights are from a very aggressive breed and they’re raised in a way that any sudden movements will make these bulls angry and make them attack.

So , this old myth that “a bull charges at the sight of red” can get tossed right out of our mindset.



A Flash Mob for the City of Sabadell in Catalonia, Spain.


Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

Banco Sabadell Headquarters in Sabadell, Catalonia
Banco Sabadell Headquarters in Sabadell, Catalonia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sabadell Barcelona, the second largest city in the south of the comarca (county) of the Vallès Occidental in Catalonia, Spain is on the River Ripoll, 12 miles (20 km) north of Barcelona.

Sabadell and its archrival, Terrassa, in the east-central region of Catalonia, are co-capitals of the comarca of Vallès Occidental. These two cities pioneered the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia with their textile mills.

In the mid 19th century, nicknamed the “Catalan Manchester“, Sabadell became the most important wool city in Spain. Now, Sabadell is basically a commercial and industrial city with no significant agricultural activities.

On December 31, 1881, a group of 127 businessmen and traders from Sabadell Barcelona founded Banco de Sabadell, for financing local industries and providing them with raw materials (wool and coal) under more favourable terms and conditions.

In 1907, Banco Sabadell wound up the non-banking businesses to focus its activities on entirely on commercial banking.

In 1965, Banco Sabadell started its territorial expansion, slowly and steadily spreading to the nearby towns. In 1975, it started to expand beyond Catalonia by opening a branch in Madrid.

Now, Banco de Sabadell is the fifth-largest Spanish banking group with its headquarters in Sabadell includes several banks, brands, subsidiaries and associated banks specialises in serving SMEs (Small or Medium Enterprises) and affluent individuals interested in international trade.

Banco de Sabadell London situated at Sabadell House, 120 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5EA (Source: manchesterhistory.net)
Banco de Sabadell London situated at Sabadell House, 120 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5EA (Source: manchesterhistory.net)


In 1978, Banco Sabadell expanded internationally by opening its first branch abroad in the heart of the City of London in the United Kingdom.

Banco Sabadell with its extensive commercial and operational experience and having an in-depth knowledge of the features of the Indian financial system started operating in New Delhi, India in 1994.

In 2012, on the 130th anniversary of its founding, Banco Sabadell launched a campaign called “Som Sabadell” (We are Sabadell) to pay homage to its founding city.

For culminating the campaign, Banco Sabadell arranged a scintillating flash mob with 100 people from the Orquestra Simfonica del Vallès, Cor Lieder Camera, Cor Amics de l’Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.




The Iberian Peninsula: Part 2 – The Reconquista


By T.V. Antony Raj


Many ousted Gothic princes and nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there, they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors. This war is known as the Reconquista, the Spanish and Portuguese word for Reconquest.

Many ousted Gothic princes and nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there, they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors. This war is known as the Reconquista, the Spanish and Portuguese word for Reconquest.

Co-existence and alliances between Muslims and Christians were prevalent, so also were the frontier skirmishes and raids.

At the end of the 9th century, the ideology of a Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula started to take shape. The Christian Chronica Prophetica (883-884), a document stressing the Christian and Muslim cultural and religious divide in Iberia set a landmark by stressing the necessity to drive the Muslims out of the Iberian Peninsula. Even then, it was common for the Christian and Muslim rulers to become divided and to fight amongst themselves. Also, the mercenaries from both sides fought for whoever paid the most.

As time wore on, the idea of the Reconquista seems to have faded in the minds of the Christians. The 10th and 11th-century documents are silent on any idea of a reconquest.

By 1172, all Islamic Iberia was part of the Moroccan Berber Muslim Almohad Caliphate. Between 1146 and 1173, the Almohads wrested control of the Moorish principalities from the Almoravids and transferred the capital from Cordoba to Seville.

In the late 11th century, when staunch Muslim Jihad ideology in Al-Andalus confronted the Christians, the religious ideology of a Christian reconquest sprouted once again in the minds of the Christians and they started the Crusades. Later, military orders like the Order of Santiago, Montesa, Order of Calatrava and the Knights Templar fought in Iberia.

The Almohad Caliphate dominated Iberia until 1212. At that time, the Christian princes of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal formed an alliance and defeated Muhammad III, “al-Nasir” (1199–1214) at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena. Soon after, the Almohad Caliphate lost all their Moorish dominions in Iberia.  In 1236, the great Moorish city of Cordova fell to the Christians. In 1248, the Christians  conquered the city of Seville.

Gradually, the Christian kingdoms to the north retook control of the Iberian peninsula, and by 1300, the Moors controlled only Granada, a small region in the south of present-day Spain.

The Catholic Monarchs

“The Catholic Monarchs” (Spanish: Reyes Católicos) is the joint title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were second cousins from the House of Trastámara. Since both descended from John I of Castile, Pope Sixtus IV gave a papal dispensation for their marriage to deal with consanguinity.


Queen Isabella I of Castile and León with her husband King Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Queen Isabella I of Castile and León with her husband King Ferdinand II of Aragon.


The marriage of 18-year-old Isabella and 17-year-old Ferdinand took place on October 19, 1469, in the city of Valladolid. This marriage helped to unite the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon under the same crown. Isabella became the Queen of Castile in 1474 and Ferdinand became the King of Aragon in 1479. Though their marriage united the two kingdoms, what later became Spain, it was still a union of two crowns rather than a unitary state. They ruled independently and their kingdoms retained part of their own regional laws and governments for the next few decades.

The Spanish Inquisition

In the twelfth century, Pope Lucius III  created the Inquisition to fight heresy in the south of what is now France and constituted it in some European kingdoms. In 1478, the Catholic Monarchs requested the assent of Pope Sixtus IV to  introduce the Inquisition to Castile. On November 1, 1478, the Pope published the Papal bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus, to establish the Inquisition  in the Kingdom of Castile. It was later extended to all Spain.

The Spanish Inquisition targeted forced converts from Islam (Moriscos, Conversos and secret Moors) and from Judaism (Marranos, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews) who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion or of having fallen back into it. Thus, Spain modeled its national aspirations as the guardian of Christianity and Catholicism.

The Granada War

The Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand set a goal to complete the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by conquering the Moorish Sultanate and Kingdom of Granada. They launched a series of campaigns known as the Granada War. Pope Sixtus IV helped the Granada War by granting a tithe and implementing a crusade tax to invest in the war.

Two Andalusian nobles, Rodrigo Ponce de León and Diego de Merlo led the Castilian forces. The Granada War began in 1482 with the seizure on the strategic town of Alhama de Granada, in the province of Granada, about 50 km from the city of Granada.

The war proved to be a long, drawn-out campaign. The 10-year Granada War was not a continuous effort, but a series of seasonal campaigns launched in spring and broken off in winter.

In 1491, the Catholic Monarchs summoned Abu Abdallah Muhammad XII, the twenty-second and last Nasrid ruler of Granada to surrender the city of Granada, besieged by the Castilians.

After 10 years of fighting, the Granada War ended on January 2, 1492. Muhammad XII surrendered the Emirate of Granada, the city of Granada, and the Alhambra palace to the Castilian forces.


The Capitulation of Granada by F. Pradille y Ortiz, 1882.
The Capitulation of Granada by F. Pradille y Ortiz, 1882.


Six days after the event, an eyewitness wrote a private letter to the bishop of León:

The Moorish sultan with about eighty or a hundred on horseback very well dressed went forth to kiss the hand of their Highnesses. According to the final capitulation agreement both Isabel and Ferdinand will decline the offer and the key to Granada will pass into Spanish hands without Muhammad XII having to kiss the hands of Los Reyes, as the Spanish royal couple became known. The indomitable mother of Muhammad XII insisted on sparing her son this final humiliation.

Though the Granada war was a joint project between Isabella’s Crown of Castile and Ferdinand’s Crown of Aragon, the bulk of the troops and funds came from Castile. So,  Castile annexed Granada. Apart from the presence of King Ferdinand himself, the Crown of Aragon provided naval collaboration, guns, and some financial loans.

The  traditional Spanish historiography  considers the Granada War  as the final war of the “Reconquista“.

The aftermath of the Granada War saw the end of “convivencia” (“live and let live”) between religions.

Between 1480 and 1492, the Christian Monarchs forced all Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity or face expulsion. Many Jews and Muslims fled to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.

The Alhambra Decree issued in January 1492 forced the Jews in the Iberian peninsula to convert to Christianity or be exiled. In 1501, all of Granada’s Muslims were obliged to either convert to Christianity, become slaves or be exiled. By 1526, this prohibition spread to the rest of Spain and the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula was complete.


← Previous: Part 1 – Conquest by the Muslims







The Iberian Peninsula: Part 1 – Conquest by the Muslims


By T.V. Antony Raj


Greek geographers used the ancient Greek word Ιβηρία (Ibēría) to refer to the land mass known today as the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal). Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC), an early Greek historian  was the first to use this term during the time of the first Persian invasion of Greece which began in 492 BC.

In Europe, after the Scandinavian and Balkan peninsulas, Iberia is the third-largest peninsula, located in the southwest corner of Europe.


Hispania in 418 AD
Hispania in 418 AD


Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. The modern name España derives from Hispania.

Roderic, the last king of the Goths

In 711, an army of Muslim Moors composed of North African Berber soldiers with some Arabs, under Tariq ibn-Ziyad and other Muslim generals, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed at Gibraltar. The Islamic army began its conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania ruled by King Roderic, known in the legends as “the last king of the Goths“.

According to the Chronicle of 754, a Latin-language history in 95 sections composed in 754 in a part of Spain under Arab occupation, Roderic immediately upon securing his throne gathered a force to oppose the Moors raiding in the south of the Iberian peninsula.

Since there were just a few freemen among the Goths, Roderic gathered together an army of unwilling slave conscripts. He made several expeditions against the invaders led by the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad.

The early modern historian al-Maqqari, in his “The Breath of Perfume,” places the following long sermon to the troops in Tariq ibn-Ziyad’s mouth before  the Battle of Guadalete:

Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy.

If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death.

Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. During the attack, I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you.

You have heard that in this country, there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings.

The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.

Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.


The weakness of the Visigothic kingdom was displayed in Roderick's stunning defeat at Guadalete / Río Barbate, (July 19, 711). It is believed that Roderick and much of the Visigothic nobility was killed in the battle and aftermath. (Source: histclo.com)
The weakness of the Visigothic kingdom was displayed in Roderick’s stunning defeat at Guadalete / Río Barbate, (July 19, 711). (Source: histclo.com)


On July 19, 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad defeated Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete / Río Barbate. Roderic and much of the Visigothic nobility were killed in the battle and aftermath.

Facing no further strong resistance, Tariq swept north toward Toledo, the Visigothic capital.

Al-ʾAndalūs, the Islamic Iberia

In an eight-year campaign, the Moors brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic control. In 719, they crossed the Pyrenees and took control of Septimania, the last province of the Visigothic kingdom. In 721, the Moors tried to conquer Aquitaine from their stronghold of Narbonne, but suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Toulouse.

At no point did the invading Islamic armies exceed 60,000 men.

The invading Moors gave the Arabic name Al-ʾAndalūs (الإندلس) to the region under their control, maybe to mean “Land of the Vandals“. The Islamic rule lasted 300 years in much of the Iberian Peninsula and 781 years in Granada.

From their stronghold of Narbonne, the Moors launched raids into the Duchy of Aquitaine, a fiefdom in western, central and southern areas of present-day France to the south of the Loire River.


Al_Andalus & Christian Kingdoms (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Al_Andalus & Christian Kingdoms (Source: en.wikipedia.org)


After establishing a local Emirate, Caliph Al-Walid I, ruler of the Umayyad caliphate, recalled many of the successful Muslim commanders to Damascus including Tariq ibn Ziyad, the first governor of the newly conquered province of Al-Andalus. Musa bin Nusair, his former superior replaced him.

Governor Musa’s son, Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, married Egilona, Roderic’s widow. He established his regional government in Seville. Under the influence of his wife, Egilona, he wanted to convert to Christianity. He was then accused of planning a secessionist rebellion, and Caliph Al-Walid I ordered his assassination.

By the year 1100, local Iberian converts to Islam, the so-called Muladi formed the majority of the Iberian population. The term ‘Moor’ was the generic term used to refer to the Islamists that composed the initial Arabs and Berbers and the converted Muladi. The Iberian Peninsula transformed from a Romance-speaking Christian land into an Arabic-speaking Muslim land. However, pockets of Arabic and Romance-speaking Christians called Mozarabs and a large minority of Arabic-speaking Jews survived throughout Al-ʾAndalūs.

In the chronicles and documents of the High Middle Ages the Christians used the terms Spania, España or Espanha derived from Hispania in reference to Muslim controlled areas. King Alfonso I of Aragon (1104–1134) says in his documents when in 1126 he made an expedition to Málaga he “went to the lands of España.

During the Middle Ages, the Iberian peninsula housed many small states, including Castile, Aragon, Navarre, León and Portugal.


The five kingdoms of Iberia in 1360.
The five kingdoms of Iberia in 1360.


Towards the end of the 12th century, the whole Muslim and Christian Iberian Peninsula became known as “Spain” (España, Espanya or Espanha). The term “the Five Kingdoms of Spain” referred to the Mussulman Kingdom of Granada and the Christian kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, Portugal and Navarre.

The Muslim caliphs competed with each other in the patronage of the arts. From the 8th to the 15th century, the Iberian Peninsula incorporated into the Islamic world became a center of culture and learning, especially during the Caliphate of Cordoba. It reached its height under the rule of Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III.


Next → Part 2 – The Reconquista





A Nimble Fingered Artist


By T.V. Antony Raj


Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro (Photo: Kiban)
Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro (Photo: Kiban)


The City of Málaga is the capital of the Province of Málaga, in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. The cynosure of the city is the Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, the Cathedral of Málaga. It is  a Renaissance Catholic church.

Nimble fingered artist

Outside the Cathedral, one can find a nimble-fingered street artist.  He paints three pictures in three minutes. He sells his masterpieces for mere 10 Euros.





Turntable for Buses in a Village in Spain

Myself  .

By T.V. Antony Raj


General view of Elantxobe town in Biscay, Basque Country. (Source: argazki.irekia.euskadi.net)
General view of Elantxobe town in Biscay, Basque Country. (Source: argazki.irekia.euskadi.net)

In many villages and small towns around the world, the streets are not wide enough to reverse a bus for the return journey. So, in most cases the respective municipal authorities would not allow any bus to ply into these places.

Elantxobe is a beautiful village located on a steep cliff face on the coast in the province of Biscay in the autonomous community of Euskal Herria (Basque Country), northern Spain.

Despite the narrow streets, its citizens wanted a bus to come to their village.

BizkaiBus is the name of the bus services serving the province of Biscay, Spain. The BizkaiBus and the Elantxobe municipal authorities borrowing the idea from the railway yards came up with the novel turntable manoeuvre. They installed it the village plaza.

After positioning the bus in the centre of the turntable, the driver uses a remote control device to start the turning process.




The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Prelude


.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


Map of uruguay
Map of present-day Uruguay

 Guerrilla Warfare

Guerrilla war is a form of unconventional warfare in which members of an irregular military organization or a small group of armed civilians who rebel against the constituted government and carry out harassment and sabotage.

The Guerrillas use military tactics and mobility in concert with an overall political-military strategy to combat on a small-scale, a larger and less-mobile conventional military and police forces. The Guerrillas involve in petty hit-and-run tactics with constantly shifting attacks, ambushes, traps, sabotage, and terrorism.

The word “guerrilla” is derived from the Spanish “guerra” meaning war. It was first used to describe Spanish-Portuguese irregulars who helped drive Napoleon’s French army from the Iberian Peninsula in the early 19th century. In correct Spanish usage, a male member of a guerrilla is a guerrillero, and if female a guerrillera.

The term “guerrilla” was used in English in 1809 to describe combatants. Since then, in most languages guerrilla denotes the specific style of warfare – any war fought by irregular (if not civilian) troops using hit and run tactics fighting their own or an invading government.

The strategy of the guerrilla is to wear down their enemy (the government), until the enemy can be defeated in conventional battle or subject the enemy (the government) to so much military and political pressure that it sues for peace.

Irregular wars existed long before the Peninsular war and several such wars can be seen in the campaigns of Alexander the Great and the Romans. The end of the Second World War brought an upsurge in Guerrilla Warfare.

After World War II, the Colonial powers weakened and many saw their opportunity to acquire power. Some were successful, as with the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, while others, such as the communist guerrillas in Malaya met stiffer opposition from the British army in what was to become known as the “War of the Running Dogs.”

Even today, Guerrilla Warfare continues in many countries. The term “guerrilla” is gradually being replaced by the word “insurgent”, and its combating is termed COIN (Counterinsurgency).

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan
Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

The 5th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC), a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician, was one of the first to write the theories of guerrilla warfare in his military treatise “The Art of War“.

Mao Zedong, First Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Mao Zedong, First Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China

The Art of War is often cited as having profoundly influenced Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) to respond with guerrilla tactics in the mountains in 1928. Mao said:

“We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, ‘Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.‘”

Mao has shown that a Guerrilla army could succeed in taking control of a country against the regular opposition. Other Communist revolutions, copied and extended his theories.

Guerilla warfare of Che Guevara inspired other Guerrilla outfits including the Tupamaros in Uruguay, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the various Naxalite groups in India that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits.

The Urban Guerrilla Warfare

The use of guerrilla warfare in the city is not new. It is not a weapon used solely by the left. In Cyprus, General Grivas used this a form of guerrilla warfare to realize his dream of uniting a fascist Cyprus with a fascist Greece.

Since around 1968, urban guerrilla warfare has been used in Latin America, in Ireland, in Vietnam, in Northeast India, in Sri Lanka, etc., and emerged as a dominant form of armed struggle.

Tupamaros flag

A decisive factor was the emergence of the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the subject of this series of articles. Though the Tupamaros movement was squashed by outright military action, it set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times except by the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of the Tupamaros, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:

War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.

Some scholars have contended that the Tupamaros should not be labeled as terrorists; instead they should be characterized as urban guerillas or merely organized criminals acting on behalf of the poor of Uruguay.

Writing in 1969, Marysa Gerassi claims, “The Tupamaros have achieved the first stages of their strategy without terrorism.” She says that the Tupamaros fought with the police only when they were forced to, and that they warned civilians before exploding their bombs.

Micahel Freeman in his book “The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror”, wrote:

“Although the Tupamaros may have been ‘considerate’ in their attacks, violence in the form of bombings, kidnappings, and executions intended to frighten a population still constitutes terrorism. Importantly, recall that I do not define terrorism as violence directed only against civilian targets. Terrorists make no distinctions between the military and civilians; attacks on off-duty military personnel can terrorize as much as attacks on civilian targets. For example, the Tupamaros assassinated Emet Motto, a frigate captain, and Colonel Artigas Alvarez. the brother of the commander of the joint polite-army forces. These assassinations created a climate of terror in the security forces and may have led to their desire for a fast and vigorous response to fight terrorism.

This climate of fear was also prevalent in the civilian population. Alphonse Max, a Bulgarian writer of Flemish-German descent and General in Montevideo, wrote that, while in the early years, the Tupamaros

managed to retain an image of well-mannered, considerate, polite. friendly, humane and educated young men and women.., with the robbery at the Casino in Punta del Este and the shooting of policemen and innocent bystanders in ever-increasing numbers, the true picture emerged. The public saw the terrorists as cold-blooded, ruthless criminals, determined to achieve their objectives, however vague and contradictory by means of violence and terror and with utter disregard for the innocent lives they might take.”

The Tupamaros bombed military, police, business, and government buildings, kidnapped a variety of people, shot many policemen, and even searched policemen’s homes, taking their weapons and humiliating the officers in front of their families.

All of these actions made the Tupamaros terrorists. After 1968, the Tupamaros was much more aggressive in their attacks on the Uruguayan state, particularly President Pacheco’s government.

The Uruguyan Economist Arturo C. Porzecanski wrote:

“[after 1968] the Tupamaros began applying the full range of guerrilla tactics in accordance with their strategic scheme. Robberies of money and arms became a monthly and then a weekly event; political kidnapping was launched and repeatedly applied; propaganda actions were initiated and continued until, by the end of 1969, the existence of the urban guerrilla organization could escape no one and ‘Tupamaro’ became a household word.”

The Tupamaros became the role model for urban guerrillas in Europe and in Asia.

José Mujica

José Mujica - president of Uruguay
José Mujica – president of Uruguay

Do you know that José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay used to rob banks when he was young?

José Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, Mujica won the 2009 presidential election and took office as president of Uruguay on March 1, 2010. Hailed as “the world’s ‘poorest’ president”, due to his austere lifestyle, José Mujica donates around 90 percent of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.


Next   Part 1: The Beginnings




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A Short History of Uruguay – Part 2

. .Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

The Rt. Hon. Viscount William Carr Beresford (National Portrait Gallery, London.)
The Rt. Hon. Viscount William Carr Beresford (National Portrait Gallery, London.)

In early 19th century, the British, Spanish, Portuguese and other colonial forces fought for dominance in the Platine region. In 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

In April 1806, Admiral Hope Popham, without the express permission of the British government, launched an excursion with General William Beresford leading around 1,500 soldiers. The modest British troops landed near Quilmes on June 17, 1806. With Spanish forces tied up in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the resistance was limited to untrained and poorly organized militia.

After overcoming limited resistance by untrained and poorly organized militia, the British troop advanced towards Buenos Aires. The Spanish viceroy Marquis Rafael de Sobremonte fled from Buones Aires to Córdoba with the city’s treasure, an act designed to protect the crown’s finances. But many in the town viewed his act as a betrayal and cowardice.

Ten days after disembarking, Beresford captured Buenos Aires on June 17, 1806, and hoisted the British flag above the fort on Plaza de Mayo. Then, he sent news of the British triumph to London which reached there ten weeks later. The Times on September 13, 1806, declared in a triumphant article: “Buenos Aires at this moment forms part of the British Empire.

General Beresford, proclaimed governor of the newly conquered territories, announced that he would allow the city to function as before. He offered full British protection to people “of all class” that swear loyalty to “His Majesty’s Government”. Some of the city elite, 58 in number, responded to Beresford’s call to sign allegiance to King George III. Some of them even hoped that the British would support the liberation of the region from Spain. However, Beresford, unsure exactly how to deal with the current situation decided to wait for reinforcements and instructions from London.

During this lull period the city’s 50,000 inhabitants realized the inconsequential size of the British force that invaded them. Driven by shame a counterattacking force of influential Spanish figures conspired to recruit and arm volunteer fighters.

Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, 6th Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (Art by Rafael del Villar)
Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, 6th Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (Art by Rafael del Villar)

An Argentine tradesman, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, did not believe that the British would help them become independent of Spain. He went to Montevideo and got an interview with governor Pascual Ruiz Huidobro. Huidobro authorized him to organize a resistance. Pueyrredón returned to Buenos Aires and secretly assembled a militia  composed of a ludicrous mix of Spanish soldiers, native Criollos, indigenous villagers, and black slaves at the Perdriel ranch outside the city.

At the end on July 1806, the British uncovered the plot. On August 1, 1806, General Beresford sent troops to attack Pueyrredón at his camp 20 km northwest of the city centre and easily dispersed the militia. Pueyrredón escaped to Colonia del Sacramento and joined Santiago de Liniers, a French emigrant serving as a naval officer for the Spanish.  Liniers recruited fighters from Montevideo.

A few days later, Pueyrredón’S ragtag militia joined the forces arriving from Colonia led by Santiago de Liniers.

Santiago de Liniers (Naval Museum of Madrid)
Santiago de Liniers (Naval Museum of Madrid)

On August 10, 1806, with an ever growing militia force Liniers sent a message to General Beresford, giving him 15 minutes to surrender or face “total destruction”.

“The high estimation of Your Excellency’s honour, the generosity of Spain, and the horror that the destruction of man inspires in humanity drives me to send Your Excellency this warning so that, given the danger you find yourself in, you advise me within precisely 15 minutes whether you are prepared to lead your troops to total destruction or surrender to a powerful enemy.”

General Beresford responded that he would defend himself “until prudent, to avoid whatever calamity may befall the people.”

Two days later, after being overwhelmed in ferocious street fighting, and having retreated back to the fort, Beresford raised a white flag.

William Gavin, a British soldier wrote about the British capitulation in his diary of the invasion, which is one of the few first-hand accounts that exist in English:

“Our position was commanded by the enemy, who occupied the tops of the houses and the great church… we were picked off at pleasure. After a conference between the General and an Aide-de-Camp of Liniers, we surrendered to the greatest set of ragamuffins ever collected together.”

After the reconquest of Buenos Aires Viceroy Sobremonte was stripped of his title, the city’s treasure that he took away was confiscated, and he was barred from entering the city.

Santiago de Liniers was hailed as a hero and was appointed as military general. Liniers, to repel future attacks, immediately set about forming a more organised and professional military force.

In late 1806, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army invaded the Río de la Plata Estuary to avenge Spain’s recapture of Buenos Aires from them. The 10,000-member British force captured and occupied Montevideo for a brief period from February to July 1807, when it left and moved against Buenos Aires, where it was soundly defeated.

In 1807, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, was sent as a representative of Buenos Aires to Spain. He returned in 1809 to Buenos Aires, to participate in the Independentist movement. The May Revolution of 1810 gave birth to the first local government junta and he was appointed governor of Córdoba. In 1812, he became the leader of the independent forces and a member of the short-lived First Triumvirate. From 1812 to 1815, he was exiled in San Luis.

In 1808, Spanish prestige weakened when Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph on the throne. The Cabildo of Montevideo, that remained nominally loyal to Ferdinand VII as the king of Spain, created an autonomous junta.

Montevideo’s military commander, Javier Elío, eventually persuaded the Spanish central junta to accept his control at Montevideo as independent of Buenos Aires.

In 1810 criollos (those born in America of Spanish parents) from Buenos Aires took the reins of government in that city and unseated the Spanish viceroy.

Independence struggle (1811–30)

Banda Oriental, or more fully Banda Oriental del Uruguay, was the name of the South American territories east of the Uruguay River and north of Río de la Plata, coinciding approximately with the modern nation of Uruguay, the modern Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul and some parts of Santa Catarina. It was the easternmost strip of land of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

The population of the Banda Oriental was politically divided. The countryside favored recognizing Elío’s junta in Buenos Aires; the authorities in Montevideo wanted to retain a nominal allegiance to the Spanish king.

Artigas at the Citadel - a drawing by Juan Manuel Blanes (June 8, 1830 – April 15, 1901)
Artigas at the Citadel – a drawing by Juan Manuel Blanes (June 8, 1830 – April 15, 1901)

In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas, now a national hero of Uruguay, launched a successful revolution against the Spanish authorities and defeated them on May 18 at the Battle of Las Piedras.

In 1813, the new government in Buenos Aires convened a constituent assembly where Artigas emerged as a champion of federalism, demanding political and economic autonomy for each area, and for the Banda Oriental in particular. The assembly refused to seat the delegates from the Banda Oriental however, and Buenos Aires pursued a system based on unitary centralism. As a result, Artigas broke with Buenos Aires and besieged Montevideo, taking the city in early 1815.

When the troops from Buenos Aires withdrew, the Banda Oriental appointed its first autonomous government.

Artigas organized the Federal League under his protection, consisting of six provinces, four of which later became part of Argentina.

In 1816 a force of 10,000 Portuguese troops invaded the Banda Oriental from Brazil and took Montevideo in January 1817.

After nearly four more years of struggle Portuguese Brazil annexed the Banda Oriental as a province under the name of “Cisplatina“. Argentina claimed Montevideo first, but Brazil annexed it in 1821.

Juan Antonio Lavalleja (Source: biografiasyvidas.com)
Juan Antonio Lavalleja (Source: biografiasyvidas.com)

The Brazilian Empire became independent from Portugal in 1822. In response to the annexation, the Thirty-Three Orientals, led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence on 25 August 1825 supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (present-day Argentina). This led to the 500-day-long Cisplatine War. Neither side gained the upper hand.

In 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an independent state. The nation’s first constitution was adopted on July 18, 1830.

 Previous – A Short History of Uruguay – Part 1



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