What makes a great leader?
Our Granaderos y Damas de Gálvez group met yesterday afternoon at the magnificent home of Fidel and Juanita Santos in Houston. Of course, the mouse got a little lost, but I did not have to fall back on the lying GPS. Only took a couple of wrong turns to find it and arrived to find over 30 members and future members meeting and greeting.
It’s a really happy, cheerful group. Abrazos all around. That’s what I love about our Hispanic groups, lots of happy hugs, plus Spanish-style double-cheek kissing. Even Marec, our German opera composer (he’s writing a libretto for an opera on Gálvez), kisses insists on a triple-cheek kisses.
Our group works in support of sharing the knowledge of Spain’s backing for the American colonies during the American Revolution and of Bernardo de Gálvez. Many of the members are either Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution, or from Spain, or Mexican-Americans interested in our Hispanic heritage in the United States.
Bernardo de Gálvez was the topic of my NaNoWriMo efforts last month. Since I was writing as fast as I could with no more research than I have already carried out over the last couple of years, I was able to explore the development of his personality. How did a young shepherd boy from Macharaviaya, a tiny town high in the mountains of southern Spain, rise to become a governor of Louisiana, a general who defeated the British, and a Viceroy of all of New Spain?
Denton Florian and I discussed Gálvez and leadership on his Conroe radio show a few weeks ago. Denton brought up others with whom he is very familiar: Sam Houston (he just finished a documentary on him), Norman Schwartzkopf (he has studied him in detail), and a variety of other military leaders. I suggested Santa Anna about whom I had just done an interview for the Texas Rising Documentary.
When we got down to Bernardo de Gálvez, I believe it was his belief that he was right, his ability to convince others of it, and his willingness to go into battle alone if that was necessary. But above all, I think it was his insistence on putting the welfare of his men above his own.
While still a wet-behind-the ears lieutenant, he led his men against the Apache in northern Mexico. When his 150 men, short on supplies and tired after a 20 day march across the Chihuahua Desert, rebelled at crossing the Pecos River in search of Apache camps, Bernardo convinced them to follow him. They followed and defeated the Apache.
In 1779, several years later, when Spain at last declared war on Great Britain in support of the U.S., Bernardo convinced his recalcitrant New Orleans City Council to join in an attack on the British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge. They had wanted to abandon New Orleans without a fight. The following year, he led a rag-tag army made up of every male citizen in and around New Orleans in a defeat of the British at Mobile in the face of a hurricane.
In 1781, still a youngster at 35, he refused to back down to the Havana High Command, all elderly and experienced generals, who did not want to help him attack Pensacola. He sailed to Havana from New Orleans and convinced them to provide the ships he needed. When the Admiral refused to enter Pensacola bay, Bernardo led the way, earning the motto “Yo Solo.”
His leadership as Viceroy of Mexico for the single year that he lived (1785-1786), giving of his own funds, saved the people of Mexico from starvation. He also completed the cathedral, finished the road to Acapulco, and started Chapultepec Castle, while encouraging the arts and music of the people of Mexico City.
Would he die for his people? He did.