The sneer on my colleague’s face said it all.
“Spain did not help the Americans fight their revolution,” he said. “They did it to get back at the British.” He continued, “All you Granaderos y Damas de Gálvez who claim that Spain helped the Americans win their independence are just delusional. Your symposium was a ridiculous farce.”
Ouch! I was shocked and hurt that an academic colleague would blast our conference. He said it without knowing what had happened at the Symposium last month at Rice University. ( https://www.carolinacastillocrimm.com/on-teamwork/ ) I had received the same kind of attitude from a Louisiana History Professor when I spoke at the Louisiana State Historical Association meeting.
What my colleague didn’t realize was that all four of us speakers had focused on the fact that the American Revolution was, indeed, a world war. Perhaps the Americans were no more than a tiny flea jumping up and down on the backs of the warring European nations, but the Americans were most assuredly the catalyst that dragged much of Europe into this world war.
The French and Indian War, better known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) had left a lot of anger and frustration among the losing nations. Britain won, France and Spain had lost. Britain had stripped France of their entire New World Empire. The French had lost all of Canada and the immense Louisiana territory on either side of the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Spain had lost islands in the Mediterranean to British forces, in particular the critical way-station at Gibraltar, possessions in Central America, as well as losing Havana, the most important Spanish port in all of the Americas.
With the peace treaty in 1763, Spain had been lucky to get Havana back from the British. In desperation, they had been forced to give up East and West Florida. The British had refused to give up any of their conquests in the Mediterranean, or any of their holdings in Central America. Gibraltar, today, is still in British hands, much to Spain’s irritation. Louisiana had been handed off by France to Spain in part for their losses during the war.
So, by the time Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other American revolutionaries began writing to the French and Spanish governments, begging for help, France and Spain were more than ready to whup-up on their eternal enemy, the British. My colleague was right. The Americans were just an excuse for Europe, in particular Spain and France, to jump into a war of revenge.
That said, no one, not even my esteemed colleagues in Academia, can deny the involvement of Bernardo de Gálvez. As Governor of Louisiana, he supplied goods to the Americans by sending them in secret up the Mississippi River. He bland-faced lied to the British when they complained that he was doing it. Then, when Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1779, General Gálvez faced down the opposition from his own New Orleans city council and the resistance of the Spanish War Council in Cuba and helped the Americans win their war. He successfully and completely ‘whupped-up’ on the British at Manchac (1779), Baton Rouge (1779), Mobile (1780) and Pensacola (1781), as well as taking the Bahamas (1782).
The reason for the very existence of our Granaderos and Damas de Gálvez, and our symposium, and our on-going efforts to tell Americans about the influence of Spain in the American Revolution, is not to deny it was a world war. We hope only to help add a paragraph or two to American history. Non-Hispanic Americans need to realize that there is a rich and important Spanish legacy that is not appreciated or mentioned in the textbooks of the history of the United States. We would argue that Hispanics in the United States, whether recent immigrants, or the early Tejanos who came long before the Anglos showed up in Texas, have a right to know the history of Spain’s support of the United States in its infancy.
As our Granadero President has said, his own Spanish heritage has been denied and denigrated for years by the American educational system. We seek merely to help rewrite U.S. history to include Spain’s contributions. Yes, the American Revolution, and Spain’s part in it, was part of a world war, but Gálvez’ contributions were, none-the-less, valuable in helping the United States win their independence. Even General Washington said so.
Hispanics in the United States have a very good reason to take pride in their Spanish heritage.