This is a guest post by María Peña, a public relations strategist in the Office of Communications.
The Library is the 2021 recipient of the Bernardo de Gálvez award, awarded annually by the Fundación Consejo España-Estados Unidos to American citizens or institutions who help promote and nurture relations between Spain and the United States, a stirring bit of international recognition for the work of the Hispanic Division.
This week, the organizers recognized the Library’s “valuable contribution to preserving the world’s bibliographic and documentary heritage,” in particular the comprehensive collection of items related to the Iberian peninsula, Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The Hispanic Division is honored to work with many colleagues in the Library of Congress and researchers across the country in acquiring, preserving and making available many different kinds of materials from and about Spain,” said Suzanne Schadl, chief of the Hispanic Division. “This recognition … is an acknowledgment of many peoples tremendous work.”
His military prowess was an outgrowth of the Hispanic presence in North America dating back to 1565, when Spaniards established the first permanent European settlement in what is now the continental United States, at St. Augustine, Florida. They settled in vast areas of the country and established towns, missions, trading posts, and infrastructure projects in over half of today’s states. During the Revolutionary War, while the Spanish government gave aid to the struggling colonial forces, his military exploits helped defeat the British in present-day Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama.
Born to a wealthy family in Macharaviaya, a small mountain village in the southeastern province of Málaga, Gálvez grew up hearing stories about seemingly endless wars in Europe, in which Spain often sided with France against England.
Like many of his social set, he attended an elite military school in Ávila, where he was groomed for a career of battles and conquests on behalf of the Spanish royals. He came to the Americas as a teen, fighting on behalf of Spain, and was governor of Spanish Louisiana by the time he was 30.
In the war, his strategy was a win-win effort: He provided much-needed weapons, uniforms, medicine and other supplies to the Continental Army, while he advanced the interests of Spain against a common enemy. He helped found Galveston, Texas, which was then named for him.
In 2014, Congress passed a bill awarding Gálvez honorary citizenship, 228 years after his death, joining eight other foreign leaders, including Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa. The joint resolution, signed by President Barack Obama, called him a “hero of the Revolutionary War,” highlighting his two-month siege of Pensacola, Florida in 1781, when he cut off British access from the south; the taking of the Port of New Orleans; and other feats that helped George Washington on the battlefield. When he drove the British from Pensacola, they never returned.
The Library’s vast Hispanic collections – one of the world’s most comprehensive – include more than two dozen manuscripts on Gálvez and his military accomplishments. Among the rare items is a 1781 letter in George Washington’s correspondence, from Gálvez to François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, about the “capitulation of Pensacola” and the British prisoners’ “word of honour not to take arms.”
Gálvez’s pivotal role in the American Revolution is a testament of Hispanics’ long presence and contributions to the rich cultural tapestry of the United States, where they now number over 60 million and are the country’s largest minority.
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