Las Cabezas de San Juan, in the province of Seville, a village nestled in the Lower Guadalquivir that is still a forced transit to Cádiz, dawned, at 8 am on January 1, 1820, writing the most outstanding page of its history. An episode that is also transcendental to frame contemporary history in Spain: the pronouncement of General Rafael del Riego (Tuña, Asturias, 1784 - Madrid, 1823) that, raised in arms, intended to force Fernando VII to abandon the absolutist regime restored in 1814, after the War of Independence, and return to abide by the Constitution proclaimed by the Cortes of Cádiz in 1812. The triumph - although not immediate - of this revolution opened the door to the so-called Liberal Triennium, a period in which, for the first time in history, Spain was to be governed by a constitutional system. “The lights of Europe no longer allow, sir, for nations to be governed as absolute possessions of kings (...). Resurrect the Constitution of Spain, here is its purpose: to decide that it is the legitimately represented Nation who has only the right to give laws to itself, ”said the manifesto that, addressed to the absolutist monarch, the military read in the now called plaza de the Constitution of the Sevillian municipality that first year of which two centuries are fulfilled.
Character on which even today there is no consensus - "has gone down in history as a controversial character, hero for some, military coup for others", recognizes the former vice president of the Government Alfonso Guerra-, it is nevertheless unquestionable that Riego was the great protagonist of what is considered the first military coup in the history of Spain. Infiltrated since the end of the War of Independence in the clandestine movements of the Army that exercised liberal opposition to the regime of Ferdinand VII - which had abolished the Constitution of 12 "as if it had never happened" -, the general was that 1 January in the bordering provinces with Cádiz along with another 20,000 men. All of them had to embark to America in order to quell the independence revolts that were breaking into territories of the still Spanish Empire. But, in a turn that would go around the course of Spanish history, he left the script and proclaimed the Constitution of Cádiz.
The most critical voices, among which is that of Manuel Moreno Alonso, Professor of Contemporary History of the Sevilla University, they believe that “Irrigation found an excellent pretext, all the liberal paraphernalia of the triumph of the Constitution, not to go to the colonies. It has never been highlighted, but the key cause is that he did not want to go to America, ”says the professor, for whom“ the work of Irrigation was unfortunate in every way and plunged the country into chaos. ” "The celebration of this event must avoid a single historical vision," Moreno Alonso insists. "You have to be critical of the dissonant things that the coup had: they did it by putting aside the doceañistas, that is, they charged against the own liberals, and Irrigation obeyed, not to the popular will, but to the Masonic lodges to which it was due ”. In them he had entered years before to find there one of the most powerful springs in the fight against absolutism.
On the contrary, Guerra believes that “it is not possible to forget that, beyond the conjectures about the personal motivation that induced him to act as he did, Riego revolts claiming the liberal Constitution of 1812, opposes the King's felony absolutist and is brutally repressed with a tragic end of dismemberment. From 1812, Spanish political life took the path of authoritarianism until 1978 with the current Constitution, saving the short period of the Republic of 1931, which also ended authoritatively. ”
This voice is added by Professor Alberto González Troyano, Professor of Literature at the universities of Fez (Morocco), Cádiz and Seville and the Ibero-American Prize Cádiz courts of Social Sciences in 2012. “The deed of Irrigation has had a more than positive impact on the construction of liberal Spain. We should approach the event of the pronouncement as the first example in the history of our country of a military man who stands in favor of the constitutional cause. Irrigation is not himself, nor his particular causes, but what he represents: he collected the collective will and achieved that, for three years, liberalism triumphed in Spain, ”he says.
Ferdinand VII took almost three months to react. It was necessary for a large crowd to surround the Madrid's royal palace to meet the demands of irrigation. He did it with a manifesto that included the historic proclamation for which he was nicknamed The felon, in relation to his disloyalty: "Let us march frankly, and I first, on the constitutional path." Thus began the Liberal Triennium, a brief dream that ended with Guillotined Irrigation in the Plaza de la Cebada in Madrid by order of the monarch himself, who had not stopped maneuvering to make the liberal essay fail and was consumed with the entry into Spain of the One Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis commanded by the Duke of Angoulême. “Irrigation attended only its end, abandoned all over the world. He was a man of few lights, an inconsistent myth built on a character that was made with a wax that burned badly, ”Professor Moreno Alonso insists.
However, Guerra recalls, “Our contemporary history is not so full of characters that have given their lives to defend constitutional democratic values to let a 200-year anniversary pass, without remembering General Irrigation. For more than two centuries in Spain the construction of a modern state was not achieved because the reactionary forces of the moment were conjured to prevent it: the throne, the sword, the altar and the great agrarian fortunes. The liberal principle proclaimed by the liberal Irrigation is confirmed by the Constitution of 78, which looks a lot in the one of 12, with an Army that assumes the role that the Constitution consigns and with a monarch - there are actually two - that defend constitutional democracy, in February 1981 and October 2017 as culminating dates "
Another of the great milestones for which the name of Irrigation is still associated with the history of the Liberalism of Spain is the anthem that bears his name and that was born that same January 1, 1812 to accompany the march of the general with the rebel troops that forced to the king to sign the Constitution in 1820. Despite being known by the name of Irrigation, the letter was the work of his friend Evaristo Fernández de San Miguel, lieutenant colonel and companion in the insurrection. The author of the music, however, is officially unknown, although there are several theories, among which the authorship of the romantic composer José Melchor Gomis stands out. Despite its enormous popularity in the First and Second Republic - with the inclusion of a satirical letter - it only became an official anthem in the Liberal Triennium.