August 4, 2020

The birthplace of Hernán Cortés, in Medellín, returns to light | Culture



On March 28, 1809 more than 10,000 Spaniards and about 4,000 French died in the battle known as Medellin (Badajoz). Such was the massacre that Napoleon's troops murdered all the prisoners they captured alive. After the fight, part of the French army was stationed in the city for 47 days and literally destroyed it. Of the 458 houses that made up the town-many of them nobiliary and five posadas-only 170 remained standing. There is also evidence of the alarm given at that time by Vicenta Bastone neighbor to see the destruction of the town: " They have knocked down the house of Hernan Cortes", scream. Until the foundations. Now, an archaeological team of the Extremadura joint He has discovered the floor that the conqueror of Mexico traveled in his childhood. The finding will be made public at the next international congress that will take place on the explorer the city of Palencia and Trujillo between April 4 and 6 and whose presidency has been accepted by the Royal House.

When visitors come to Medellin for the first time, they always ask the same question: What do three churches outside the urban area do? The answer is that the area destroyed by the French troops was never rebuilt, which did happen with the temples. This fact has caused that a great part of the old city – the highest and where the medieval castle is erected – has been preserved for the researchers by the earth, the debris, the pastures and the olive trees. The area surrounding the fort was declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 2014 and became an authentic theme park for archaeologists: where they excavate, site: from the Neolithic, through Tartessos, Rome, the Middle Ages, until the Civil War. There is no ability to dig it up and study everything. They have recovered hup a Roman theater, of more than 800 ashlars, with beautiful marble statues included.

But Medellín is also the birthplace of Hernán Cortés (1495-1547). In 1890, the scholar Eduardo Rodríguez Gordillo promoted that it be erected in the place where, according to tradition, the conqueror's house stood a statue that paid homage to it. In the twentieth century a plaza with several heights was built on the site. In 2016, as a consequence of the law that requires adapting public places to people with reduced mobility, the City Council began the construction of a ramp, at which time the Junta de Extremadura demanded to carry out archaeological tastings before the possibility that in place were found several deposits. A space of one square meter was opened and deepened.

Santiago Guerra Millán, archeologist of the Junta de Extremadura and coordinator of the Medellin excavations, anticipates this newspaper that three levels of construction have been found. The superior corresponds to the house of Rafael Tejeiro, The saliner, the person in charge of the salt distribution in the locality, and who lived at the beginning of the 19th century when the population was razed. The second level belongs to the house where the small Hernán Cortés ran and the third, to a pre-Roman site (possibly tartésico). The final conclusions, as well as the images of the finding, will be announced at the professional conference that will begin in April. "It is a two-room house with a part that gives access to the upper area. It has, at least, two constructive phases, that underwent diverse reforms ". In the medieval low level, corresponding to the house of Cortés, a pavement of river songs and ceramics has been found.

Total destruction and hunger

The war against the French not only ended with the complete destruction of the city, but with an enormous death among the survivors. Manuel Leguarda Domínguez, in his study COccurrence of the French occupation in Medellín, he relates it like this:

Those who survived "found not in their houses but walls, doors and wood burned, and all the furniture, grains, cattle and other effects looted, diminished, the lands of labor, vineyards and orchards neglected by their flight, so that a decent population of five hundred well-adjusted residents, has been reduced to just over two hundred, and these miserable.

Medellín has 2,300 inhabitants. It sits on a fertile plain that has lived for centuries, but now, and due to the spectacular increase in cultural tourism, 47% of its income comes from visitors.

The researcher advances that "future archaeological works will allow to exhume what was originally from the natal house, whose plant could occupy a rectangle 16 meters long and five meters wide" In fact, already in the square it is visible -under a protective glass- the wall of the front line of the block where the family mansion was located.

The Board has asked the City Council to open the square to visit the remains of the family home. Antonio Parral Carmona, mayor of the city, is willing, but points out that the urban operation is "very complicated". "It is the most emblematic square of Medellín, which makes intervention very difficult and forces a global reform to bring to light the room where Cortés was born and the foundation of the house, of which we do not know its extension". Parral also recalls the need to finance a project like this one.

Of the house of Cortés what yes is conserved is the familiar shield that was located in the door of access to the big house. Rodriguez Gordillo recovered him, who placed him in the vanished convent of San Francisco. Later, it was placed in the place – the square – where the house was supposed to be and where it is now (although it is actually a replica). The authentic one is kept waiting to open a local museum inside one of the old houses that were not destroyed – and to exhibit it there. In Medellín they do not want to lose anything anymore. Now they are dedicated to recovering it, including its impressive Roman theater, of which the archpriest Juan Solano suspected in 1650 that it should not be far from a mampostado arch that stood out by the castle. Very close to the house of Cortés.

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