In the fall of 1807 Napoleon convinced Carlos IV and to his son, the future Ferdinand VII, let him cross Spain to conquer Portugal. The goal, he assured them, was dominate the atlantic coast to drown the British Empire. And since he promised them that he would give them the Portuguese kingdom, they believed him. This allowed the French army to enter without any difficulty, but his behavior was not at all friendly. He occupied the strongholds to the indignation of the people, who did not understand why the king did nothing; But is that the Bourbons were more concerned with fighting each other than with organizing a defense. In fact, Napoleon managed to get father and son to move to Bayonne, which became a golden cage for the monarch and the heir. In Madrid only a small representation of his family remained, but for a short time.
On the morning of May 2, 1808, the Napoleonic forces commanded by Murat wanted evacuate them from the Royal Palace to transfer them to France. It was the spark that was missing to light the flame of rage. The people tried to storm the palace and the Gallic troops opened fire. During the day, the city was a battlefield and the streets of Madrid were stained with blood. No matter how hard they tried, the inhabitants of the capital could do nothing against an army of 30,000 men who repressed the revolt unceremoniously. In addition, to punish them, the next day Murat had the prisoners shot. Some sources put the murders at 400.
Those spring days remained engraved in the collective memory of those who lived it. It is not surprising, then, that from 1811, when the invading troops had already withdrawn, it became an event to be commemorated.
As always happens with the facts that serve to articulate the identity of a group, its interpretation varies according to the political context of each moment. And although now on May 2 “only & rdquor; be the day of the Community of Madrid, during different times an attempt was made to transform it into a Spanish national holiday. It already happened in the early years, when it was erected as a liberal commemoration, where the emphasis was placed on the freedom of individuals who had decided to face the invaders. Instead, when Ferdinand VII returned to Spain from Bayonne to sit on the throne, the party took a conservative turn for exalt the monarchy and attack everything from abroad (It must be said that anti-French xenophobia has characterized Spanish identity for a long time).
To remember the facts, he organized a civic procession Salutes were fired throughout the day at the points where the most important events of that day had taken place, a mass was celebrated in memory of the fallen and the program closed with a military parade along the Paseo del Prado.
Over the decades, the celebration was losing importance until reaching the centenary. In 1908 everything related to the war against Napoleon was back in fashion and this favored the recovery of the memory of May 2, a trend that it went further during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera.
In 1931 one of the most special celebrations took place. had just been proclaimed the Second Republic and the citizens were so euphoric that when the soldiers paraded they accompanied them amid cheers, applause and hugs. Nevertheless, the central government disregarded the party and was relegated to the local sphere. On the other hand, during the Conservative Biennium it was given value again, emphasizing defense against foreign interference in a clear analogy against internationalist communism.During the civil war, the myth was exploited by both sides as a propaganda tool and of course the Franco regime also used it. Designated a national holiday, it served to reinforce the idea of a military and anti-foreign Spain. On the contrary, during the Transition it fell off the holiday calendar. However, the popular verbena of May 2 was reactivated, a previous step so that in 1983 it was established as Community day.
War against Napoleon
In the same way that the media and social networks are now used, during the 19th century political power used painting to share and mythologize certain historical episodes. In the case of the war against Napoleon, it was Goya’s brush that helped fix the idea of what happened on May 2 and 3 in Madrid.
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