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Sunday, July 15, 2012

WOMEN AND THE WAR II – part 2


CASTA ÁLVAREZ

As I have said on this month's previous post, I will talk about 3 Spanish women that not only fought during the Napoleonic Wars but were also recognized as national heroes for their participation in the Sitios de Zaragoza.
The next lady's story I'll share with you is Casta Álvarez.
Born in 1776, perhaps in Saragossa or Algeria (North Africa), Casta came form humble backgrounds and was one of the civilians that rose against the French occupation. In the bloody sieges of 1808 and 1809 , only being of 22 years of age, she helped with the logistic and provisions, accompanied the battery of cannons at the Sancho gates, took part in the fightings in the Arrebal neighborhood and later, some say, took arms against the Polish Uhlans. But she is better for carrying a bayonet with which she used against the enemy.

Casta Alvarez in the painting "Ruinas de Zaragoza", by Fernando Brambila and Juán Galvez 1712-1813

«CASTA ALVAREZ. 
Zaragozana, una de las mugeres que mas se señalaron en la defensa. Armada con una bayoneta que a 
manera de lanza llevaba en un palo, animaba a los patriotas y los guiaba a los enemigos quando se 
aproximaban. Donde dio a conocer mas su bizarria fue en la batería de la Puerta de Sancho. Se la 
premió con una pensión y un escudo de honor»

«Casta Alvarez, Zaragozana (woman from saragossa), one of the women that sttod out on defense. 
Armed with a bayonet used as a spear she wore on a stick, she encouraged the patriots and guided 
them to the enemy when they approached. But she was better known for her bravory in the batteries 
of the Puerta de Sancho. She was awarded a pension and the shield of honor.»


Her parents, who were peasants working in the fields outside Saragossa, refused the idea of the young woman living in a city occupied by the French and fearing for her life after her participation in the Sieges, they took her back to the country side where she married in 1814 and lived her remaining life.
In 1815 General Palafox and the Spanish King Fernando the 7th of Bórbon gave her the Escudo de Defensor de la Pátria (Homeland defense shield) and a life pension, but it was only in 1908 that she was given the title of National Hero.
 
Plaza del Portillo, Zaragossa, Spain, Chruch and Monument dedicate dto the heroes of 1808 and 1809.

It is in the church of Nuestra Senora del Portillo, built in the 12th century during the Reconquista period because of a miracle happened to the city of Saragossa after a Muslim attack, that a Chapel was built honoring the 3 female heroes, Agustina de Zaragossa, Manuela Sancho and Casta Álavarez. And every 5th of February the women of the city of Saragossa honor the relics of these ladies-in-arms preserved in the chapel. There's even a street named after her.
More on the monuments dedicated to that time period you can find it under the following link:


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