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Blas de Lezo, the hero of Cartagena

Blas de Lezo is one of the most impressive figures of the Spanish 18th century, well and in general, of the history of Spain. He is known for the siege of Cartagena, although the life of Blas de Lezo was much more than that. He lived and died too, he did both things during the reign of Philip V, the first of the Bourbons, that is, 300 years ago, but come on, he justified his life and more than justified it in the defense of Cartagena de Indias from the English, who tried to conquer it back in 1741 after having destroyed the city of Portobelo. They wanted to take over the American emporium, basically what was then the Viceroyalty of New Granada, and well the truth is that it is a story that deserves more than a movie, it would even deserve a television series and in the meantime, in what they make it for us, those of Netflix or Amazon, let's see it, at least in the Play Academy, which will surely have more audience.

We Spaniards had the immense fortune of being the first to arrive in America and come back to tell the tale. Despite the distance and the technological limitations of the time, in less than a century, a good part of the American continent became the "back garden of the Iberian Peninsula", a fabulous garden full of riches, gold, silver, tobacco and spices, but almost impossible to defend. Thousands of kilometers of coastline, in two oceans, inland seas, gulfs, bays, atolls, archipelagos, islands of all shapes and sizes, high mountain ranges, volcanoes, impenetrable jungles, desolate deserts, high plateaus that touch the sky, infinite forests, glaciers, wide and mighty rivers, impassable trails....

America was something more than the New World, it was a world in itself, unknown, fascinating and dangerous; populated from north to south by millions of people, with advanced civilizations such as the Aztecs or the Incas. Peaceful and warlike Indians, abominable cannibals and primitive tribes that lived in an earthly paradise emulating Adam himself.

In barely 100 years a few thousand Spaniards poured over that land making it their own, some of them to get rich, others to evangelize souls and thus earn a privileged place in heaven. Some to conquer glory and an enlightened minority sick with curiosity and Renaissance humanism, to dig into the wonders that were offered free of charge before their eyes. The fortune that had fallen to our ancestors did not go unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic. All the kingdoms of the old, fussy and ill-advised Europe wanted their share of the cake because, where was it written that half of the creation belonged to the King of Spain? The first ones to throw themselves at the Spanish overseas jewel were the English.

The American emporium got a parasite, piracy, which preyed on it for centuries. America was no longer a remote or unreachable confine. The Atlantic became a busy highway for the greedy French, British and Dutch privateers. This forced the Spanish Crown to fortify the main ports of America and to organize a system of fleets so that the American treasure would reach Seville intact with all its gold and silver, precious stones and spices. The fleets departed from Seville once a year, heavily escorted by navy ships. When they arrived in America, they were divided: one wing from New Spain headed for Veracruz, the other, the mainland wing, also known as the galleons, headed for Portobelo, on the Isthmus of Panama. A few months later, the two fleets loaded to the top with riches were in Havana, and were on their way back to Spain, slipping through the hazardous Bahama Channel, where the pirates were waiting with their daggers between their teeth.

The Atlantic fleet had its complement in the Pacific. From Panama departed the so-called southern armada, which called at the ports of Peru, Ecuador and Chile. Further north, Acapulco served as a base for the Manila galleon, which was the extension of the New Spain fleet in the Pacific Ocean. For three centuries this intricate web of organized trade routes kept all the dominions of the Spanish crown in contact. It seems unbelievable that in the land of improvisation and tente mientras cobro, we were able to set up and operate such a commercial web. The professional haters of Spain prefer not to say it too loudly, lest the myth of Spanish inefficiency fall down.

In the 18th century, the English, now retired from piracy and having become a respected maritime power, decided to cut the jugular vein of the fleet system by attacking Panama. Their plan was to split Spanish America in two, and then launch themselves as robbers on its prosperous cities. In order to make the plunder look honorable, they found an excuse, the ear of Captain Jenkins, cut off by a Spaniard for trading illegally in La Floridad. "Go and tell your king that I will do the same to him, if he dares," said Captain Juan Fandi√Īo to Robert Jenkins as he gave him back his ear appendage. Meanwhile, Jenkins returned to London and made a fuss in the House of Commons, showing off his shaved ear as proof of the crime. The battle was on. It became known as the "War of the Ear," probably the most curious name ever given to conflicts that have taken place in America.

In December 1739, Admiral Edward Vernon appeared before Portobelo with the idea of wiping it off the map, which he did without too much difficulty. The Spanish governor expected it, so much so that he asked that the silver of the southern navy not be transferred to Portobelo. It was a Pyrrhic victory, which broke the galleon fleet, and little else. America was very large and the Spanish were everywhere. The British Admiralty, which for a change had underestimated its enemy, planned to deal the definitive blow to the Spanish empire in Cartagena de Indias, the most important port of the viceroyalty of Granada. Cartagena was at that time a motley crossroads, cosmopolitan and flourishing. Its streets were lined with baroque palaces and churches. It had a cathedral and even its own tribunal of the Inquisition. The best thing about the city, however, was its defenses; it was the best fortified square in America. The bay that served as an antechamber to the port was a dangerous casserole flanked by artillery fortresses ready to burn alive anyone who wandered into that hapless arm of the sea. The bastions of San Felipe and San Luis, or the fort of Manzanillo are the testimony in stone of a long history of failed boardings with the smell of gunpowder.

Eighteen times the English and French tried to take Cartagena. They never succeeded. The English had planned the assault with great care. Vernon did not want to make a false step, so he spared neither means nor men to surrender the city. He assembled an astonishing fleet in Jamaica, the largest since the great Spanish Armada, which had crashed into England two centuries earlier.  It was composed of 186 ships, 23,600 men and 3,000 pieces of artillery. Nothing in the world could oppose such a display of brute force. There was no port, no fleet that could even dream of repelling the attack of such a floating behemoth. What God had given the Spaniards by hook or crook, Vernon was going to take from them by crook.

In Cartagena there were only 6 ships of the navy and barely 3,000 men to defend the square.  Sebastian Eslava, viceroy of New Granada, nervous and uneasy at what was coming, asked for help from Havana, where the royal navy of Admiral Torres was stopping. The warning never arrived, probably because the English captured the ship that was carrying him. Eslava was alone, he and his opulent viceroyalty. When the news of the defeat reached Madrid, it would already be too late. Cartagena de Indias would have become an impregnable English port.

Only that it is said alone, it was not. It had Blas de Lezo, a legendary sailor whose name caused terror among the British. He was born in Pasajes, a village in Guipuzcoa, and was the living expression of the warrior hero. He had lost a leg in Gibraltar, a left eye in Toulon and an arm in Barcelona. He had lost everything fighting against the English, whom he had captured 11 military ships and as many pirates. They called him, with a certain derision not without admiration, "half a man". Vernon, aware that Blas de Lezo was among the besieged, sent him a defiant message reminding him of Portobelo and letting him know that his days of glory were coming to an end. The Guipuzcoan, vaccinated against British arrogance, gave him a dose of Spanish bravado: "If I had been in Portobelo, you would not have insulted with impunity the places of the king, my lord, because the courage that those of Portobelo lacked, would have been enough for me to contain their cowardice". That was the end of the correspondence, at least with Lezo. Vernon, certain of victory, dispatched a ship to England with the news of the triumph and the order to mint commemorative medals. Vernon was so fixated on his Spanish opponent that he specified that the medals should show the scene of Blas de Lezo kneeling down and handing him the keys to the city. 

He was left with the desire and all for selling the skin of the bear before hunting it. On March 20, 1741, Vernon's imposing fleet appeared in Bocachica, the entrance to the bay of Cartagena. The coastal bastions could not cope. To surrender them, the English admiral ordered an intesive cannonade, day and night, without giving pause to the artillerymen. The fortress of San Luis fell after having received 6068 bombs and 18000 cannon shots, as Lezo diligently noted in his diary.

There was nothing to be done. The fire was of such intensity that the defenders retreated to the walled fortress. Eslava ordered to sink the navy ships that remained afloat to hinder the English advance. Vernono broke through and disembarked.

On April 13 the siege of the city began. The situation was desperate, there was a lack of food and the enemy gave no truce.  On April 17 the British infantry was already one kilometer away from San Felipe Castle. At that point Blas de Lezo had decided to fight to the end, until his last breath. Dead rather than defeated, as in Numantia. Convinced that victory was possible, he devised an ingenious plan. He dug a moat around the castle, so that the English scales would fall short when trying to take it.  Taking advantage of the fact that he had the commanders with pickaxe in hand, he ordered them to dig a zig zag trench, thus preventing the English guns from getting too close, and he could release them to the dreaded Spanish infantry as soon as they recoiled.

His final ruse was to send two of his own to the English side. They would pretend to be deserters and lead the enemy troops to a well-protected flank of the wall, where they would be slaughtered without mercy. The general's plan worked to perfection. The British soldiers were falling into all the traps. The ladders proved to be insufficient and they had to abandon them. When they retreated, the infantrymen were waiting in the trenches with rusty and bloodthirsty bayonets.

The disastrous defeat before the castle of San Felipe demoralized the English, who, in addition, had opened many more fronts than they could afford. Vernon, the conceited Sir Andrew Vernon, had rebelled as an incompetent incapable of defeating 500 ragged and starving Spaniards, captained by a one-eyed, crippled and lame old man. Panic seized the redcoats, who fled in panic after the last Spanish charge. The artillerymen abandoned their cannons and charged with bayonets to the cry of "go get them, kill the heretics". The English stampeded to the coast. The battle had turned around. The unburied corpses, rotting in the inclement Caribbean sun, brought the plague to the surface, which was to be inflicted on the English in the following days. Unable to hold the positions, Vernon ordered a retreat. He had failed miserably.

He only managed to utter one sentence between his teeth: "God damn you Lezo". "God damn you Lezo". To soothe his bad conscience, he sent him a last letter: "We have decided to withdraw, but to return soon to this place after reinforcing ourselves in Jamaica". To which Lezo replied with irony: "To come to Cartagena it is necessary for the king of England to build another larger squadron, because this one has only been left to carry coal from Ireland to London".

The English never returned to Cartagena, except to Havana in 1762, to bother the ports of the Caribbean, which remained Hispanic until they decided to become Spanish-American. They simply could not afford the bill. It would be two centuries before a larger fleet was assembled on the ocean. It would be in the English Channel during the Normandy Landings. The humiliation was such that King George II forbade talk of the battle and accounts of it to be written. Vernon was not called to account. He was named admiral of the North Sea, and upon his death his nephew had a monument installed in his honor in Westminster Abbey, whose epitaph bears the phrase: "and at Cartagena, he conquered as far as naval force could carry victory".

Blas de Lezo suffered a very different fate. His country forgot him and he died alone, of plague in Cartagena de Indias. Nobody knows where he was buried. Spain is that ungrateful to the men who have served it best. Cartagena and the Colombians still remember him, and keep alive the memory of the day when a steely Spaniard astonished the world by giving a resounding slap to British arrogance in the face of its most prestigious general.

"To the sailors and marines of the frigate Blas de Lezo, the best in the world".

 

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EN ESPA√ĎOL:

Recomiendo registraros al canal de youtube de Fernando Díaz Villanueva, periodista e historiador. Reproduzco sus palabras aunque podéis disfrutar de su video de youtube aquí:

 

Blas de Lezo es una de las figuras m√°s impresionantes del siglo XVIII espa√Īol, bueno y en general, de la historia de Espa√Īa. Se le conoce por el sitio a Cartagena aunque la vida de Blas de Lezo di√≥ mucho m√°s de s√≠. El vivi√≥ y muri√≥ tambi√©n, hizo ambas cosas durante el reinado de Felipe V, que fue el primero de los Borbones, es decir, hace ya 300 a√Īos, pero vamos, justific√≥ su vida y con creces en la defensa de Cartagena de Indias de los ingleses, que pretendieron conquistarla all√° por el a√Īo 1741 despu√©s de haber destru√≠do la ciudad de Portobelo. Ellos quer√≠an apoderarse del emporio americano, b√°sicamente de lo que era por aquel entonces el Virreinato de Nueva Granada, y bueno la verdad es que es una historia que se merece algo m√°s de una pel√≠cula, se merecer√≠a incluso una serie de televisi√≥n y entre tanto, en lo que nos la hacen, los de Netflix o los de Amazon, pues ve√°mosla, al menos en la Academia Play, que seguro va a tener m√°s audiencia.

Los espa√Īoles tuvimos la inmensa fortuna de ser los primeros en llegar a Am√©rica y volver para contarlo. A pesar de la distancia y de las limitaciones tecnol√≥gicas de la √©poca, en menos de un siglo buena, buena parte del continente americano se convirti√≥ en el ‚Äújard√≠n trasero de la pen√≠nsula ib√©rica‚ÄĚ, ¬†un jard√≠n fabuloso lleno de riquezas, oro, plata, tabaco y especias, pero casi imposible de defender. Miles de kil√≥metros de costa, en dos oc√©anos, mares interiores, golfos, bah√≠as, atolones, archipi√©lagos, islas de todas las formas y tama√Īos, altas cordilleras, volcanes, selvas impenetrables, desolados desiertos, altiplanos que tocan el cielo, bosques infinitos, glaciares, r√≠os anchos y caudalosos, intrasitables senderos‚Ķ

América era algo más el Nuevo Mundo, era un mundo en sí mismo, desconocido, fascinante y peligroso; poblado de norte a sur por millones de personas, con civilizaciones avanzadas como la azteca o la inca. Indígenas pacíficos y guerreros, caníbales abominables y tribus primitivas que vivían en el paraíso terrenal emulando al mismo Adán.

En apenas 100 a√Īos unos pocos miles de espa√Īoles se derramaron sobre aquella tierra haci√©ndola suya, unos los m√°s, para enriquecerse, otros para evangelizar almas y ganarse con ello un puesto de privilegio en el cielo. Algunos para conquistar la gloria y una minor√≠a ilustrada enferma de curiosidad y humanismo renacentista, para escarbar en las maravillas que se ofrec√≠an gratuitas antes sus ojos. La bicoca que le hab√≠a ca√≠do en suerte a nuestros antepasados no pas√≥ inadvertida a este lado del Atl√°ntico. Todos los reinos de la vieja quisquillosa y mal avenida Europa , quer√≠an su parte de la tarta porque , ¬Ņ d√≥nde estaba escrito que al rey de Espa√Īa le perteneciese la mitad de la creaci√≥n ? Los primeros en lanzarse a deg√ľello sobre la joya ultramarina espa√Īola fueron los ingleses.¬†

Al emporio americano le sali√≥ un par√°sito, la pirater√≠a, que se ceb√≥ con √©l durante siglos. Am√©rica ya no era un remoto o inalcanzable conf√≠n. El atl√°ntico se transform√≥ en una concurrida autopista de ida y vuelta para los codiciosos para los corsarios franceses, brit√°nicos y holandeses. Esto oblig√≥ a la Corona espa√Īola a fortificar los principales puertos de Am√©rica y a organizar un sistema de flotas para que el tesoro americano llegase a Sevilla intacto con todo su oro y su plata, sus piedras preciosas y sus especias. Las flotas part√≠an de Sevilla una vez al a√Īo, fuertemente escoltados por nav√≠os de la armada. Al llegar a Am√©rica se divid√≠an: un ala de Nueva Espa√Īa se dirig√≠a a Veracruz, la otra la de tierra firme o tambi√©n llamada de los galeones pon√≠a rumbo a Portobelo, en el Istmo de Panam√°. Unos meses m√°s tarde las dos flotas cargadas hasta arriba de riquezas se encontraban en La Habana, y enfilaba el camino de vuelta a Espa√Īa, desliz√°ndose por el azarosos canal de ¬†la Bahama, donde los piratas esperaban con la daga entre los dientes.

La flota atl√°ntica ten√≠a su complemento en el Pac√≠fico. Desde Panam√° part√≠a la llamada armada del sur, que recalaban los puertos de Per√ļ, Ecuador y Chile. M√°s al norte, Acapulco serv√≠a de base para el gale√≥n de Manila, que era la prolongac√≠on de la flota de Nueva Espa√Īa en el Oc√©ano Pac√≠fico. Durante tres siglos esta intrincada telara√Īa de rutas comerciales organizadas, mantuvo en contacto todos los dominios de la corona espa√Īola. Parece incre√≠ble que en el pa√≠s de la improvisaci√≥n y del tente mientras cobro, hayamos sido capaces de montar y hacer funcionar semejante trama comercial. Los odiadores profesionales de Espa√Īa prefieren no decirlo muy alto, no vaya a ser que se les caiga el mito de la ineficiencia espa√Īola.

En el siglo XVIII los ingleses ya jubilados de la pirater√≠a y convertidos en una respetada potencia mar√≠tima, decidieron cortar la yugular del sistema de flotas atacando Panam√°. Su plan era partir Am√©rica espa√Īola en dos, y luego lanzarse como rateros sobre sus pr√≥speras ciudades. Para que la rapi√Īa tuviese visos de honorabilidad, se buscarons una excusa, la oreja de capit√°n Jenkins, cortada por un espa√Īol por comercial ilegalmente en La Floridad. ‚ÄúVe y dile a tu rey que lo mismo le har√©, si a lo mismo se atreve‚ÄĚ, le dijo el capit√°n Juan Fandi√Īo a Robert Jenkins mientras le devolv√≠a el ap√©ndice ¬†auditivo. Mientas, Jenkins volvi√≥ a Londres y la arm√≥ en la C√°mara de los Comunes, mostrando su amojamada oreja como prueba del delito. La batalla estaba servida. Se la conoci√≥ como la ‚ÄúGuerra de la Oreja‚ÄĚ, probablemente el nombre m√°s curioso de cuanto se han puesto a los conflictos que han tenido lugar en Am√©rica.

En Diciembre de 1739, el almirante Edward Vernon se present√≥ ante Portobelo con la idea de borrarlo del mapa, cosa que hizo √©l sin demasiada dificultad. El gobernador espa√Īol se lo esperaba, hasta tal punto que pidi√≥ que la plata de la armada del sur no fuese trasladada a Portobelo. Fue una victoria p√≠rrica, que rompi√≥ la flota de los galeones, y poco m√°s. Am√©rica era muy grande y los espa√Īoles estaba por todas partes. El almirantazgo brit√°nico, que para variar, hab√≠a subestimado a su enemgio, plane√≥ asestar el golpe definitivo al imperio espa√Īol en Cartagena de Indias, el puerto m√°s importante del virreinato de Granada. Cartagena era por aquel entonces un abigarrado cruce de caminos, cosmopolita y florenciente. Sus calles estaban jalonadas por palacetes barrocos e iglesias. Ten√≠a catedral y hasta tribunal de la inquisici√≥n propio. Lo mejor de la ciudad eran sin embargo sus defensas, era la plaza mejor fortificada de Am√©rica. La bah√≠a que serv√≠a de antesala al puerto en una peligrosa cazuela flanqueada de fortalezas artilladas y listas para achicharrar vivo al que se internase de matute en aquel desventurado brazo de mar. Los bastiones de San Felipe y San Luis, o el fuerte del Manzanillo son el testimonio en piedra de una larga historia de abordajes fallidos con olor a p√≥lvora.

Dieciocho veces intentaron los ingleses y franceses hacerse con Cartagena. Nunca lo consiguieron. Los ingleses hab√≠a planeado el asalto con sumo cuidado. Vernon no quer√≠a dar un paso en falso, de modo que no escatim√≥ medios ni hombres para rendir la ciudad. Reuni√≥ en Jamaica una asombrosa flota, la m√°s grande desde la gran armada espa√Īola, que se hab√≠a estrellado contra Inglaterra dos siglos antes. ¬†La compon√≠an 186 nav√≠os, 23600 hombres y 3000 piezas de artiller√≠a. Nada en el mundo podr√≠a oponerse a semejante alarde de fuerza bruta. No exist√≠a puerto, ni flota que pudiese siquiera so√Īar con repeler el ataque de tal mastodonte flotante. Lo que Dios ha dado a los espa√Īoles por las buenas, ¬†Vernon se lo iba a quitar por las malas.¬†

En Cartagena sólo había 6 barcos de la armada y apenas 3000 hombres para defender la plaza.  Sebastián Eslava, virrey de Nueva Granada, nervioso e intranquilo al ver lo que se le venía encima, pidió socorro a La Habana, donde paraba la real armada del almirante Torres. El aviso nunca llegó, probablemente porque los ingleses capturaron el navío que lo llevaba. Eslava estaba solo, él y su opulento virreinato. Cuando llegase a Madrid la noticia de la derrota, ya sería demasiado tarde. Cartagena de Indias habría pasado a ser un inexpugnable puerto inglés.

¬†S√≥lo que se dice s√≥lo, no estaba. Ten√≠a a Blas de Lezo, un marino de leyenda cuyo nombre causaba terror entre los brit√°nicos. Hab√≠a nacido en Pasajes, un pueblo de Guip√ļzcoa, y era la viva expresi√≥ del h√©roe guerrero. Hab√≠a perdido una pierna en Gibraltar, un ojo izquierdo en Tol√≥n y un brazo en Barcelona. Todo lo perdi√≥ luchando contra los ingleses, a quienes hab√≠a apresado 11 nav√≠os militares y otros tantos piratas. Le llamaban con cierta sorna no exenta de admiraci√≥n: ‚Äúmedio hombre‚ÄĚ. Vernon enterado de que Blas de Lezo se encontraba entre los sitiados, le envi√≥ un mensaje desafiante record√°ndole lo de Portobelo y haci√©ndole saber que sus d√≠as de gloria tocaban a su f√≠n. El guipuzcoano, vacunado contra la altaner√≠a brit√°nica le suministr√≥ una dosis de bravata espa√Īola: ‚ÄúSi hubiera estado yo en Portobelo, no hubiera Usted insultado impunemente las plazas del rey, mi se√Īor, porque el √°nimo que les falt√≥ a los de Portobelo, me hubiera sobrado a m√≠ para contener su cobard√≠a‚ÄĚ. Ese fue el fin de la correspondencia, al menos con Lezo. Vernon, seguro de la victoria, despach√≥ a Inglaterra un barco con la noticia del triunfo y el encargo de acu√Īar medallas conmemorativas. Tal fijaci√≥n ten√≠a Vernon por su oponente espa√Īol, que especific√≥ que en las medallas apareciese la escena de Blas de Lezo arrodillado entreg√°ndole las llaves de la ciudad.¬†

Se qued√≥ con las ganas y todo por vender la piel del oso antes de cazarlo. El 20 de Marzo de 1741, la imponente flota de Vernon apareci√≥ en Bocachica, la entrada de la bah√≠a de Cartagena. Los baluartes costeros no daban abasto. Para rendirlos, el almirante ingl√©s orden√≥ un ca√Īoneo intesivo, d√≠a y noche, sin dar pausa a los artilleros. La fortaleza de San Luis cay√≥ despu√©s de haber recibido 6068 bombas y 18000 ca√Īonazos, seg√ļn apunt√≥ Lezo diligentemente en su diario.

No había nada que hacer. El fuego era de tal intensidad que los defensores se replegaron hacia el reciento amuralllado. Eslava ordenó hundir los buques de la armada que quedaban a flote para dificultar el avance inglés. Vernono se abrió camino y desembarcó. 

El 13 de Abril comenz√≥ el asedio de la ciudad. La situaci√≥n era desesperada, faltaban alimentos y el enemigo no daba tregua. ¬†El 17 de Abril la infanter√≠a brit√°nica estaba ya a un solo kil√≥metro del Castillo de San Felipe. A esas alturas Blas de Lezo hab√≠a decidido luchar hasta el final, hasta su √ļltimo suspiro. Muerto antes que derrotado, como en Numancia. Convencido de que la victoria era posible, traz√≥ un ingenioso plan. Hizo escavar un foso en torno al castillo, para que las escalas inglesas se quedasen cortas al intentar tomarlo. ¬†Aprovechando que ten√≠a a los mandados con el pico en la mano, les orden√≥ cavar una trinchera en zig zag, as√≠ evitar√≠a que los ca√Īones ingleses se acercasen demasiado, y podr√≠a soltarles a la temida infanter√≠a espa√Īola en cuanto reculasen.¬†

Su √ļltima artima√Īa fue enviar a dos de los suyos al lado ingl√©s. Se fingir√≠an desertores y llevar√≠an a la tropa enemiga hasta un flanco de la muralla bien protegido, donde ser√≠an masacrados sin piedad. El plan del general funcion√≥ a la perfecci√≥n. Los soldados brit√°nicos fueron cayendo en todas las trampas. Las escalas se demostraron insuficientes y hubieron de abandonarlas. Al replegarse es esperaban los infantes en las trincheras con la bayoneta oxidada y sedienta de sangre.

El descalabro ante el castillo de San Felipe desmoraliz√≥ a los ingleses, que , adem√°s, se hab√≠an abierto muchos m√°s frentes de los que pod√≠an permitirse. Vernon, el engre√≠do Sir Andrew Vernon, se hab√≠a rebelado como un incompetente incapaz de vencer a 500 espa√Īoles harapientos y fam√©licos, capitaneados por un anciano tuerto, manco y cojo. El p√°nico se apoder√≥ de los casacas rojas, que huyeron despavoridos tras la √ļltima carga espa√Īola. Los artilleros abandonaron sus ca√Īones y cargaron a bayoneta al grito de ‚Äú a por ellos, matad a los herejes". Mano de santo, los ingleses salieron en estampida hacia la costa. La batalla hab√≠a dado la vuelta. Los cad√°veres no sepultados, que se pudr√≠an al inclemente sol del Caribe, hicieron aflorar la peste, que se cebar√≠a a gusto con los ingleses en los d√≠as siguientes. Incapaz de mantener las posiciones, Vernon orden√≥ la retirada. Hab√≠a ¬†fracasado estrepitosamente.¬†

Tan solo acert√≥ a pronunciar entre dientes una frase: ‚Äú God damn you Lezo‚ÄĚ. ‚ÄúDios te maldiga Lezo‚ÄĚ. Para calmar su mala conciencia, le envi√≥ una √ļltima carta: ‚ÄúHemos decidido retirarnos, pero para volver pronto a esta plaza despu√©s de reforzarnos en Jamaica‚ÄĚ. A lo que Lezo respondi√≥ con iron√≠a: ‚ÄúPara venir a Cartanega es necesario que el rey de Inglaterra construya otra escuadra mayor, porque √©sta s√≥lo ha quedado para conducir carb√≥n de Irlanda a Londres‚ÄĚ.¬†

Los ingleses nunca volvieron ni a Cartagena, salvo a la Habana en 1762, a importunar los puertos del Caribe, que siguieron siendo hispanos hasta que decidieron ser hispanoamericanos. La factura simplemente no se la pod√≠an permitir. Pasar√≠an dos siglos hasta que se reuniese una flota mayor sobre el oc√©ano. Ser√≠a en el Canal de la Mancha durante el Desembarco de Normand√≠a. La humillaci√≥n fue tal que el rey Jorge II prohibi√≥ hablar de la batalla y que se escribiese en relatos sobre ella. A Vernon no se le pidieron responsabilidades. Fue nombrado almirante del Mar del Norte, y a su muerte su sobrino hizo instalar un monumento en su honor en la Abad√≠a de Westminster, en cuyo epitafio figura la frase: ‚Äúy en Cartagena, conquist√≥ hasta donde la fuerza naval pudo llevar la victoria‚ÄĚ.

Blas de Lezo corri√≥ una suerte muy diferente. Su pa√≠s lo olvid√≥ y muri√≥ solo, de peste en Cartagena de Indias. Nadie sabe donde fue enterrado. Espa√Īa es as√≠ de ingrata con los hombres que mejor la han servido. Cartagena y los colombianos le siguen recordando, y mantienen viva la memoria del d√≠a en que un espa√Īol de acero asombr√≥ al mundo propinando un sonoro bofet√≥n a la arrogancia brit√°nica en la cara de su general m√°s prestigioso.

‚Äú A los marinos y marineros de la fragata Blas de Lezo, la mejor del mundo‚ÄĚ.

group_work in History Buffs and in 2 more groups

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Samina Khan

Samina Khan

5 months ago #1

Great story! I shared it in my group, History Buffs. I see you are one as well! 

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