Guillermo Fesser is a journalist from Spain who has been living in the U.S. for about a decade. He had been looking for stories to tell about Spanish speaking heroes for young Latinos living in the states. "Suddenly I found, 2 years ago, that someone was trying to hang a painting (of a Hispanic general on Capitol Hill, who helped George )Washington win the Revolutionary War against the British. And I said 'What?!' I researched that story as a journalist and I realized yes, we have a general, who spoke Spanish, who came from Spain and led an army of Latin American people, who was crucial to (helping Washington win) that war."
That general, or course, was Bernardo de Galvez, the man whose army defeated the British at the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. His book tells the story of a young lady, subtly named Mary Activist, who works to finally get the de Galvez portrait hung in the halls of congress. "The Continental Congress had promised, after the war was won, (that they) would hang a portrait of Bernardo deGalvez where congress meets, because they wanted a tribute to the contribution of Spain and deGalvez to the victory. but that promised was never accomplished." Fesser says a woman from Spain saw that a researcher had discovered this promise and started working with congress to get the deGalvez portrait, at this point it was a newly commissioned work, hung in the halls of congress.
The real name of Mary Activist is Teresa Valcarce, whose effort not only got the portrait displayed in congress, but also had de Galvez named an honorary citizen of the United States by President Obama. "And that's an honor that only 8 people had through the whole history (of the United States)."
Fesser says he wanted to tell the story of this Spanish speaking American hero for children so the book had to be fun. But it also had to be factual. "You cannot mess around with the facts, because it's history. So you don't want to manipulate history. But you don't want to give people a lot of (dry data either) because it could be overwhelming or it could be boring." Fesser says he wrote an amusing story to keep young people interested in the story of deGalvez, while making sure they understood the contribution the general made to the American Revolution. "I think there are many dot hidden in the history map of this country. Why don't you find (one of these) dots in your local community? Maybe there's a restaurant that is from Guatemala. Or maybe there is a party or a celebration (in your town) that nobody knows about every year that is related to something Spanish. Or maybe you have a local hero." Fesser says he hopes finding those heroes will show young people that Latinos belong here in the U.S.
Bernardo de Galvez has been honored before in the US. Galveston, Texas was named after the general, and locally a new statue of de Galvez is currently in the works on Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. Heritage Pensacola says that monument should be ready to be unveiled in May of 2018.
The name of Guillermo Fesser’s book is “Getting to Know Bernardo de Galvez”. It’s published by Loqueleo Books.