Communities got city status 200 years ago because of San Salvador revolt

San José, Heredia, Alajuela and Ujarrás are celebrating this year their incorporations as cities, something that was awarded by the short-lived Cortes de Cádiz.

These were turbulent times when desire for more autonomy was growing in the Americas, and the French had invaded Spain, the mother country.

It was another revolution in the Americas that won these Costa Rican communities the name of city. The Archive Nacional noted that the action by the Cortes de Cádiz came because those in what is now Costa Rica sent a unit of troops north to help the Spanish crush what was Central America’s first independence movement. The archives said it gathered a lot of the information from a 2011 book written by Manuel Benavides Barquero.

The revolt began in San Salvador Nov. 5, 1811, and the revolutionaries were some of the leading citizens. They claimed that because the French had deposed  Ferdinand VII, the king’s appointees no longer had valid posts.  Historical sources note that there were economic reasons related to taxes that fueled the revolt against the Captaincy General of Guatemala.

Eventually the Spanish negotiated an end to the revolt, but the spark flared up in León, Nicaragua. Costa Rica sent solders to Grenada, and there were some deaths. The archives does not say why, but it does note that one of the dead was Casiano Emigdio Porras Sandoval. He happened to be the brother-in-law of the province of Costa Rica’s representative in Cadiz.

The gathering in Cadiz was created to fill the vacuum when war broke out against the French invaders. It had local power but also had some authority over Spain’s overseas possessions.

Costa Rica was represented by Florencio Castillo, and he petitioned the Cortes for city status. This is the same body that promulgated the 1812 Spanish constitution and abolished the Inquisition.

It was disbanded the same year when central authority became stronger.

The resolution of the Cortes was published Oct. 16, 1813. The Archivo has a copy of this document.

En commemoration of the edict, the Archivo Nacional has set up a photo exhibit, “San José en blanco y negro.” The photos are property of the archives and have been published in the book “La ciudad de San José. 1871-1921.”An opening date is to be announced.

The celebration is relatively low-keyed over the city status because the communities were recognized as cities long before the action by the Cortes.

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