A Coruña - Historical Figures

A CORUÑA - HISTORICAL FIGURES


MARIA PITA


Born in Sigrás between 1562 and 1568, died in Sigrás 1643


Marí­a Pita was married four times and she had four children. She is best known for her heroism during the English attack of 1589.

The fleet arrived in La Coruña on 4 May 1589, and attacked the Pescadería the following day. The attacking forces vastly outnumbered the citizens of La Coruña, and soon they had breached the walls into the Old City.

An enemy standard-bearer, flag in his hand, had managed to climb up to the top of the wall at this point, shouting to his men to follow him. Marí­a Pita killed the standard-bearer, according to some with a spear and according to others with an arquebus. This encouraged the defenders and the attackers retreated, leaving behind them numerous corpses on and around the walls. Apart from Marí­a Pita herself, many other women and even children took an active part in the defence of the city.

Once the English had left, Marí­a Pita helped to bring in the dead and wounded. Her fourth husband had been killed, and so she requested aid from the king, Felipe II. She received a standard-bearer's pension, plus an additional amount of five escudos per month, later raised to ten. She also obtained the right to export donkeys from Spain to Portugal, and was declared exempt from lodging troops in her house.

JOSE ANDRES CORNIDE Y SAAVEDRA


Born in La Coruña 1734, died in Madrid 1803


A very versatile writer, the most outstanding citizen of the Enlightenment in Galicia. He studied Humanities in Santiago, learning Latin, Hebrew, Italian, French and English. He also started a degree in Law. His three fields of study were history, geography and economy, in all cases related to Galicia. He was appointed a member of the Academy of History in 1753.

He ordered the construction of one of the most beautiful and magnificent buildings of the Enlightenment in Galicia, facing the Collegiate Church in the Old City. Besides, he drew up many maps, including the diocese of Orense and Mondoñedo. Cornide put together a map of ancient Galicia according to descriptions in Greek and Roman authors with a list showing old and new place names. He also wrote numerous travel books.

As an economist he was mostly drawn to fishing. He wrote a description of sardine fishing along the coastline of Galicia. He also wrote poems in both the Spanish language and Galician. Cornide was town councillor for two years in La Coruña and captain of the Urban Guard, perpetual councillor in Santiago, member of the Board of Directors of the first Junta de Caminos created in La Coruña, founding member of the Economic Association of Santiago and Lugo, and Commissary in the Consulate of the Sea.

JUAN DIAZ PORLIER


Born in Columbia 1788, died in La Coruña 1815


A young, passionate and valiant progressive general, paradigm of early 19th century romanticism, married to Josefa Queipo de Llano. His contemporaries mistakenly called him El Marquesito ("The Little Marquis") as they thought he was an illegitimate son of the Marqués de la Romana.

Porlier was intimately linked to La Coruña, where during the Peninsular War he had put together voluntary resistance groups that had had some success with the enemy rearguard in Asturias, Santander and the Basque Country. He was even considered to be the most decisive military leader in the struggle.

At the end of the Peninsular War, Porlier was in Madrid, in the midst of people who were dissatisfied with the absolutist regime. He was condemned to suspension of employment and salary and four months' confinement in the Castillo de San Antón in La Coruña for his political ideas.

From his confinement he planned a conspiracy against the regime with the help of Sinforiano López, who would be hanged in 1815. Porlier's plan resulted in the proclamation of the Constitution in La Coruña in 1815. He was judged guilty in a highly irregular trial, degraded and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out on 3 October 1815.

RAMON DE LA SAGRA Y PERIS


Born in La Coruña 1798, died in La Coruña 1871


A botany teacher, philosopher and social economist, he was without doubt one of the most outstanding people in 19th century Spain. He brought to Spain the new ideas that were blooming in Europe in the fields of philosophy, sociology and economics.

He spent his childhood and youth in La Coruña, studying humanities, and came up against the Inquisition because of his progressive ideas. That's why he went to Madrid to finish his studies. He published El Conservador, a deeply radical and violent newspaper.

He was a board member of the tobacco factory in Santander, where snuff and crushed tobacco were made. He visited Paris and Havana on various occasions, where he was appointed Head of the Botanical Garden and teacher at the school of agriculture. La Sagra also was a member of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences in Paris. After the political uprising of 1848 he was expelled from France on the grounds that his presence was a threat to public order and peace.

He was a distinguished figure in the Parliament of 1854, where he spoke about problems in Galicia. This was published in El Coruñés. La Sagra was a prolific writer. Among his works the following could be highlighted: Memoria de las observaciones meteorológicas y fí­sicias hechas en la navegación de La Coruña a La Habana and Anales de Ciencias, Agricultura, Comercio y Artes. His most famous publication, however, was the Historia Económica, Polí­tica y Estadística de la Isla de Cuba. La Sagra was also a journalist - he collaborated with the Seminario Pintoresco Español and founded the Guí­a de Comercio magazine.

Besides all this, he was a member of various scientific institutions, such as the Sociedad Médico-Quirúgico de Cádiz and the Agricultural Society of New York. In 1906, the Town Hall of La Coruña paid homage to him with a plaque on the front of the house where he was born and naming a city street after him.

EUSEBIO DA GUARDA


Born in La Coruña 1825, died in La Coruña 1897


A great philanthropist - La Coruña owes both to him and to his wife many buildings and donations that make the city more beautiful.

Being the son of a poor Portuguese shoemaker, he joined the Merchant Navy after becoming an official navigator. After travelling the world over, he joined the ship owner Méndez's office as an apprentice. He became La Coruña's steam ship (previously sailing ships) representative under Antonio López, who would later become the first Marquis of Comillas, and then joined the Spanish Transatlantic Company.

He used the considerable fortune he had saved up in the construction of magnificent buildings, with two aims: creating employment and providing diverse services for his fellow citizens. His most famous buildings are the church of San Andrés, the Instituto Femenino de Enseñanza Medio, the market in the Plaza de Lugo and the school that still bears his name. Various famous people and well-known writers went to this school, such as Salvador de Madariaga, Pablo Picasso and Leoncio Bescansa.

In 1890, the Mayor of the city, Marchesi Dalmau, had commemorative medals minted by popular subscription, busts of Da Guarda and his wife were made for the school and a monument sculpted by Elí­as Martí­n was unveiled in front of the school, at the Plaza de Pontevedra.

JUAN FERNANDEZ LATORRE


Born in La Coruña 1844, died in La Coruña 1912


A politician, publisher and journalist, he was condemned to death for a poster that was considered subversive and had to flee to France. He returned after an amnesty under Amadeo Savoy and devoted his life to journalism and politics.

He was the correspondent for El Imparcial in Paris and started up a newspaper in Galicia, La Voz de Galicia, that is still published today. Together with Andrés Martí­nez Salazar he created the Biblioteca Gallega in 1885, publishing over sixty books, such as Los Precursores and Aires da miña terra. He was appointed Civil Governor of Madrid in 1910 and Head of Safety. There is a street and a bust in the gardens of Méndez Núñez in honour of Fernández Latorre, unveiled in 1982 on the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Voz de Galicia.

EMILIA PARDO BAZAN


Born in La Coruña 1851, died in Madrid 1921


Emilia Pardo Bazán, the Countess of Pardo Bazán, is without doubt one of the most passionate and significant literary personalities on the long list of writers from La Coruña.

She was born in at Riego de Agua (a central street), and was devoted to literature from an early age. This was a result of her strict education and because she had access to one of the largest libraries in Galicia, belonging to her father. Still at an early age, she visited Madrid and Paris, where she met Goucourt and Zola. She also met some Russian novelists. Her literary activity was centred in Madrid, where she mixed with José Zorrilla, Giner de los Rí­os, Castelar, Pérez Galdos and towards the end of the century, Ruben Darí­o.

Her best-known books are La cuestión palpitante, De mi tierra and Los Pazos de Ulloa. She wrote around a thousand short stories, one of which, Cuentos de Marineda, expresses her great love for her home town. The city of La Coruña dedicated a monument to her memory, in the gardens of Méndez Nuñez, a statue made by Coullaut Valera.

RAMON MENENDEZ PIDAL


Born in La Coruña 1869, died in Madrid 1968


One of the most versatile Spanish writers of all times, creator of a school of investigation that has left its mark on our culture.

He moved to Madrid in 1880, where he read Philosophy and studied under Menéndez y Pelayo. He became professor of Latin and Spanish and later widened his studies at the University of Toulouse. He joined the Real Academia in 1902 and became its president in 1925 until 1939, and again from 1947 until his death. He gathered together a group of specialists that under his tutorship became well-known investigators.

He had an active participation in the creation of the Junta for increasing scientific studies and investigation, thanks to which the Institute for Historical Investigation saw the light of day in 1910. Here was where Menéndez Pidal put together the history of the Spanish language. As a specialist in Romance and medieval epic, he wrote various significant books, such as La epopeya castellana a través de la literatura española, La leyenda del abad Juan de Montemayor and El Romancero español. His historical works include La España del Cid, Crónicas generales de España and Crónica general de España.

His love for Galicia is evident in many of his books. He wished the Galician language to be included in the Linguistic Atlas of Spain. In 1945 the Real Academia Gallega named him an honorary member.

SANTIAGO CASARES QUIROGA


Born in La Coruña 1884, died in Paris 1950


Casares Quiroga was the founder of the republican political party ORGA, that under his leadership grew in such a spectacular way that in six years Casares was President of the Cabinet.

Quiroga went to school in La Coruña and learned Law in Madrid. He was the first head of the republican majority in La Coruña, Member of Parliament for the city and friend of Manuel Azaña. He was named Minister of the Navy Department in 1931, later Minister of Public Works and then President of the Cabinet and Minister for War at the same time.

He resigned after the military uprising in 1936 and went to live in exile in France. From France he went to live in England, then returned to France, where he died in 1950. A square in La Coruña bears his name. The great actress Marí­a Casares was his daughter. One of his brothers, Arturo Casares Quiroga, also a distinguished republican, had a street named after him although it is now called Ciudad de Lugo.

WENCESLAO FERNANDEZ FLOREZ


Born in La Coruña 1885, died in Madrid 1964


One of the most popular novelists in Spain in the first thirty years of the 20th century, as well as being a great parliamentary chronicler.

The death of his father, when Wenceslao was only 15, meant that he had to abandon his studies and take up journalism. His first job was with a newspaper called La Mañana, published at the Plaza de Marí­a Pita. He also collaborated with El Heraldo de Galicia, then he went over to the Diario de La Coruña and then to Tierra Gallega.

He became editor of the Diario Ferrolano at 18 years of age. After some time at this post he came back to La Coruña and entered the management team of El Noroeste.

At the beginning of 1914 he went to Madrid as an employee of Customs Control, but soon left the job. An important step forward was to the newspaper called El Imparcial, and from there to ABC. It was there that he started the section called Acotaciones de un oyente, a summary of parliamentary sessions.

Fernández Flores published almost 40 novels and short stories. His work shows a deep feeling for the countryside of Galicia as well as a refined lyricism. His first longer work was La procesión de los dí­as, followed by Volvereta, which won a prize at the Fine Arts Centre. His most representative books are El secreto de Barba Azul, Las siete columnas and El Bosque Animado.

His novels have been made into films on many occasions: Unos pasos de mujer, Huella de luz and El Bosque Animado to name but a few. He was named an honorary citizen of La Coruña in 1950, and a street near Juan Flórez was named after him.

PEDRO BARRIO DE LA MAZA


Born in La Coruña 1888, died in La Coruña 1971


One of the most significant financiers in Spain in the 20th century, and the most significant in Galicia. His greatest work in life was the creation of a Foundation which bears his name.

He went to school at the Colegio Católico in the Old City. He then went on to the Escuela de Comercio of La Coruña, until 1905 when he left for England. He studied at Forrest Hill College in Kent. After this he travelled to Germany and France, then back to Spain.

His father, Barrio y Pastor, died in 1925 and the bank changed into the Banco Pastor. Pedro became president of the bank when his uncle Rodrí­guez Pastor died. He followed an intense company creating policy, fruit of which companies such as Astano and Fenosa saw the light of day.

He was made Count of Fenosa in 1955 by General Franco. In 1966 he created the foundation named Pedro Barrio de la Maza, Count of Fenosa. One of the longest and most beautiful promenades in Europe bears his name in today's city.

SALVADOR DE MADARIAGA ROJO


Born in La Coruña 1896, died in Switzerland 1978


A very prolific writer who published both prose and poetry.

Progressive from his youth, he remained in exile after the Spanish Civil War. He wrote over a hundred books and his library and collection of documents were donated by him and his wife to the Instituto José Cornide de Estudios Coruñeses, where they are kept for academics from various countries who have expressed the desire to study them in the building that bears Madariaga's name. The street that bears his name (it goes from Monelos to the Ronda de Camilo José Cela) was opened in the presence of the author himself.

LUIS SEOANE LOPEZ


Born in Argentina 1910, died in La Coruña 1979


His many fields of interest - he wrote essays, poetry, plays and novels, as well as painting and etching - make him seem like a figure from the Renaissance. He was one of the most significant literary figures in Galicia in the 20th century.

He went to school in La Coruña and then studied Law at the University of Santiago. He then joined the College of Lawyers and founded the first legal advisory committee in Galicia. In 1939 he was appointed editor of the Revista de Galicia, published by the Centro Gallego de Buenos Aires. He founded various cultural journals, such as Emece Editores, Editorial Nova and Editorial Botella al Mar. He published four books of poetry - Fardel de esiliado, Na bretema de Santiago, As cicatrices and A maior abundamento. His main theatre work is La Soldadera. Apart from his main work, as a painter, he wrote 38 books and edited various sketches and engravings.

Some of his paintings are on show in the most prestigious art galleries in the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, both in New York. Seoane donated his collection of art books, over two thousand volumes, to the Real Academia Gallega.

FERNANDO CASADO ARAMBILLET


Born in La Coruña 1917, died in Madrid 1994


He had to change his surname to Rey in order to work as an actor. But after years of study and work, his incredible talent in cinema took him to the top positions in the international ranking.

He had studied architecture but had to work as an actor to earn a living. He started out in dubbing and then in the theatre. His debut was in Mocedades del Cid when the main actor was taken ill. His roles in Eugenia de Montijo, Los últimos de Filipinas and Locura de Amor were all a great success. In the 1960s he combined his work in Spain with films in other countries, as he spoke English fluently and learned other languages with great ease.

Another decisive moment in his career was working with Buñuel in Viridiana, a partnership that was consolidated with the showing of Tristana in 1970. The French Connection was the international presentation of Fernando Rey, as it was shown in the USA. He worked with actors as famous as Orson Welles in Campanadas a Medianoche. He played in over 50 films and won various prizes - at Cannes, San Sebastián and a Spanish Goya for best actor etc.

MARIA CASARES PEREZ


Born in La Coruña 1922, died in Paris 1996


A universal actress, one of the great figures of the contemporary scene.

A few months after the Spanish Civil War broke out, Marí­a left Spain with her parents and went to live in Paris. In October 1943 she starred in Georges Neveux's El Viaje de Teseo, and the following year she met Albert Camus, with whom she would form a sentimental relationship. Camus himself decided to give her the leading role in El Malentendido, and she also acted in two more productions of the French dramatist, El Estado de sitio and Los Justos. In 1954 she joined the Teatro Nacional Popular. She returned to Spain in 1977 to act in El Adefesio, written by Rafael Alberti, in Madrid and Barcelona.

The name of Marí­a Casares had been systematically silenced over the four decades of Franco's rule. But in 1985 the Town Council of La Coruña named her an honorary citizen. In 1988 the King granted her the Medal for Arts together with other illustrious people.

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