After Santo Domingo, the wine country ends, and the land is flatter, more bare.
Heading to Belorado, the pilgrim enters Castile, and the province of Burgos.
Something that made me pause was this bicentennial marker, reminding the traveller that the remains of four hundred patriots lie in these fields. The Peninsular War against Napoleon was, for the Spanish, their War of Independence.
One needs to recognise that Spain, after some hesitation, tried to collaborate with Napoleon in a carve-up of Portugal. The Spanish let the French in by the front door. Just as it’s not fashionable to recall that both Russia and Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and then colluded for the first two years of WWII, similarly, Spain and France were initial collaborators in France’s entry into Iberia. Portugal had a nice fleet and a juicy empire, things very much to Spain’s taste. But Napoleon and his revolutionary liberalism were initially such a hit with the Spanish population, that he soon turned on his allies. The Emperor presumed upon the divisiveness of Spain’s races and regions as well as the crappiness of its old monarchy.
What he didn’t grasp till too late is the Spanish character. Those divisive and separatist Iberians are divided and separate for a reason. Spain’s history was never about ideals and ideas, but about impulsive struggle against the mere scent of intrusion. It started in the Asturias with a sudden and brutal rebellion against French rule, and spread almost immediately across Spain. Napoleon had managed to unite Spain…against Napoleon.
Spain’s independence, such as it was to be, would take a while. Sudden political change left it unbalanced. Napoleon was able to usher masses of experienced forces into the struggle, and it would take four or five years, and certain problems in Russia, before the allies succeeded.
Well, independence left Spain free to divide and have its own wars again, especially those weird Carlist wars. But there’s no doubting the fury and unrelenting courage of its people in a war where the term guerilla came to prominence. Spain’s a bad place to stage a fight.