Spanish Holidays: Dos de Mayo

Fine I admit it.  I really make an effort to convince people from beyond these borders that this is a hardworking productive country, and it is, trust me, but with all these holidays bunched together, no one believes me.  What’s the reason fro sleeping in this morning?

Well, you see, Spain is divided up into provinces which, in most cases, are grouped into political regions known as comunidades. In some places, the province and the comunidad are both the same, such as is the case of Madrid.  And, of course, each comunidad needs its own holiday.  This time it’s called the Dos de Mayo, The Second of May, and it is observed only in the region of Madrid’s holiday to commemorate the uprising against French control back in 1808.  The rebellion was pretty much a total failure but it did spark a widespread war to rid the country of their neighbors from the north. 

How did the French get there in the first place?  Well, it was mostly the Spanish’s fault.  A minister named Godoy invited them in 1807 to aid the Spain in its attempt to take over Portugal…yet again.  The British were over there on the other side trying to help out the Portuguese.  The French said fine, and once in Spain decided they would stick around a little longer.  Napoleon’s brother Joseph became the self-proclaimed king. 

The French were never really very welcome in this country, and less so with rifles and bayonets.  They did their best to domesticate the locals, but that just teed them off even more.  So, on May 2, they had enough and took to the streets.  The rebellion was a failure and the uprisers suppressed, but the events did spark a long and costly war called the Peninsular War (or the War of Independence). 

In general, the good people of Madrid of Madrid do little to honor this day, other than with a nice spring walk and a vermouth before lunch.  There are some special events, like a small parade that goes to the memorial in the square that bears the same name.  Oh, and there’s a bullfight or two, that’s true.

By the way, to get a feel for the tragic outcome of the Dos de Mayo rebellion, go to Prado Museum and gaze at Goya’s powerful depiction of the executions that followed. They took place the next day, hence the aptly named Tres de Mayo.


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