La Pepa, Spain’s first constitution

Yesterday I was going to say this: This is how bad the drought situation is getting.  They predicted it would rain today.  They forecast rain.  They promised and swore it would nice and damp thought the day.  Not a drop.  In fact, it rained so little that by the afternoon I had forgotten that it had never begun.  And tomorrow this non-rain is supposed to taper off and the dry weather will get drier.

         Then I woke up this morning and noticed that it was snowing.  Ok.  This is notMadridfor you.  This is something else, trust me.

         Anyway, that is not why I am writing.  March 19th wasn’t just a day for the dads of this country.  It also commemorated the 200th anniversary ofSpain’s first democratic constitution, affectionately known as the “Pepa”.  Why?

         Well, it goes back toSt. Joseph’s Day again.  A popular nickname in Spanish for “José” (Joseph in Spanish) is Pepe.  Naturally, many of you may be wondering what the relationship between the two words is, or may be not, but here’s the story anyway.  Remember we said that Joseph’s status as the father of Jesús was one that was purely symbolic, as the Holy Spirit takes full credit for conception.  For that reason, José was sometimes known as José, Pater Putativus, or “unofficial/acting father”.  Pater putative when abbreviated is P.P., “Pe-pe”.  See it now?

       That sounds wonderfully logical and immensely scholarly, I am using Latin after all, but it’s also pile of dung.

         The Pepe part is actually a hypocorism for the old name Josepe.  The “pe” at the end gets repeated.  It’s a typical name-shortening technique.  Regardless, what is undeniable is that the nickname for José when feminized becomes “Pepa” and because the word “constitución” in Spanish uses that gender, the coinage stuck.  It’s sort of a roundabout way of nicknaming, but pet names are common and fun inSpain.

         Despite its popularity today as a landmark moment in Spanish history, La Pepa enjoyed a fleeting existence.  Promulgated on March 19th,1812, inCadiz in the south ofSpain, the new constitution received only partial acceptance.  Part of this had to do with the fact that the rest of the country was under French rule and the much of the political and religious elite were not present for its drafting and signing.  That meant that even thought Ferdinand VII was granted legitimate powers as the ruler, the monarch showed his appreciation to the reformers by repealing the constitution just weeks after returning to the thrown in 1814.  Just over two years after its creation, La Pepa rendered ineffective and many of its promoters arrested.  Thanks king.

         Still, it was a first and first it will always be.  The Spanish establishment would continue to show its unwillingness to accept true democratic reform as it would take another 165 years for a lasting constitution to take hold.  That is the one in effect today.

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