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Ibiza people around the world: Cuba
Francisco Vara de Rey’s life story

(by Pablo Burgués)

If you have walked around Ibiza’s historic city centre at some point, and moreover you belong to the strange kind of person who is able to do it without taking a look at Instagram, you’ll have noticed that there is a huge monument built with stone and bronze in the middle of Vara de Rey Square. Well, you’ll go crazy, because that enclosure is dedicated to a man with a sword that by tremendous chance holds the same name as the square. Can you believe it? Indeed it’s a small world. Well, this is his story:

It was back in 1898, a year that was considered wonderful in economic terms for opticians and glasses manufacturers, because according to all weather forecasts the sun would not set on our Empire. Nonetheless, all the forecasts were spoiled on 25th May, the day the United States decided to declare war on Spain, who knows why.

One of the battles that is always remembered took place on 1st July, that same year, when the North American army, together with Cuban insurgents, decided to break into El Caney, a small Spanish military post near the city of Santiago de Cuba, that, surprise surprise, by another chance, is located in an island named Cuba.

The person in charge of El Caney was precisely Joaquín Vara de Rey, an intrepid general skilled in a thousand battles, who had an average but hardened army with 550 soldiers under his command.

Using the always practical and distinguished strategy of “you’ll shit, guy”, the North Americans arrived there with 7.000 men armed to the teeth. But Maths were never the Spaniards’ strong point, so in spite of being outnumbered, 12,72 men against 1, Vara de Rey didn’t consider it appropriate to surrender. After 12 hours and 470 Spanish dead soldiers, the general did his sums again and had no choice but to surrender, after quoting the still unborn Juan Carlos I de Borbón: “I’m very sorry. I was wrong and it won’t happen again”.

But things didn’t stop there, my friends, because when two stretcher-bearers were evacuating the general, seriously injured, from the battlefield, he was attacked by a group of rebels, who cowardly killed him on the stretcher itself. So, Joaquín Vara de Rey is one of the lucky few that can brag about the fact of dying being lying down and on active service.

In spite of losing the battle, the news of the heroic behaviour of Vara de Rey and his men spread like wildfire. The hashtag #WeAllAreVara quickly became Trending Topic and the Spanish Crown had the very nice gesture of awarding him the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando posthumously. But it seems that beautiful and always useful badge was not enough for the plebs, and then it was decided to erect the monument that we can see in the very heart of Ibiza nowadays.

To be continued…

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Pablo Burgués on Instagram and Twitter

Translation: Dora Sales

Read more stories: Typic d’aquí 

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