January 9, 2012

0094 NICARAGUA (Rio San Juan) - El Castillo de la Inmaculada Concepción

Colonized by the Spanish in the 16th century, like the whole Central America, Nicaragua was subject to frequent raids by Dutch, French and British pirates, the city of Granada (located along the coast of the Lake Nicaragua) being invaded twice, in 1658 and 1660. Just to protect locals in neighboring Granada from pirate attacks was constructed along the San Juan River (which link the Caribbean Sea from Lake Nicaragua) a series of fortifications. The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception (El Castillo de la Inmaculada Concepción, initially named Fortaleza de la Limpia Pura e Inmaculada Concepción), located in the village of El Castillo and completed in 1675, was the most important of them and continued to be strategically important to the Captaincy General of Guatemala (which included Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas) until the late 18th century. Responsible for selection of the site was military engineer Martín de Andújar Cantos, who decided to build the fortress at the Raudal del Diablo, (known at that time as the Raudal de Santa Cruz) atop the ruins of the previous Fuerte de Santa Cruz, which dated from the time of King Philip III of Spain.

During the Anglo-Spanish War (December 1761 - February 1763, part of the Seven Years' War), Nicaragua was a major target of British attacks, because it represented a potential route between the Atlantic and Pacific, the primary objective being capturing the town of Granada. So in 1762, a British expeditionary force from Jamaica and Miskito Sambu filibusters allies laid siege to the fortress in what would later be called the Battle for the Río San Juan de Nicaragua. The attacking force consisted of 2,000 men and more than 15 boats, while the soldiers at the fortress numbered only around 100. The garrison commander, Lieutenant Colonel Don José de Herrera y Sotomayor, had died unexpectedly only 11 days previously.

When the British commander demanded the unconditional surrender, the sergent who was the second in command of the garrison was about to grant the request, but Herrera's 19-year-old daughter Rafaela strongly opposed the surrender, fired one of the cannons and managed to kill the British commander. Inspired by Herrera's acts of heroism, Lieutenant Juan de Aguilar, the pro tempore garrison commander, led the defenders to victory in a battle that lasted six days.

18 years later, during the American Revolutionary War, the British governor and commander-in-chief of Jamaica proposed a second expedition to Nicaragua to capture Granada, and cut Spanish America in half. During this expedition, which later became known as the San Juan Expedition, Colonel John Polson and Captain Horatio Nelson (the future admiral) succeeded in capturing and occuping the fortress, finally abandoning it after 9 months. The hill which Nelson attacked the fortress is named Lomas de Nelson to this day.

The fortress, which currently houses a museum and library, it has been, since 1995, on a "tentative list" of important Nicaraguan cultural sites with the UNESCO as a preliminary to nomination for consideration as a World Heritage Site. Thanks, Christhian, for the wonderful postcard.

The stamp is part of the 50 Aniversario de la Primera Serie Europa 1956 – 2006 set, issued on December 12, 2005, and consists of 4 stamps:
- Morpho peleides (14.00)
- Loro Meija Amanilla / Amazonia autumnalis (14.00) – it’s on the postcard
- Monumento Ruben Dario (15.00)
- Antigua Catedral, Managua (25.00)

sender: Christhian Barrantes (direct swap)

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