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Friday, October 22, 2021

Santa Cruz celebrates the bicentenary of its designation as the capital of Canary Islands

Tenerife Auditorium and the "twin towers" from Las Mesas park. Carlos SM Some rights reserved

After this designation, between 1822 and 1927, Santa Cruz de Tenerife served as administrative head of the archipelago thanks to the efforts of José Murphy

The privilege of Villa Exenta and the titles of Muy Leal, Noble y Invicta (Very Loyal, Noble and Undefeated) granted by Carlos IV on August 28, 1803, six years after having defeated the British commanded by Rear Admiral Horacio Nelson, would be the origin of the subsequent aggrandizement of Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tenerife, since, when the first constitutional period arrived in 1812 it had already consolidated itself as the administrative head of all the islands, as most of the State administrations were established here.

The first triumph of Santa Cruz in favor of its capital rights - taken from no one, since there was no capital until then - occurred when the captain general of the Canary Islands, with residence in Santa Cruz, notified the political superior of the province that in article 3 of the Decree on the formation of the Electoral Boards, promulgated by the Cortes of Cádiz in 1812, it was stated “that the Captain General of the province was the President of the Electoral Board, if he was in the town ...”; For this reason, when the Cortes approved the establishment of the Electoral Board in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, when the elections of deputies to the Cortes were held on May 30, 1813, the Provincial Council settled in Santa Cruz, as the head of all the islands.

When, in 1820, the Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed again, the political chief returned to Santa Cruz, a new captain general was appointed, and elections were held for Cortes and the Deputation and, although the Extraordinary Cortes established in 1821 recommended that the Proposals from the Provincial Councils that had been created eight years ago, a Royal Decree of March 1821 named the heads of electoral parties to La Laguna, Granadilla, La Orotava and Garachico, with Santa Cruz depending on La Laguna. For this reason, when the aforementioned Royal Decree reached the Islands, the Santa Cruz City Council met in an extraordinary council and agreed to appeal it in the Cortes of Madrid, appointing Mr. José Murphy y Meade, attorney-in-fact (councillor).

Murphy, for fear of being arrested, moved to the Peninsula in a Swedish brig bound for Setúbal (Portugal), arriving in Madrid in mid-July and, although the Cortes were closed, managed to get to the king and to the Government the appeal in which it stated that the new designation of electoral parties could not be considered valid, since the Courts had recommended that the heads of electoral parties be the same as those proposed in 1812. The Government considered the appeal logical and, without waiting for the reopening of the Cortes, on August 8 modified its previous decision and, once again, the municipalities of Santa Cruz, La Laguna, La Orotava and Icod were head of the electoral party.

The negotiations were not easy for Murphy, as he was a commissioner of the Santa Cruz City Council who wanted to make a presentation before the Plenary of the Cortes, where he had no vote, and the Canarian deputies (Gomera) Echeverría and Cabeza preferred that the capital fall in La Laguna and Las Palmas; However, developing laborious "corridor diplomacy" in search of support, would achieve that when the parliamentary sessions were resumed, on October 1, 1821, he managed to present his most famous and important argument in the Spanish Parliament so that the capital of the Canary Islands was determined in Santa Cruz. “For a century, various authorities established their residence in Santa Cruz whose presence symbolized that the capital was the town in which they lived and, emanating from the Constitutional Regime, other Institutions were established, as a natural, simple and ordinary thing."

Many generations have naturally seen this order of things: that where the authorities were residing was naturally the capital. In Santa Cruz were: Political Superior Chief, Provincial Delegation, Captain General, Mayor, Court of Appeals, Superior Board of Health, and Post Office Administration. By contrast, Las Palmas only has the Territorial Court and a Cathedral.

On October 5, when the Commission in charge of discussing the issue of the capital of the Canary Islands met for the first time, there was only one document on the table to initiate deliberations: the draft decree in which the name of La Laguna appeared as the capital of the Archipelago. After numerous and heated interventions, the decision was reconsidered and, at the meeting on the second day, all the members of the table were ordered to have Murphy's presentation in their possession, so that, in the debate on the third day, the Committee did not approve the designation of La Laguna.

The Commission met again on the 18th, and after a score of interventions, replies and counter-replies, the deputies were inclined for the capital to be Santa Cruz, assessing the number of authorities and institutions that were already established in the city. In the fourth session, held on the 19th, the Commission stated: "By declaring the point sufficiently discussed, the Commission's opinion is approved: the capital will be Santa Cruz."

On October 22, 1821, Don José Murphy y Meade, informed his native city of the agreement that had just been taken in the Cortes:

“I have the satisfaction of communicating to V.S. Iltma, that the Extraordinary Courts, in session of the 19th of the current, have served to designate that Very Noble, Loyal and Invicta Villa, as Capital of the Canary Islands”.

This news, written in such a concise way, despite its enormous importance, was the fruit of the hard work of a man, undoubtedly the greatest Canarian politician of the nineteenth century, who, despite not being a deputy in the Cortes, knew how to function in that unknown and in some aspects hostile environment. For this reason, this tireless fighter, authentic and main architect of the single capital, has deserved the title of Political Father of Santa Cruz.

Three months later, on January 27, 1822, Fernando VII promulgated the Royal Decree establishing the division of Spanish territory into 52 provinces, it read: “Canarias (islands). Population: 215,108 souls.- Deputies: three.- Capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife ”.

Santa Cruz would remain the sole capital of the Canary Islands until September 23, 1927, when the Government of the dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera decreed the division of the Archipelago into two provinces: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. 

Santa Cruz celebra hoy el bicentenario de su designación como capital de Canaria

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