Friday, June 17, 2022

Andonaegui who prevented the Canary Islands from becoming a colony of the United Kingdom

Philip V of Spain
He achieved a feat that would have had irreparable consequences for the archipelago

The conflicts that Spain has been settling with the United Kingdom, always against the backdrop of the occupation of Gibraltar, which has remained under that sovereignty since 1713, bring to the surface in the island's memory that the Canary Islands, through the island of Gran Canaria, were also on the verge of becoming, like the Rock, a British Overseas Territory.

José de Andonaegui, the protagonist of that feat, arrived in the Islands on May 17, 1741 assigned as an engineer accompanying the commander general Andrés Bonito de Pignatelli and was quartered in Tenerife as a militia inspector, renovating and reforming the San Pedro Batteries, which would henceforth serve as the Engineers' Barracks, and del Rosario, also known as the Nuestra Señora de la Rosa Barracks, later destined as the Canary Islands Works Command, building a new Santa Isabel Barracks.

Once those Tenerife fortifications were finished, José de Andonaegui went to the island of Gran Canaria as a colonel at the end of 1742, and on December 14 of that year he married María Nicolasa de Barreda Yebra y Melo, daughter of Diego Manuel de la Barreda Yebra, at that time advisor to the king and Oidor of the Royal Audience of the Canary Islands, (from the illustrious family of Santillana) and María Nicolasa de Arellaga y Melo.

It is recorded from this marriage that their children were Gertrudis, a nun, and Antonio, born in Las Palmas in 1743 and 1744, and José, who came into the world in Buenos Aires in 1747, the brothers entering the Royal Seminary of Nobles in Madrid in 1759, according to data provided by the genealogist Miguel Rodríguez Díaz de Quintana.

The stay of the colonel-engineer in the capital of Gran Canaria coincided with the invasion of the island by an English squadron of five ships commanded by Admiral Charles Windham, a circumstance that was the reason for his being appointed Brigadier of the Armies and taking over the governorship of the Islands' Weapons.

The British squadron remained on June 17, 18 and 19, 1743 threatening the Bahía de las Isletas (Bay of las Isletas), although without being able to land or practice any hostility due to the heroic defence of the islanders and the outstanding role of our protagonist.

José de Andonaegui (1685-1761)
José de Andonaegui informed King Felipe V of the behavior of the militia troops in defence of the Island, highlighting the role of Bishop Juan Francisco Guillén, thanks to whose patriotic zeal the attempt by the enemy squadron was stopped. The King, through the Marquis of La Ensenada, thanked him in a letter for the gesture of "singular love for his royal service", which is why he decorated several officers and soldiers.

During the illness of the general commander of the Canary Islands at that time, José Masones de Lima y Sotomayor, third Marquis of Casa Fuerte, the Biscayan inspector-engineer had to temporarily assume command of the Archipelago in October 1745.

The Spanish politician and soldier was born in Markina (Vizcaya). After passing through the islands between 1741 and 1745, he was made governor of Buenos Aires, position he held between 1745 and 1756, in which he stood out with a policy of support for the commercial opening of that country, under whose administration expeditions to Patagonia were made and the exploitation of their wealth. Upon ceasing his post in 1756, he returned to Spain and settled with his family in Madrid, where he died on September 3, 1761.

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