The Spanish village that celebrates American Independence Day

The Local Spain
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The Spanish village that celebrates American Independence Day
Re-enactment of the US Independence War during 4th of July (Independence Day) celebrations in Macharaviaya, Málaga province. (Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP)

A village in Málaga province in southern Spain celebrates the 4th of July every year due to the fascinating story of a local man's role in the American War of Independence.


Spain is a country with an abundance of local traditions and fiestas. Some of them are outright dangerous, such as famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, and others simply bizarre, such as the strange tradition of filling up keyholes with porridge on All Saints Day in the Andalusian village of Begíjar.

But the mountain village of Macharaviaya in Málaga province, around a half-hour drive from Málaga city in the southern region of Andalusia, is the only place in Spain that celebrates American Independence Day.

Every year on July 4th, or the Saturday closest to it, the village of roughly 500 people people fills up with thousands of curious tourists and has a battle re-enactment replete with period costumes, gunpowder, bayonets, and even a cannon.

Why, you might ask? Well, the answer goes all the way back to the late-18th century and is due to a local Macharaviaya man, Bernardo de Gálvez, who fought on the side of the Americans against the British in American Revolutionary War. 

His name was Bernardo de Gálvez, the then governor of Spanish Louisiana and a military leader in the 1781 Siege of Pensacola, a key battle in the Gulf Coast campaign during the American War of Independence.

1785 portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez, now hanging in Mexico City's National History Museum. Artist: José Germán de Alfaro

The capture of the fort at Pensacola, then a part of British West Florida in the panhandle area and a strategically important location, was decisive for George Washington's troops later win in Yorktown, key to the subsequent independence from the British.


In fact De Gálvez, a long-standing military veteran of several European, African and Latin American wars, played such a key role in the battle the he is the only Spaniard whose portrait hangs in the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama even signed a Presidential order that conferred honorary nationality on him in 2014 - something that only eight people have, including Sir Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa.

Actors in Macharaviaya simulate a fight as they re-enact the Siege of Pensacola. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP.

The Macharaviaya native is considered an American hero because he "risked his life for the freedom of the people of the United States," according to the document signed by the former President. Several places in the U.S are named after him, notably Galveston in Texas and Galvez in Louisiana, and Gálvez Day is a local holiday in Pensacola.

In 2019, the Spanish Government erected a statue of Gálvez outside its Washington D.C embassy.


De Gálvez was born in Macharaviaya on July 23rd 1746, went on to study at the Ávila military academy and became a career soldier. He was later named a Viceroy of New Spain by Carlos III in 1783, and locals are still incredibly proud of his role in the American War of Independence and career more broadly.

Owing to this, every July 4th (or the weekend closest to it) they recreate the Siege of Pensacola in a battle re-enactment with over 100 participants, gunpowder, bayonets and cannons.

Preparations usually take months, and in 2022, the first since the pandemic, over 2,000 attended the celebration. Themed events with period costumes are held throughout the weekend, including traditional American barbecues, fireworks, and mead tastings, a drink that Spanish troops drank in de Gálvez's day.

The traditional has been held since 2009, and has been declared a festival of tourist Interest by Málaga's provincial council.


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