Jennifer Zuberer, Communications and Resource Manager for the St Augustine 450th Commemoration, reported to Historic City News that this weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the renaming of St Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitución in honor of the Spanish Constitution of 1812.
Throughout the past 200 years, the Spanish Constitution of 1812 has had a significant impact on local, national and international events. The Spanish Constitution represents the foundation of constitutional government in Spain and is the first example of democratic principles in the Spanish-speaking world.
To commemorate, the St Augustine 450th Commemoration and the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine along with the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida are hosting a day-long celebration tomorrow, Saturday October 20. Each even is free and open to the public.
The festivities will begin with a moot court competition hosted by the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida. Legal scholars will debate the constitutionality of the Puerto Rican Territory within the context of the United States. The competition will be held in the Alcazar Room in the Lightner Museum located at 75 King St from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At 1 p.m., a ceremony will take place at the Spanish Constitution Monument in the Plaza de la Constitución. The ceremony will include a reading of excerpts of the Spanish Constitution by Chad Light portraying Lieutenant Carlos Arango Sanchez, an official herald of Don Estrada for the acting Governor of East Florida at the time of the original reading. The Consul General of Spain, the Honorable Eduardo Garrigues, and City of St Augustine Vice-Mayor Leanna Freeman will speak at the ceremony.
After the ceremony, an Ecumenical Prayer Service will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine located at 38 Cathedral Place at 2 p.m. The Most Reverend Felipe J. Estevez, Bishop of St Augustine, will preside as leaders of various faith traditions throughout the area ask for blessings on all nations and peoples of the world. Vice-Mayor Freeman will speak at the event along with the Consul General Garrigues and clergy from numerous area churches. The Chancel Choir of the Cathedral, under the direction of Dr. Bernard Sans, will provide music, including a metrical version of the Te Deum in English.
“History tells us that one of the places that the new Spanish Constitution was read was in the parish church here in St Augustine,” said Father Thomas Willis of the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine. “After the reading, a traditional song of praise in the church, the Te Deum, was sung to praise God for this news. When one thinks that 200 years ago the citizens of this town wholeheartedly welcomed the new constitution in Spain and how history records they celebrated it, we couldn’t let such an important anniversary go by without our own celebration.”
The Spanish Constitution of 1812 established the right to vote, national sovereignty, freedom of the press, land reform and free enterprise. A directive was sent to Spanish settlements around the world to honor the constitution. Once the news was received, St Augustine celebrated with public readings of the constitution, parades, renaming the center of the city the Plaza de la Constitución, and erecting the Spanish Constitution monument.
Today, nearly two centuries later, St Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitución and Constitution Monument stand as a testament to the document and its historical significance. Visitors to St Augustine for the past 200 years have seen the iconic representation of Spain’s democratic reform movement.
“Our Spanish history is so rich in St Augustine,” said Dana Ste.Claire, director of the St Augustine 450th Commemoration. “This event allows us to showcase how Spanish culture has helped shape not only St Augustine but our nation.”