Cádiz - San Carlos

The barrio San Carlos is named after Carlos III de España (1716-1788). It all started with a fortress wall open to the Bahía de Cádiz. It was a continuous stretch of wall, built in the late 18th C, and originally including 55 vaults and a potential to house 90 cannons. There are a number of sources mentioning the need to link two fortresses, San Antonio and San Felipe. The first proposal by the military engineer Ignacio Sala appears to date from 1730, but the work did not progress because of the lack of funds. I think he moved on, because in 1749 he was already governor and Commander in Chief of the city of Cartagena de Indias. Anyway in the 1760’s the work continued, but there was also a pressing need for new land within the town. Given that the new fortress wall also worked as a breakwater, the enclosed land could be considered for development. At least one source still mentions Ignacio Sala working to find new funding to complete the fortified wall. Several options were considered, including selling or renting the “new” land. It was finally suggested to allocate the land for new factories. The new barrio would be named San Carlos, and this was agreed in 1781, along with granting the auction of 120 bullfights to help with the costs. In 1784 there was an additional proposal to allocate five enclosed plots for private houses, and in 1787 it was proposed also to rent out some of the 55 vaults in the walls. So finally the barrio became a fine example of the way to join defensive, urban and commercial interests. 

In 1770-1775 Marshal Alejandro, Conde de O’Reilly (1722-1794) was in Cádiz to organise six new Spanish regiments, and some sources state that he was (or later became) the Governor (gobernador) of Cádiz. We know he returned to Cádiz, because he died there in 1794. Anyway it is said that once the walls were completed he requested that the new building projects have a specific aesthetic, e.g. Neoclassical façades. This meant avoiding anything overly Baroque, e.g. watchtowers (torres-miradores), decorated and painted walls (decoraciones pintadas), and tiled walls (cerámicas), which were all much liked at the time.  And we know that this requirement was included in local building requirements in 1797.

Just as an aside, the story of this Conde de O’Reilly is quite impressive. Born in Ireland he became the Inspector-General of Infantry for the Spanish Empire. He was Spanish governor of the colonial Louisiana, he reforming the defenses of Havana in Cuba, and in addition became known as the farther of the Puerto Rican militia. 

Anyway the new land was added to existing land in Cádiz to make up a new barrio. At the time (1770) it was planned to build three substantial and identical buildings around an earlier Plaza de España within the San Antonio fortress, e.g. la Aduana, la Casa de Contratación and el Consulado. The Casa de Contratación would have been responsible for approving voyages to the Spanish colonies and thus indirectly the colonial taxes and duties due. Finally only la Aduana (customs building) was completed in 1784, at a cost of more than 7.7 million reales. It is now the seat of the provincial government. 

So San Carlos is a relatively new barrio in the city. There are administrative plans that define the exact extent of some barrios, but I have not found any plans for this barrio. It looks as if initially San Carlos consisted of only the five new building sites (cinco manzanes), and 6-7 calles.  But it appears to have been joined with another existing barrio called San Francisco making up an entirely residential barrio for aristocrats and rich traders. So no shops, just desktops (escitorios) as one old text put it. Next to the wall there were also some apartments for employees, artisans and low-grade military. According to some old texts the original two barrios touched, today the “new” barrio San Carlos now touches the barrio El Mentidero along C/Zorrilla, and includes Plaza de Mina (and thus the Museo de Cádiz). I guess today it must also include the Iglesia San Francisco and Plaza San Francisco (and I presume also the Casa de los Lilas), as well as Plaza de España with the Casa de las Quarto Torres, the Casa de las Cinco Torres, and the Diputación Provincial.

Below we have two different images of the same location along the defensive wall. You can see in the distance the Alameda Apodaca, and just make out Iglesia del Carmen in the far distance (both in the barrio El Mentidero). As we will learn below, a portion of the defensive wall was later removed to create a space for the Plaza de España, and of course later still the defensive wall was modified again with the building of the modern port. 

Below we have three photographs of barrio San Carlos today with the remaining defensive walls. You can also just make out some of the storage vaults built into the walls. 


bernard.smith@mac.com  © Bernard Smith 2017-18