Academic journal article Centro Journal

Identification of Ramón Power Y Giralt: Puerto Rico's Diplomat to the 1812 Spanish Constitutional Court

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Identification of Ramón Power Y Giralt: Puerto Rico's Diplomat to the 1812 Spanish Constitutional Court

Article excerpt

Positive identification of skeletonized remains is a challenge faced by forensic anthropologists in contemporary medico-legal investigations. Sometimes, these specialists are asked to examine historic remains with the intention of identifying specific individuals (Owsley et al. 2006; Teixeira 1985; Ubelaker 1996). Applying modern forensic investigative techniques to remains from the past can be challenging due to the frequent absence of detailed personal information useful for comparison with the skeletal record. Under the best of conditions, variable bone preservation or historic events can make the task even more difficult, requiring considerable effort to reconstruct even a partial skeleton.

Such was the task requested of a commission of historians and scientists formed by the Puerto Rican government. The commission was asked to identify the remains of Ramón Power y Giralt, Puerto Rico's delegate to the 1812 Spanish Court of Cádiz and an important dignitary in that political body. Almost two hundred years after his death the government intended to commemorate Power's contributions to Puerto Rican history through the possible repatriation of his remains.

Ramón Power y Giralt

Ramón Power y Giralt was born on October 27, 1775. His mother, Maria Josefa Giralt Santaella, of Spanish decent and born in Spain, married young to a man 23 years her senior. Power's father, Don Joaquín Ramón Power y Morgan, was Spanish-born of Irish, French, and Spanish decent (Blanco 1932). Their children, three sons and two daughters, were born in Puerto Rico (Libro Copiador 26: 248; Torrejon Chavez 2011).

Ramón Power was formally educated, and in 1787 he accompanied his brother to Spain to study under the tutelage of their uncle, who resided in Bilbao. In 1792 Power received naval training at the Real Compania Marina del Ferrol, and the following year he participated in the occupation of Toulon, France, with the combined forces of Spain and England. From 1794 to 1801 he continued his service to Spain and sailed extensively in the waters of the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean. After the death of his father in 1802, he returned to Puerto Rico to care for his mother and siblings. By 1805 Ramón Power was employed by the Correos de Costa Firme and remained with the postal and shipping service until 1808. The following year Power was honored for his heroic effort in guarding the outlet of the Ozama River with his ships during the reconquest of Santo Domingo.

In 1810, Spain rebelled against its Napoleonic government, convened the Court of Cádiz, and invited representatives from its colonies to help draft a Spanish constitution. At the age of 35, Ramón Power was elected Puerto Rico's delegate, and on September 25, 1810, was elected vice president of the Court. In 1812 the delegates finalized Spain's first written constitution, which not only promoted independence from Napoleon Bonaparte, but also allowed the colonies a political voice and some degree of autonomy. Power died from yellow fever on June 10, 1813, just months after signing the constitution framed with his guidance. He was buried in Cádiz, Spain (Blanco 1932; Dávila 1962; Tapia y Rivera 1873).

Historical records place the remains of Ramón Power in a sarcophagus within the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri church in Cádiz, where the Constitution of 1812 was debated and signed. However, it was not until 1931 that the bones of Power, along with those of ten other members of the 1812 Court, were moved to this location.

Power and other 1812 Court members were originally buried in family plots or individual tombs. In 1865 a monument was erected in the Cemetery of San José in Cádiz, and the remains of eleven Court members, including Power, were exhumed and relocated to this memorial (Archivo Municipal de Cádiz, Actas Capitulares del 21-03-1865, L.10.282, ff. 151v-154). Each was placed in an individual lead box marked with his name. During unrest leading to the Spanish Civil War, the Cemetery of San José was reportedly looted, and lead containers were appropriated for the production of ammunition. …

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