The Legacy of Juana Galan
The brave actions of the women of Valdepenas under the leadership of Juana Galan on June 8 1808 meant that not only did Valdepenas escape the French but so to did the whole of the region of La Mancha for the time being. The battle also ensured that the French reinforcements never made it to their final destination, therefore aiding the Spanish in their decisive victory at the Battle of Bailen. This battle severely set back the Napoleonic cause in Spain, forcing the defeated general, Dupont to surrender 18,000 men and for a time the French abandonment of much of Spain. Bailen had the added humiliation of being the first ever open field defeat of Napoleon.
However, these victories were not to last. In November 1808, the French reclaimed Madrid from the Spanish and their allies and began a long war of attrition with the guerrilla forces across the rest of Spain. Some of the inhabitants on Valdepenas joined the guerrilla forces. Finally, in 1814 their effort paid off when the guerillas and their European allies finally liberated Spain from the French. King Ferdinand was restored to the Spanish throne. He personally acknowledged the bravery of Valdepenas, granting the town the title “Very Heroic.”
Sadly, however, Juana Galan or “La Galana” as she became known did not live to see this final victory over the French. On May 2, 1810, she had married a fellow resident of Valdepenas, Bartolome Ruiz de Lerma. The couple had two daughters together. However, on September 24, 1812, La Galana died, giving birth to her second child. On this same day, La Mancha was officially liberated from Napoleonic rule.
However, the legacy of La Galana lives on. Today she is remembered as a heroine of Valdepenas, commemorated by a statue in the town by Francisco Javier Galan depicting her armed with a baton. However, the fame of La Galana and her heroic efforts in the early part of the Spanish War of Independence have not been forgotten over the rest of Spain. For Juana Galan is remembered to this day as a Spanish patriot, a symbol of resistance against oppression and a feminist hero.
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