Fishermen and fisherwomen, farmers, artisans, soldiers and other important historic figures walk around the old town of Vigo during the first weekend after 28 March. The city immerses itself in A Reconquista (The Reconquest), a Festival of Tourist Interest in Galicia that commemorates the expulsion of the French army at the hands of the people of Vigo two centuries ago.
Vigo goes back to March 1809 during the first weekend of A Reconquista but the armed siege of those days is a mass festival today. The old town of Vigo which, after the heroic deed was granted the title of "Faithful, Loyal and Brave", became a huge outdoor market visited by hundreds of people in period costumes. The atmosphere is imbued with the spirit of that feat while thousands of people have a good time at street stalls, bars, restaurants, taperías (tapas bars) and at tables outside bars and cafes.
A Reconquista is a chapter that left deep scars in the identity of Vigo and the festival, promoted by the Asociación de Veciños do Casco Vello (Residents' Association of the Old Town), was born just two decades ago. Over these years it has become a must-see event in the calendar thanks to the involvement of the whole neighbourhood, to the massive participation in the
re-enactment of historical events and to the lively atmosphere in the old town, which it also is experiencing its heyday after a significant urban restoration process carried out over the last ten years.
The festival re-enacts the expulsion of Napoleon's army during the Spanish War of Independence. The French soldiers had taken the square on 21 January, and it was left under the control of Commander Chalot. Soon after, this action ignited the spirit of A Reconquista in Vigo and only 57 days later, after a massive mobilisation by the people of Vigo, the siege of the fortified city came to an end. Important figures such as Cachamuíña, Carolo, Aurora, Vázquez Varela (the mayor at that time) or Captain Almeida are very fondly remembered by the people of Vigo; they do the utmost at this celebration to commemorate that victory.
Approximately five hundred people take part in the historical re-enactment. It starts on the Saturday of A Reconquista with the ousting of the Municipal Council in O Berbés Square and it ends on Sunday with a performance in A Porta do Sol Square, a real show in motion from the beginning, at the gate of A Gamboa, to the definitive expulsion of the French army, at the Nautical Club.
Old times' atmosphere
The dramatisation is the crowning moment of A Reconquista but, during the whole weekend, the neighbourhood is immersed in this festival and the old times' atmosphere, with more than 250 craft and food stalls. The demonstration of courage displayed by the people of Vigo, who gave their lives to liberate the city, has turned into a recreational event that was declared a Festival of Tourist Interest in Galicia in 2012.
The celebrations go on over the following weekend with the Festival of
A Brincadeira in Bouzas, which also has a market and live demonstrations of artisans in the city. Bouzas was independent from Vigo at that time and it played an important role in expelling Napoleon's army. Later on, the 28 March has been a holiday in Vigo since 1810 and, in the following decades, the procession of the Cristo da Vitoria (Christ of Victory), which is the true symbol of Vigo, was celebrated on the same day.
The religious procession was moved to June and, in 1900, to the first Sunday of August, which is the current date.
March is the time for A Reconquista in Vigo… and the time to celebrate.