On September 25, 1588, part of the Spanish naval fleet, known to posterity as the “Armada Invencible” (Spanish Armada), was wrecked on the beach of Streedagh Strand, north of the Irish city of Sligo. The Lavia, Juliana and Santa María de Visón vessels capsized due to a strong storm, drowning more than a thousand sailors. They were not the only ones, as many others who managed to escape were executed by the English within the so-called Anglo-Spanish War, whose purpose it was to dethrone Elizabeth I and invade England. A fateful date, which in this particular region of Ireland has been kept alive in the collective memory for more than four hundred years. An annual tradition honours those 1,100 deceased in the catastrophe and safeguards the memory of survivor Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, whose testimony was saved in an extensive text he wrote a year later in Antwerp.
For years now, the towns of Grange and Sligo have been promoting activities that encourage the study of the Spanish Navy and the memory of what happened. For example the Grange and the Armada Development Association organise the Celtic Fringe Festival, with different activities that pay tribute to the fallen during this crucial moment of European history. The commemoration consists of a wreath, the raising of both the Spanish flag and the flag with the cross of Burgundy, and a ceremony known as "Remembering the Navy" on the beach of Streedagh, where the Twilight Parade takes place , in which 1,100 crosses are erected in honor of each of the victims. There is also the Cuéllar Route, a tourist itinerary that follows the steps of the aforementioned Spanish Captain, as he fled the English troops through the Dartry countryside. This itinerary is led by Eddie O`Gorman. There is no shortage of festive events such as markets, gastronomic encounters and musical and theatrical performances with a historical content related to the event.
During the present year, this traditional show of gratitude that keep alive the memory of those men who died in the beautiful landscapes of the West Coast of Ireland took place between September 21st and 23rd. During those days, one event stood out: the musical 'Canon in Sea', a production inspired by the discovery of nine Spanish Navy guns on the beach of Streedagh Beach in Sligo in 2015. They had remained there buried since the ships of the Spanish Navy were shipwrecked in the bay more than four centuries ago. Several lectures have also been held, with recognised experts in the field speaking about the history of the Navy and its connection with the area. This year has highlighted the prevalence of the project and the growing Spanish commitment with the arrival of the patrol boat Atalaya of the Spanish Navy under the command of Commander in Chief Álvaro Calderón Izquierdo . As well, there has been a focus on the importance of Grange and the recent creation of the Research Center for the Spanish Navy of 1588, which has been launched to offer a visual display with historical information on those events.
Justice and Equality Minister Charlie Flanagan received the Spanish vessel in the coastal town of Grange, during an act which took place at the weekend. Several authorities were present at this act, such as Javier González Sanjuan (Deputy Head of Mission at the Spanish Embassy) , the county councillor of Sligo County, Councilman Martin Baker (Cathaoirleach of Sligo), the Chairman of the Grange and Armada Development Association, Eddie O'Gorman and several representatives of the Irish Naval Service. All of them stressed the heritage importance of this offering, which has great importance and an emotional value regarding the cultural identity that directly links Ireland and Spain in history.
HEART OF SPAIN was present every single day while the event was held, being a direct and active participant as sponsor of the Spanish foods that were served during the commemorative events, fusing the tradition and history of both countries through gastronomy. Thus, in this edition of offerings to the Spanish Navy, attendees could taste our wide assortment of products such as a varied selection of chorizo, sausage and loin tapas. They were able to taste our jams, olive oil and the delicious pate, very much to the delight of those present. As well, it was a perfect opportunity to present our agri-food catalog and at the same time enjoy an unforgettable encounter. We therefore feel proud to have participated in this event that commemorates the victims of that naval disaster and glad to learn about the project carried out by the Grange and Armada Development, which recalls the wreck of Spanish ships off the Irish coast.