Opinion – Normalitas: Bonaparte in Spain, cachaça, Liz Taylor (part II)


(This article is a continuation of this one)

In the previous article, he told how José Bonaparte, Napoleon’s older brother, became king of Spain back in the 1800s, almost (they say) to his displeasure. The impossible mission: calm the Spanish spirits during the Napoleonic invasion.

During his brief reign (1808-1813), Zé Bona, pardon, José I, it’s right, lived adventures, had 1805719adf lovers, tried to please Christ and the rich. The usual, let’s go. She didn’t roll, she made a big mistake, she made a big mistake.

On top of that, and this is the theme here, he suffered incessant bullying by the population españolapassing to history as Zé, O Cachaceiro (or, in the original, “Pepe Botella [garrafa]”).

And how did that happen?

People’s anti-gringa piracy spanish.

Soon after assuming the throne, in the midst of the Spanish War of Independence, José announced the first reform.

In an attempt to win the sympathy of the population, Zé Bona allows the “manufacture, circulation and sale” of card games.

According to the royal decree of February 1809, the name of the “commissioned” or “administrator” who received the tax on the decks would appear on the six of hearts.

Decks without the official signature would be confiscated, and their merchants and buyers, “punished with the penalties prescribed in the royal instructions and orders”.

With this first measure, José I was already removed from VivaLasVegas (if Las Vegas existed then) and a defender of gambling.

But the historic nickname would stick even with the second renovation, days later.

With it, the king released the manufacture, circulation and sale of alcoholic beverages, generically called “rosolis” (spirits of varied origins and formulas that took sugar, cinnamon, anise and plantiñas) and “liqueurs” or “spirits”. The decree instituted cheaper taxes as well.

Caricatures of the time show the Napoleonic king surrounded by wines and playing cards. Often with a cucumber – an allusion to the nickname he earned (“Pepe”, José’s Spanish nickname is “Pepino”, in Italian) – and, always, with a bottle-bottle.


Other measures of a popular/ist nature would follow, without, however, changing the general rejection of the Napoleonic mandate.

For example, although he was a notorious “antitaurine”, José I resurrected bullfighting (banned during the reign of Charles IV) and turned it back into popular and free events.


The people threw themselves into the shows en masse, but Pepe Cachaça’s loki reputation continued unabated.

According to the Alicante historian José Piqueres, a scholar of Bonaparte and his period in Spain, the monarch “tried in every way [ganhar a aprovação pública]”. With the press, with the constant presence in the Church to give the image of Catholic, in his outings to the theater, parties…”

(well, well, how familiar it all sounds ilson)

But, says Piqueres, “patriotic propaganda” won the day, popularizing caricatures like this one:

In fact, I first heard about “Pepe Botella” as a joke, when a friend was referring to another friend who was a bit crooked after a good vin. The historic nickname is in school books, is learned by children, became pop.

Of course, it wasn’t all jokes. There was a War of Independence going on, with the support of British and Portuguese troops against the French Empire.

The end of the story of Pepe-Zé, who left the reign in 1813 to give way to Fernando VII, is that he was sent to a village called Bordentown in New Jersey, United States.

In his luggage, the bastard took Spanish crown jewels (which he sold to build a basic little mansion), swans imported from the Old Continent and a collection of books that, for a brief historical period, was considered the largest and most important in the country.

In short, I would say: poor thing it wasn’t.

He spent his last days throwing parties and receiving illustrious figures such as the Amerricaine president John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) or the biggest-richest-in-the-country slave banker Stephen Girard (I lie: in 1939, he returned for good to Europe, where he would die 5 years after).

One of the Spanish jewels that Pepe took was “The Pilgrim”, a pearl that Felipe II gave as a gift to Maria Tudor and that, oh-life, in 1969 ended up around Elizabeth Taylor’s neck, as a gift from her then-husband Richard Burton.

(By the way, this chubby drop-shaped pearl has an interesting story, that’s for a next column!)

In time: the revolution of the “cigarette cases” in Cádiz, mentioned in part I of this article, is also historical. A group of women anti-monarchy and advocates of equal rights took to the world right before the passage of the Constitution of Cádiz of 1812, known as “La Pepa”.

The hope was that the document would embody at least part of the claims. It didn’t.

Even so, it is still considered the first Spanish constitution (the previous one, from Bayonne, 1808), and very advanced for the time, thanks to French liberal influence. It lasted two years, being annulled by Ferdinand VII in 1814, with the Napoleonic defeat.

The nickname “La Pepa” comes from Pepe, in honor of the day it was enacted, March 19, San José Day. Pepe, Pepe. Zé, Zefa, cachaças, stories…

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