Biography of Camilo García de Polavieja y del Castillo (1838-1914)

Military and Spanish politician, born on July 13, 1838 in Madrid and died on January 15, 1914 in the same city. Among its multiple public charges, was Governor of Cuba (1890-92) and Philippines (1896-1897), Minister of war in the Cabinet of Francisco Silvela (1899), head of the State Central Army (1904-1906) and Chairman of the Supreme Council of war and Navy (1906-1910).

Influential character in political and military life of Spain at the end of the 19th century, due to its high military qualities reached the highest positions in the ranks of the army. As Governor of Cuba defended a conciliatory policy with the pro-independence forces to save the colony; in the Philippines it did not hesitate to use all the force available to crush the insurgents, belonging to the Katipunan independence movement. After the disaster of the year 1898, he attempted to lead a political movement regeneracionista of a conservative nature.

Member of a wealthy family, after the loss of their fathers, in 1858 the young Camilo sat square as a voluntary soldier; He made a series of rapid promotions by merit of war thanks to their participation in the war in Africa that Spain was holding with Morocco. In 1863 he was sent to Cuba with the rank of second lieutenant; ascended to the grade of Commander and Lieutenant-Colonel on the island. In the year 1873 returned to Spain, date in which he was appointed first Assistant of the general Martínez Campos. Polavieja spent three years fighting in Catalonia in the Third Carlist War. Promoted in April of the year 1876 to the rank of brigadier, in the same year was appointed again to Cuba with a mission to carry out a complete pacification of the island and put an end to the call Guerra Chiquita, a target that was, by what was promoted, in 1880, to the rank of lieutenant general.

Back in Spain, Polavieja was appointed captain general of Andalusia, who served between the years 1881 to 1888, at the same time that formed part of the Supreme Council of war and Navy. Two years later, in 1890, Polavieja traveled for the third time to Cuba, this time with the post of Governor and captain general of the island. There prevented a widespread insurrection prepared by the independence leader Antonio Maceo. Polavieja, seeing that by force of arms has failed to subdue the rebel forces or dominate completely the island he advocated the practice of a conciliatory policy and concessions limited to rebel forces, aware that sooner or later the Spanish domain would come to an end. Its purpose was none other that avoid a violent exit from Spain of the island which, ultimately, would end up harming Spanish interests, as it would happen a few years later. The guidelines proposed by Polavieja collided with the defended by Minister of overseas Romero Robledo, who finally managed to impose its imperialistic and militaristic point of view. In that decision, Polavieja decided to voluntarily resign from a position in which he did not feel comfortable. After cesar as Governor of Cuba, was appointed Chief of the fourth military of the Queen Regent María Cristina, position in which he remained until 1896, when was sent with identical charge to the Philippines. There he made an admirable organizational task in the demoralized and discouraged Spanish troops quartered in the archipelago. In the midst of a great independence wave Polavieja not was obliged to make use of any military force available to crush the rebels. As a measure of repression, he decreed a number of executions, in one of which the independence leader died on 29 December of the year 1896, José Rizal, together with his closest collaborators. As it happen in his Cuban trip, Polavieja clashed with the Government by the different points of view on how to carry out the work of the Spanish troops in the archipelago. After asking unsuccessfully to the Government reinforcements of material and men to ensure the Spanish positions, he resigned from the post and returned to Spain. He was replaced by general Fernando Primo de Rivera.

Again in Spain, Polavieja achieved a certain popularity among the courtiers media, Catalan bourgeoisie elements and the high clergy, as demonstrated in the famous "balcony crisis" and the fact that the cardinal Cascajares publicly supporting his candidacy to lead a political movement conservative and Catholic. On September 1, 1898, Polavieja published a very hard carta-manifiesto against the policy of the Government, which he accused of being responsible for the colonial disaster in Cuba and the Philippines. In a tone markedly regeneracionista, Polavieja calling on the Government to put in place an ambitious and necessary reform plan, which covered all areas of the country, such as Treasury, army, authorities municipal, provincial and judicial, as well as advocate for the administrative decentralization to Catalonia, the abandonment of despotism as a political practice and the launching of a foreign policy that is capable of ending the isolation to which the country was subject for nearly a century and a half.

Attached to the conservative party, in March of the year 1899 the new Conservative Government headed by Francisco Silvela offered him the Ministry of war, charge that Polavieja ended up accepting, not without some reservations. Despite the successful military reforms introduced in the army, officers and generals they did not recognize such work, so Polavieja, taking advantage of certain budgetary readjustments intended for the army carried out by Finance Minister Fernández Villaverde, presented his resignation and finally abandoned active politics.

Polavieja further activity was developed strictly in the military sphere. In 1903 he was appointed Chief of the fourth military of the King Alfonso XIII, since that left in 1904 to take charge of the Central of the army headquarters. Finally, in 1906, he was appointed President of the Supreme Council of war and Navy. Four years later, he was promoted to the grade of captain-general.

In recognition of services rendered to the country and all his brilliant military career, Alfonso XIII named him Marqués de Polavieja. Before his death, Polavieja brought to light two works of historical character that earned you to be appointed member of the Royal Academy of history: my policy in Cuba, extensive and lengthy account of his time as Governor of the island, and an essay on the discoverer of Mexico entitled Hernán cuts.


ALÍA PLANA, Jesús María: Spanish army in the Philippines. (Madrid: Tabapress, 1993).

ARÓSTEGU SÁNCHEZ, July: The Regency of María Cristina. (Madrid: Group 16, 1985).

BALFOUR, Sebastián: The end of the Spanish Empire (1898-1923). (Barcelona: criticism, 1997).

PAYNE, Stanley g: the military and politics in contemporary Spain. (Paris: Ruedo Ibérico, 1976).