Route of El Empecinado
Juan Martín Díez, nicknamed El Empecinado, was born on September 2, 1775, in Castrillo de Duero. His military vocation led him to enlist, at the age of 18, in the Rosellon campaign (War of the Convention, from 1793 to 1795). Those two years of conflict were a valuable learning experience in the art of war for him, and they also marked the beginning of his antipathy and repulsion towards the French.
Join us in experiencing the exciting life of this renowned military figure from the Ribera region through the following itinerary in our area:
- Castrillo de Duero
- Valbuena de Duero
- Olmos de Peñafiel
- Nava de Roa
- Roa de Duero
We start our route in Castrillo de Duero, the birthplace of Juan Martín Díez, also known as El Empecinado. In front of the Town Hall, there is a statue dedicated to this guerrilla fighter, a distinguished son of the municipality. His birthplace, where he lived for a significant part of his life, is also preserved, although it has been extensively transformed. The Town Hall has an abundant collection of exhibits and research materials about the figure of El Empecinado, around which they have created an Interpretation Center.
In 1796, he married Catalina de la Fuente, a native of Fuentecén, and settled here as a farmer (it is worth noting that he was the son of a prosperous peasant). Problems with the law forced him to return to Castrillo de Duero until the occupation of Spain by Napoleon's army in 1808, when he raised his banner of war against the French.
It is said that he made this decision following an incident that occurred in his village: a young girl was raped by a French soldier, whom Juan Martín subsequently killed.
He started by ambushing defenseless soldiers, unescorted couriers, or isolated sentinels, taking refuge in the nearby forests of Aranda. The success of his operations facilitated the incorporation of new guerrilla fighters into his group, which by the end of 1808 had already grown to 50 men. Among the most notable actions during that Christmas season were those in Milagros.
He left his hometown because rewards were offered for his capture and the towns were under threat. In July 1809, he arrived in Peñafiel with 80 horses, and later visited Castrillo, where he could meet with his family and friends. A few days later, at the end of July, he prevented the looting that the French intended to carry out in the monastery of Valbuena de Duero, recovering the goods that had been confiscated from them. That same year, he was appointed captain of cavalry.
His popularity and prestige continued to grow by 1811, he commanded a group of around 6,000 men, and in 1814, he was promoted to Field Marshal and earned the right to officially sign as El Empecinado. During the period known as the Hundred Days, El Empecinado remained in command of different forces stationed in the Pyrenees.
When King Ferdinand VII returned to Spain, restored absolutism, and took measures against what he considered liberal enemies, including El Empecinado, he was exiled to Valladolid and later (1823) to Portugal. Amnesty was decreed on May 1, 1824, and he requested permission to return safely, which was granted. El Empecinado returned to his homeland with about 60 of his men who had accompanied him as escorts to Portugal, but he was arrested in Olmos de Peñafiel, along with his comrades, by the Royalist Volunteers of the region.
They were taken as prisoners to Nava de Roa and then handed over to the mayor of Roa de Duero. When El Empecinado arrived in Roa de Duero, the townspeople, without receiving any orders from above, had set up a platform in the main square, where the prisoner was brought up and insulted and stoned. After being locked up with his companions in an old tower, El Empecinado was hanged in the main square of Roa on August 20, 1825. Here you will find a monument erected in honor of the guerrilla fighter, who is annually commemorated on the date of his execution.
Why was he called El Empecinado?
The people from Castrillo de Duero were nicknamed "Empecinados" beacuse of a stream called Botijas, which runs through the village and is believed to be the origin of this nickname.
El Empecinado is a historical, literary, and artistic figure. Hes character was portrayed by Benito Pérez Galdós in the novel "Juan Martín El Empecinado", part of the "Episodios Nacionales" , and depicted by Francisco de Goya.