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The Cataluñian Volunteers

The Compañía Franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña (CFVC), or Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, formed in Barcelona in 1767 and soon left for New Spain (colonial Mexico) as part of an increase of Spanish troops in America following the Seven Years War (1756-1763). During its forty-three years of existence, it moved throughout the territories claimed by Spain in western North America, participating in campaigns to establish or reinforce the monarchy’s control in strategic locations.

The CFVC besieged resistant indigenous groups in Sonora (1768-1771) and twenty-five of its men joined the expedition to colonize Alta (Upper) California (1769-1774). In 1772, the company absorbed twenty-three men from a company of Mountain Fusiliers that also had fought in Sonora and put down a miners strike at Real del Monte.  Over the years, the CFVC patrolled cities, ports, and presidios across New Spain, bargained for Spanish captives after the 1781 Yuma Revolt, lived beside the Nuu-chah-nulth people in present-day British Columbia (1789-1792), and returned to Alta (Upper) California at the end of the century (1796-1802) before dissolving in1810 as a result of the Mexican War of Independence.

As a free company, the Volunteers of Catalonia neither led colonial militias nor formed part of a larger regiment, as was the standard within military hierarchy. Rather, they remained ―free‖ to be sent anywhere in New Spain where the viceroy deemed elite soldiers were most needed – something like the present-day U.S. Special Forces, the ―Green Berets. Nevertheless, the CFVC‘s European background and light infantry skills placed them higher in the military pecking order than American-born and mixed-race soldiers and reservists. In late December 1789, for example, as the First Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, led by Pedro de Alberni (the same referred to in the play), was preparing to leave its post in Guadalajara for a new assignment, a militia company stepped in to take its place.



Sánchez, Joseph P. Spanish Bluecoats: the Catalonian Volunteers in Northwestern New Spain, 1767-1810. University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Simer, Jeremy O. “Los Migueletes: Catalan Soldiers and the Negotiation of Identities and Power in the Eighteenth-Century Spain and New Spain.” University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010

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