Ambassador Manuel Torres, the Philadelphian you didn’t know about | OP-ED
He lived in our midst for over 30 years. Today, however, few know he was the most prominent Philadelphia of Latino descent that has ever lived in our midst. Only General George Meade, who led the Union Army to victory in the battle of Gettysburg, was going to become as prominent. General Meade, celebrated at the Union League of Philadelphia, was born in Cadiz, Spain— not far away from Torres' Córdoba, Spain. The Union League Club, a repository of our common History, is the location chosen by AL DIA News Media to host the premier Gala celebration of America's Hispanic Heritage this coming September, the 24th, 2021, at 6 PM. This the 5th year of ALDIA's annual event, but the first one ever to be televised, in a strategic partnership with 6ABC, expanding its radius to the MidAtlantic Region and beyond.
Please allow me to introduce to you, dear reader, the City’s resident of Latino descent “most famously unknown.”
In 1823, he was buried in Old City, his coffin moving slowly along with his few true friends walking in mourning behind hats in hand, the most prominent residents of Philadelphia at the time in reverence of their dear American from the South. The most prominent among them was the famous publisher of the Philadelphia Aurora newspaper, Mr. William Duane.
Along with Duane, Mr. Meade, who were the 2 people Torres chose to execte his Estate upon his death.
With them, hundreds of residents in the city and surrounding areas attended the funeral of the deceased man born in Cordoba, Spain, but simply a famous exile from South America in Philadelphia who in 1822 became the first ambassador from a newly created Latin American republic who presented his diplomatic credentials to the government of the United States, then led by President James Monroe. In reality, he was just a Philadelphia city dweller who lived among us for more than 30 years, and who perhaps only aspired to be called “just another American", one representing a key piece of the Southern part of the hemisphere.
Only weeks after he was received by Monroe in Washington DC, Torres passed away in his house in West Philadelphia at 2 p.m. on July 15, 1822, at age 59, the Wikipedia entry reads. It adds,
"On July 17, the funeral procession began from Mr. Meade's house, which was joined by Commodore Daniels, of the Colombian navy and prominent citizens."
"The procession went to St. Mary's Church, where the requiem mass was held by Father Hogan and Torres was buried with military honors.
"Ships in the Philadelphi harbor held their flags at half-mast.
"An obituary (in the New York Post) named him 'the Franklin of South America'
"Duane and Meade were the executors of his estate", the main asset being the house he has purchased in Hamiltonville, in West Philly," (where he died)
However, if you discover Ambassador Manuel Torres' name one of these days, you will be easily confused and may be tempted to rush to judgment, and you may even call him an "undocumented"— as he indeed is, in the true and better sense of the word.
Was he Puerto Rican, or Mexican, or Colombian.
¿What else could he be?
Spanish, as General Meade— born like him in Spain.
Manuel Torres Trujillo lived in Philadelphia since 1796, when he was forced into exile by the brutal Spanish colonial government of what is today the country of Colombia, and lived among us, here in Philadelphia, until his death, occurred at his West Philadelphia home on July 15th, 1822.
When he chose to flee what is today Colombia when his liberal mind quickly landed him into trouble with the colonial government (he has become friend with Antonio Nariño, who had "dared" to translate "The Rights of Man" from the French into Spanish), he didn't hesitate to head north directly to Philadelphia, the then-Mecca of liberal thinking and America’s own quest for freedom, free from the autocratic monarchies, who held absolute powers over their colonies, chief among them the sin of slavery gladly practiced by all European colonial powers as it was one of the best business of the century.
Philadelphia, however, was a place where the questioning took place on a daily basis, was celebrated, and didn't exile anybody.
Ambassador Manuel Torres was one of these liberal minds who quickly made friends in a city where political freedoms and religious liberty had been conquered in bloody war against the most powerful army in the world.
200 years later, however, no one has the slightest idea of who he was.
No references, for example, in the Union League of Philadelphia Historical Foundation; few of his articles published in Aurora may remain in the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
If in 1928 “the descendants of his friends from 100 years earlier” decided to rescue his memory and placed a plaque in front of the St. Mary’s Church, on 2nd Street, where his remains rest in total serenity today when the descendants of Torres’s friends are also dead and forgotten.
It was there where I first bumped into his memory, during yet another Sunday afternoon walk full of boredom. A man of Latino descent whose name is inscribed on a historic wall in the most historic section of this historic city?
Where the American Revolution was conceived,?
Where it was written out out by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and carried out by General George Washington and his famous Aide-de-Camp Alexander Hamilton...
That was what attracted Ambassador Torres to Philadelphia in the first place, a city where he arrived, as Benjamin Franklin did a few years earlier, determined to make a name for himself life for himself and lead a life making a decisive contribution to his fellow human beings. Both accomplished that.
At AL DIA, we decided to rescue the memory of the most distinguished Philadelphian of Latino descent that has ever lived here in the city — a citizen of the nation, and beyond that, a citizen of the world, and also of the cosmos, as he was not descendant of Spain, but a descendant from 2 consecutive empires that preceded the one built from the Peninsula Ibérica.
AL DIA will celebrate Manuel Torres in the year 2021, almost 200 years after his death, because his spirit, as well as his memory, give the celebration of Hispanic Heritage in the U.S. a new and sifgnifcant meaning.
The “Manuel Torres” Awards will give that meaning to the “AL DIA Archetypes” in 2021, which are the best reflections of excellence among Americans of Latino descent in the current century in the areas of Health, Education, Science, Law, Armed Forces, Public Service, the Arts, the Entrepreneurial Spirit, Sports, Film, and Entertainment among others.
AL DÍA does here and now a declaration that we will do anything in our powers and resources to discover, reveal and propagate the personal and public story of the firstAmerican of Latino descent in the first capital of the United States of America.