Anyone who has visited Plaza de la Merced will have doubtless spotted the enormous obelisk placed right in its centre. But very few will actually know what it’s for.
You may be surprised to find out that this is actually a mass grave.
It contains General José María de Torrijos y Uriarte who was put to death after leading an ill-fated expedition to overthrow Ferdinand VII. In 1831, Ferdinand VII had been restored to the Spanish throne by the British, but he had rejected the liberal constitution of 1812. His repression of any opponents to his autocratic rule drove many into exile, including Torrijos, who sought refuge in London and became the leader of a group determined to defend the cause of liberty in Spain.
They set sail (financed largely by Robert Boyd, a former British Army officer in India from Northern Ireland, who also accompanied the expedition) and eventually landed, expecting to lead an uprising, on the ‘El Charcón’ beach near Fuengirola. However, they had been betrayed by the governor of Malaga, Salvador González Moreno, who sent a message to Madrid asking what he should do with the rebels. King Ferdinand VII wrote back: “Shoot them all”. They were shot by firing squad on San Andrés beach in Malaga, on 11 December 1831.
The obelisk was put up by popular subscription as a monument to Torrijos and all the men who died with him. They now lie buried beneath it, with the exception of Boyd, who was buried in the English Cemetery.