Nobody knows where exactly the custom of calling Cádiz La tacita de plata (The little silver cup) comes from. According to one of the many theories, it is because for centuries, rivers of money, precious metals and diamonds ran through the city.
The thing is that, with or without a little cup, Cádiz was very rich. If we add to it that it was attached to the sea at a time when there were plenty of boats loaded with cannons and treasures, we can already get an idea of the whole picture.
The city needed to defend itself, and nothing was better than a solid fortress to face the enemies. So in the sixteenth century, the first city wall was built and in the eighteen century the Puerta de Tierra, the Gateway to the Land, looked pretty much the same to the way it looks today, separating the old Cádiz from the new one.
It’s a little bit of a miracle that you can see this gateway here today, because in 1755 it was nearly swallowed by the ocean, along with the rest of the population. The earthquake that destroyed Lisbon arrived in Cádiz in the form of a tsunami with monstrous waves, which did not wash the city entirely thanks, precisely, to the closing of the Puerta de Tierra. But a lot of the population of Cádiz had already gone through the gate, running terrified because they believed that the island of León was a safer place.
The waves swept them all away, and the catastrophe added those deaths to the ones in other countries, leaving the philosophers of the time discussing whether it had been God’s anger, fate or just nature playing one of its games. Even Voltaire, in the midst of a pessimist crisis, dedicated a poem to the earthquake.
But getting back to the Puerta de Tierra, we should remember another historical occasion to which it has been associated forever. It is, in fact, something symbolic, that through this gate came out of Cádiz all the deputies that had proclaimed the first Constitution of the history of Spain and created the first modern parliament in the country.
It happened a little more than half a century after the tsunami and, if we wanted to be poetic, we could say that in that brief period, the Gate closed to a terrible tragedy and opened to the hope of progress and change.