Family and Origin

As part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Ángel Bernardo Pérez y Pérez (1823-1897), the founder of Pérez y Cía., details about his family roots have been released. He came from a respected family of Jándalos, Cantabrians settled in Seville or Jerez, linked to the prosperous wine industry. Unfortunately, Ángel Bernardo’s grandfather, Benito Pérez y Pérez, met a tragic fate while overseeing his wine-related businesses in Sanlúcar de Barrameda during the summer of 1790.

Ángel Bernardo had the privilege of studying at Comillas, where he had the opportunity to meet Claudio López y López, who was the younger brother of the future “Marqués de Comillas” and to whom Ángel Bernardo had a distant relation. This encounter established a lasting connection with the influential López de Comillas family, which had a significant impact on Ángel Bernardo‘s future.

The autumn of 1838 marked the beginning of Ángel Bernardo’s professional career in the city of Jerez. However, life had a destiny beyond the Spanish borders for him. In December 1838, he embarked on a journey to San Cristóbal de La Habana, along with Claudio López, who was called upon by his brother Antonio, already settled in Cuba. This trip was the starting point of his extraordinary entrepreneurial journey.

Emigration to Cuba.

After working for about a year and a half in the Noreña office in San Cristóbal de La Habana, Ángel Bernardo Pérez moved to the Cienfuegos office, thanks to Antonio López’s recommendation. In the summer of 1840, he joined the firm “Azpeiteguía, Arrechea y Zaldo,” specializing in the sale of various products that arrived on ships from Santander and other peninsular ports. There, he supplied raw materials to the Cuban population for their sugar mills.

In March 1844, Ángel Bernardo took a bold step towards independence and opened his own business in Cienfuegos. He expanded his business by opening two more establishments in 1846 and, from 1850 onwards, he became the representative of Antonio López, taking on the role of his agent.

After almost 12 years in Cienfuegos, in January 1852, Ángel Bernardo decided to close his businesses there. Subsequently, he joined the firm “Salmón, Pereda y Cía” in Santiago de Cuba. In June of the same year, he returned to the Iberian Peninsula accompanied by his friends Claudio López and José García Álvaro.

Founding of Pérez y García.

The story of Ángel Bernardo Pérez y Pérez, founder of Pérez y Cía., is an example of tenacity and entrepreneurial success. In 1853, along with his friend José García Álvaro, he returned from Cuba and founded the partnership “Pérez y García” in Santander, with the aim of being a ship consignment agency.

The company excelled in the transportation of goods, carrying cod and wood from Norway to Santander. Initially, they used Norwegian and English schooners, and later, they acquired their own ships. They also ventured into the export of flour and wheat from Castile to the United Kingdom.

Ángel Bernardo was not only a successful businessman but also an active figure in the political and social life of Santander. From 1858, he served as a provincial deputy for Treceño and vice president of the Provincial Council of Santander until the end of 1861. Additionally, he played a relevant role in the board of directors of the Isabel II railway and the Crédito Cántabro.

In 1861, after his definitive return to Spain, Antonio López appointed him as the representative of the shipping company and the Steamships of Antonio López in Santander. Two years before Antonio López‘s death, the shipping company would be transformed into La Trasatlántica. At that time, Ángel Bernardo’s company managed the ships “Teresa,” “Terpsícope,” and “El Cuco,” and later the “Josefa.”

Starting in 1872, Santander became the port of departure for the transatlantic voyages of the Steamships of Antonio López to Havana and Puerto Rico, joining the ports of La Coruña and Cádiz. This new responsibility of attending to the needs of the Steamships of Antonio López granted significant importance to Ángel Bernardo Pérez‘s company.

In 1873, the company changed its name to “A. B. Pérez y Cía.” after the incorporation of new partners like his nephew Eduardo Pérez de la Riva and Joaquín del Piélago Sánchez de Movellán. Over the years, Ángel Bernardo left his mark on Santander, participating in the creation of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Navigation in 1886.

In 1880, in Santander, Ángel Bernardo promoted the last large plot of land on the Muelle or Paseo de Pereda, number 36, along with his father-in-law Juan Carlos de Eizaguirre and the “Marqués de Comillas”. The idea was to turn it into a Hotel for Travelers for passengers arriving from the Antilles, and later it became the headquarters of the company “A. B. Pérez y Cía.” The building was designed by the architect Atilano Rodríguez in the French style and is possibly the most sophisticated house among those on the Paseo, with a marble entrance hall with two staircases.

In 1882, Ángel Bernardo participated in the creation of the Trasatlántica Company along with his father-in-law.

Upon the death of Ángel Bernardo Pérez in 1897, “A. B. Pérez y Cía.” was renamed “Hijos de A. B. Pérez y Cía.” until 1917 when one of the sons, Ramiro, passed away. At that time, the company changed its name and became “Ángel Pérez” until 1939 when it regained its original name, “A. Pérez y Cía.”, after the Spanish Civil War in the 20th century.

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