What’s Hispanity Day about?
It’s the commemoration of Spain’s heritage.
Despite counterpropaganda and black legends, a great part of the colors our contemporary world wears are Spanish footprints. From science and cartography, to the transition between feudalism and democracy.
October 12th, 1492, was the peak of such a cultural bloom, that’s why it’s Spain’s National Day.
The day Christopher Columbus came across the Guanahani Island on board of La Santa María, men, women, and elders hosted the Spanish sailors with the same surprise these ones admired their discovery. Columbus himself described it in his diary as a festival of welcomes, mutual admiration, and endless gifts. An appropriate metaphor of what that encounter between both worlds symbolized.
Still, there are controversies hard to address from the history of the conquest. Although objectivity only follows documented lines, subjectivity and interest have clouded the importance of those Spanish entrepreneurships. There is common agreement on the colonizers’ high ambition, but there are foundations that contrast the cruelty and inhumanity that slanders Spain’s reputation.
In search of the objectivity, without which all criticism becomes emotional, we must judge those foundations with those times’ eyes. The values that motivated the conquest carried strong religious and racial beliefs. They saw the opportunity to civilize the horror of human sacrifices, antinatural flexibility of genders, and cannibalism. The explorers found themselves in the continuation of the religious mission they completed not long ago against the muslims in the Reconquista.
Although, the continent lacked such simplicity. The settlers met cannibals and astronoms, farmers and kings, tribes and empires. Truth be told, a great part of the continent was facing the threat and oppression of large Aboriginal conqueror empires.
Unlike the more collaborative communities, the colonizers found war when facing the more developed civilizations.
Many natives even joined the Spaniards in the wars against the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas’ capitals.
The Spanish colonizers that sailed to unexplored land were not soldiers from the Spanish Crown. Spain needed all his army on their fronts in Europe and against the Muslims. The hundreds of Spaniards sacrificed in the coming wars in America were far from the exaggerated military superiority they are accused of.
Most of the great battles they get the credit from didn’t stand on the superiority of the heavy and scarce muskets over thousand Indigenous bows. For every imprecise shotgun, the Castilians coped more than 20 arrows at a time.
The wit of the conquerors was the actual weapon that defeated millions of Indigenous with a few hundred Spaniards. Like Pizarro’s victory over 40.000 Incas with less than 170 men, or Hernán Cortés and his astute conquest of the Aztecs by allying with the Indigenous people.
Even so, the diseases the Spaniards brought to the continent were the main cause of the demographic collapse during the years of the conquest. The Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro estimates that more than half of the Aboriginal population died because of their immunologic inferiority against the European infectious diseases.
For America, Spain was the classic colonizing influence doing great businesses in their land, same as Western countries do nowadays in the Middle East, or China in the Southeast of Asia.
On the other hand, the discovery of America turned Spain into The Empire on which the sun never sets. The peninsula was enriched by the world and the planet was coated with the colors of the Spanish tongue and culture. Spain imported 17 thousand tons of silver and 200 tons of gold in 150 years. Decisive progresses in cartography, science, and trade led to the Industrial Revolution. This movement meant the end of feudalism and absolute monarchies, which were the last doors to open before the establishment of the democracy that today allows the free commerce and political freedom Western civilization is flagship of.
Although, as you probably already heard, who wins the war, writes the legend.
Even though Spain discovered America, the empires that came after are the ones that still occupy the continent. Soon the rest of European powers rushed over the Spanish colonies with emblems like the British Prime Minister George Canning’s “Spanish America is free and if we do not mismanage our affairs sadly, she is English.” New occupations came, bringing policies of terror and mass annihilation, very different from the only entrepreneurial intentions of the Spanish colonialism.
The difference is not in the amount of crimes, but in the amount of scrupulousness.
The English colonization conceived the Red Indians with the hateful racism that nowadays is about to complete their extermination in the United States.
Spain conceived the value in the natives as labor, and despite the design of the Caste System, they regulated their work. The first stone was thrown by the Spanish friar Bartolomé de las Casas, who spoke against the crimes of Spaniards in the New World. All the same, deeper strategic reasons gave birth to the so-called Leyenda Negra that keeps haunting the brand of Spain until today.
Prostestant countries like England and the Netherlands created such a campaign against the Catholic Spain because of the threat its cultural and military dominance meant for Europe and the rest of the world.
It was designed as a protest against Spanish conquests, a propaganda that disguised other European empires’ colonizing crimes in the history books.
Even the United States used the Spanish Black Legend as a cry for freedom to justify its invasion of Cuba. They released for the first time their best propagandistic weapon: Hollywood. The two first war movies ever made, in 1898 (Tearing Down the Spanish Flag) and 1899 (Raising Old Glory over Morro Castle), imposed the American flag over the Spanish one on their victory in La Habana.
Those crosses, sails, and muskets turned out to be as fragile as the Aboriginal cries, bows, and arrows. European capitalism swept away what was left from the Indigenous people and snuffed the light Spain used to shine with.
Some would say everything left from Spain is the malicious foreign propaganda. Some would say that all Spanish heritage in the world is genocide and not cultural promulgation. Some will say we have nothing to celebrate, but when October 12th comes, jump on board and speak out with the tongue that still today booms all around the world.