By D. C. Basset, Voxxi
The Spanish Black Legend, Leyenda negra, and the American Black Legend are very similar, too similar for comfort. What do they have in common?
The Spanish Leyenda Negra was a term coined by Julian Juderías in 1914. (La leyenda negra y la verdad histórica) which conjures memories of ruthless Spanish armies sacking, pillaging and creating havoc in Europe. The Duke of Alva is still remembered in the Low Countries as the leader of blood-thirsty and merciless troops.
The conquistadores evoke cruelty against Indians; soldiers of fortune who plundered all the gold of Potosí and destroyed the ancient empires and cultures of idyllic and innocent people, who became enslaved and exploited. Bartolomé de las Casas was the mastermind of the legend in the Americas.
The Monroe Doctrine was proposed in 1823, and “America for the Americans,” was its motto. In essence it told European powers to keep off limits.
The U.S. started a war against Spain (1898) to help the Spanish colonies become free, and annexed Puerto Rico and the Philippines for starters. Cuba became an independent republic of sorts. The United Fruit Company is still remembered in Central America, just as the Duke of Alva is in Holland and Belgium. Bear in mind the question of Panama.
After that, the US became the police of the world with the excuse of defending freedom and democracy for all. Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Cuba….
Spaniards were feared and hated in the world, even to this day. Americans can read “Yankee go home” smeared on walls of most foreign cities. Outside the U.S. a Yankee is an American.
The real Black Legends do not stop here.
We all know these historical facts, of course, but I wish to advance the theory that the real Black Legend of both countries is not due to what they did in the world, abroad, but what was done to their own population. The real black legends of both countries are the atrocities both nations perpetrated on their own nationals. And still do.
Spain expelled moriscos, and jews, both groups being Spanish subjects of the crown. They were robbed and manhandled.
The Inquisition hunted dissenters, tortured and robbed them of their property; all done with the excuse of national security, the purity of religion, territorial integrity. They were supposed to be a threat, a menace to the State. No wonder many sought refuge in America.
In a way this is happening also in the United States today. With the excuse of national security, a Department of Homeland Security has been concocted in order to persecute immigrants, foreigners, detain them, often illegally, and deport them, with the excuse of terrorism.
Yesterday I saw a program on Televisión Española, TVE1, about the plight of a Mexican family whose parents were deported after 20 years’ residence in Texas, and their children, all born in the US, left behind to fend for themselves, under the care of the eldest, a fourteen-year old girl. She expressed herself in fluent and educated Spanish, while tears rolled down her cheeks because she could not understand how authorities could do such things to immigrants. It broke my heart.
I saw in that program how Mexicans crossed the bridge at El Paso, daily, to work, to study, being treated as cattle or criminals by the migra.
The arrogance and contempt of presidents and diplomatic representatives towards foreigners in general, and South Americans in particular, cries for redress.
Politicians from both parties are courting and wooing the Hispanic vote while they are not lifting a finger to right the wrongs they themselves are inflicting on immigrants. No wonder I think there is a Black Legend still in force.
This is a question of the rights and dignity of people, who should not be at the mercy of ignorant cowboy sheriffs in two-bit towns; immigrants, who, for the most part, are honest, and hard-working, striving for a better life.
There is a European Court of Human Rights. Shouldn’t there be a U.S. Court of Human Rights… for all, not only for the Daughters of the American Revolution.
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This article first appeared in Voxxi.
[Photo by Wikipedia]