Ambassador of Spain
resident Biden made two references to the historical roots of Hispanic Americans. On 11 October 2021, in a presidential proclamation, he declared that this day, in addition to being Columbus Day, would also be, for the first time at the federal level, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
On 28 June 2022, in an appearance with our King in Madrid, he stated: “Some suggest that we would not have been an independent country without you” and also: “and this is interesting, I believe that 24 out of every 100 American students between grade 1 and grade 12 (between the ages of 6 and 17) speak Spanish as their mother tongue”.
It flies in the face of historical truth to equate Columbus and our subsequent relationship with the Indians with the fate reserved for the Indians in North America.
Spain’s Laws of the Indies sanctioned intermarriage between Spaniards and Indians, giving rise to the widespread miscegenation that is the hallmark of Spanish America. By contrast, the Americans, now independent, either annihilated the Indians (like the British in the 13 colonies) or interned them on Reservations. Classic Hollywood westerns already stated that “the only good Indian is the dead Indian”.
In California during the 19th century, the raids on the Indian population reduced their numbers in 50 years from 150,000 to 15,000.
While today there are only 2.5 million Indians or mestizos in the United States (less than 1 per cent of the population), the ratios in many Latin American countries are overwhelmingly different: 96% in Honduras, 88% in Bolivia, 85% in Mexico and Peru or 82% in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
To equate Columbus – whose voyages to America have given rise to the Spanish America of today – with indigenous communities that have been consciously annihilated by those who claim to want to dignify them is to pretend to completely alter the historical facts. Only the Anglo-Saxon WASPs profit from this outrage to historical truth, pretending to minimise the pride of millions of people in the Hemisphere by denigrating their roots. All this without adding that the conquest of Mexico would not have been possible without the help of many indigenous tribes who could no longer endure Aztec tyranny.
President Biden neither seems to be clear about the Spanish contribution to American Independence. One need only recall that Bernardo de Gálvez’s assistance (in Mississippi and Florida) was so significant that, in 2014, the US Congress, at the urging of President Obama, conferred on him the status of “honorary American citizen” like Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and only five others.
President Biden also referred to the huge demographic explosion within the United States of Hispanics, the largest ethnic minority in the United States today. The numbers are stark: according to the US Census Bureau, in 2020 the Hispanic population exceeded 62 million. The Hispanic population has grown from 13% in 2000 to 19% in 2020 and projections show that by 2060 they will constitute 27% of the US population.
No wonder, then, that the two American political parties – Democrat and Republican – are studying strategies to capture the vote of Hispanics, who a few decades ago voted overwhelmingly – close to 90% – for Democratic candidates.
President Trump “initiated the Republican shift: While he began his presidency (January 2017-January 2021) by demonising Mexicans and suppressing the White House Spanish-language website (probably out of nostalgia for the “English Only” movement), at the end of his term he changed course. He wanted to protect – by an executive order of 26 June 2020 – the statues of Columbus, Fray Junípero Serra and Juan de Oñate from vandalism as long as they were federal property and invited the King of Spain in April 2020 for a State Visit which, in the end, did not take place because of Covid-19. The one who did go months later was President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. In the context of a very tight electoral race, this gives an idea of how important it is for the Republicans to subtract Democratic votes from the Hispanic population.
The strategy did not quite work because President Trump lost the election in November 2020. But it did serve to ensure that, since 2016, the Republicans have been gradually subtracting percentages of the Hispanic vote for the Democratic presidential candidate.
Once in office, President Biden resembles the first Trump. His presidential proclamation in October 2021 again downplays the Spanish heritage of Hispanic-Americans. It would be timely for him to make amends now in 2022, on the occasion of the proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States (15 September – 15 October 2022).
Understanding the absurdity of the fact that, as of today, the largest ethnic minority – Hispanics – still do not have their Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington – as Native Americans have had since 2004 and African-Americans since 2016 – both parties have realised that the time had come to start programming a “Latino” Museum (without having heard from Hispanics about whether they want to be called “Latino” or “Hispanic”) on the Mall in Washington.
But as Oxford professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto points out in his recent article “The Sins of the Latino Museum in the United States” on the Smithsonian’s website dedicated to the contribution of Hispanics to American history, Spain’s role in the exploration and colonisation of a very large part of today’s United States and its contribution to the success of American Independence is either denigrated or simply forgotten. Fernández-Armesto concludes: “The reality of the past is the only available starting point for building our future”.
Professor Powell wrote about the black legend of Spain in the United States as early as 1971 in his book “The Tree of Hate”. The acts of vandalism against the signs of Hispanic identity (Columbus, Fray Junípero Serra and Juan de Oñate) are just one more action by the WASPs -through their leftist and indigenist pawns- to keep the dignity and self-esteem of a large part of the Hispanic population low.
Let us hope that WASP strategists hear Professor Fernández-Armesto’s message and that, when the Museum becomes a reality in a decade’s time, Hispanic visitors will leave with redoubled pride in their origins.
Perhaps the time has come for understanding between Anglo-Saxons and Hispanics. Surely Hispanics in the United States would welcome it. And so would Hispanic America.
In short, it is time for the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States to decide whether or not to move away from the hitherto traditional WASP policy. Latin America is watching, very attentive and very interested.
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