Ambassador of Spain
The broadcasting of the funeral of Elizabeth II in London has staged the use of the UK’s soft power.
The funeral showcased the Queen’s triple status: head of state of the United Kingdom, supreme ruler of the Anglican Church and visible head of the Commonwealth. Despite the magniﬁcation deployed, this triple status has been gradually eroded.
Scotland, which had held a referendum on secession in 2014 and lost (55% vs. 45%), had indicated its desire to hold another referendum in 2023. Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein, with its historic victory in May 2022, could hold an Irish reuniﬁcation Referendum.
Multiculturalism in religious ceremony is explained by the fact that, when Pope Benedict XVII was Pope, an Apostolic Constitution had made it possible for many Anglicans, who did not accept the possibility of having women bishops in their Church, to convert to Catholicism, maintaining their liturgical tradition.
The United Kingdom is no longer the British Empire it once was. Since the Statute of Westminster in 1931, and later by the process of decolonisation after World War II, an economic and cultural institution has developed, which based its cooperation on the past colonial link and which today brings together 54 countries. Today, by a unanimous decision in 2018, Charles III is the head of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, if when Elizabeth II acceded to the throne in 1952 she was the highest constitutional authority in 32 nations, today Charles III is the head of the Commonwealth in only 14 nations.
Despite Brexit (2020) and sterling’s plunge to historic lows, the funeral showed two facets of British genius: how television gave precedence to British authorities over foreign monarchs and heads of state, and how Scotland’s chief minister, Nicola Sturgeon, bowed before the royal catafalque and then went on to sing God save the King.
The Anglo-Saxon world was once again staging its unity, its eﬁciency and its pomp. Can we say the same today of the Ibero-American world?
Some Latin American presidents who are indigenist or simply progressive (they now seem to be more numerous than the conservatives) have expressed reservations about Spain’s historical role in the continent. The initial bugle call was given by the President of Mexico in 2019, a controversy that has not yet been overcome.
There are some relevant facts about our links with Ibero-America:
1) In the Conquest of Tenochtitlán (13 August 1521), Hernán Cortés’ 500 men would not have been able to defeat the Aztecs if they had not counted on the decisive alliance of Totonacs and Tlaxcalans, eager to put an end to the subjugation of the Mexica as soon as possible. Then, the protection of the Laws of the Indies for the indigenous people, the fact that their native languages were preserved and studied by Catholic missionaries, universities and hospitals integrated Latin America into Western Civilisation.
2) While Bolívar initially concentrated his diatribes against Spain, he gradually realised that his dream of continental unity had been blunted by English pressures. He wrote: “Everyone who serves a revolution ploughs into the sea”. As Professor Marcelo Gullo writes in his book “Madre Patria” (Espasa, 2021, pp. 314-319), Bolívar, in 1820, tried to reach a consensus with Ferdinand VII on a Hispanic Confederation, presided over by a Constitutional Monarchy.
On the other hand, the Venezuelan professor Inés Quintero has explained how in Venezuela and Colombia the Liberator’s ideology has been used for political purposes by the two political currents: the left has recovered the Bolivarian ideology to put it at the service of the revolution (Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro and Gustavo Petro), while the right – based on the precedent of General Juan Vicente Gómez – has stressed the need for an authoritarian and personalist government as a necessary instrument for the preservation of order and progress.
3) Independent Latin American countries have not always been signiﬁcant for their protection of the indigenous. General Roca’s Desert Campaign in Argentina (1876-1879) and the Occupation of the Araucana (between 1862 and 1883) in Chile are examples of how indigenous tribes were annihilated. Even today, Subcomandante Moisés, spokesman for the Zapatistas of Chiapas, indicated that, even in the 21st century, it is the responsibility of the Mexican government to improve the current situation in Chiapas.
We could learn from the English and understand that the prudent and desirable thing to do would be to highlight what unites us and not what can separate us. Our King has not been treated with sufficient elegance in the last three Ibero-American inaugurations (Peru, Chile and Colombia). Fortunately, Puerto Rico was up to the task. And, knowing the Brazilians, I am sure that the future President of Brazil will be. Because what is crucial is not what happened 500 years ago – and Vasconcelos spoke of the new American man – but what we do together today, when our common language is already spoken by 600 million people in the world and when we are identified with a particular idiosyncrasy far removed from the stereotypes of the great powers of our time.
And within our Ibero-American family -Mexico has a special importance. Its 125 million inhabitants, its status as the second largest Latin American power and its 3,000-kilometre border with the United States attest to this.
Spain has already reconciled with Mexico once, in 1977. On 28 March, when Marcelino Oreja and Santiago Roel signed the official documents for the resumption of diplomatic relations in Paris, people from all walks of life arrived at the home of the current Spanish ambassador, Amaro Gonzalez de Mesa, in Mexico City (Federal District) to toast the long-awaited news. Then the legendary Pedro Vargas arrived and intoned – changing a few words – “volver, volver y volver a España otra vez” (book “Esto no es histórico, es verdad” Amaro Gonzalez de Mesa – Editorial Dossoles, 2000, page 133).
Now a second reconciliation is needed. We could, perhaps, follow the example of Nixon and Kissinger, who put an end to the estrangement between the United States and China since 1949. Thus, China invited an American table tennis team to visit and play in China in April 1971. In July, Kissinger met secretly with Zhou En-lai in Beijing, and in February 1972, Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué after seeing Mao Zedong. That thaw changed world geopolitics at the time.
Today, remembering that, in 1991, Felipe Gonzalez and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari inaugurated the Ibero-American Summits of Heads of State and Government, we need more than ever a voice of unity from the great Ibero-American family. The next meeting will take place in the Dominican Republic in March 2023. Let us learn from the lesson of unity and majesty that the Anglo-Saxons of the United Kingdom gave us a few weeks ago.
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