Spanish phobia and the bias of history

Dec 2016
1
California
(I was born in Spain but I am US citizen from birth. Welsh American from
both sides of my family, I have as high regard for my British ancestry and
heritage as for my Spanish one).

If there was anything that interested me in school growing up, that was
history, and the history of the country I grew up in was so rich and diverse,
that made it even more interesting. One thing that was well established by
our teachers as well as our history books was, that the forging of the nation
came about as the result of many factors and influences, which included the
succession of different peoples and cultures, leaving foundation layers with
their own unique imprint in the outline and character of the nation, which is
still visible today.
This imprint could be observed in every significant area such as: agriculture,
architecture, science, language, music and folklore, food, political system or
ethnic heritage. For example, we were taught that the Celts were the first
ironworkers, Phoenicians established sea trade, Romans brought the plow,
architecture and established Greek law; Algebra was an Arab contribution,
as well as modern agricultural techniques still in use today. I could mention
countless contributions and marks left by different cultures.
Heads of State like General Franco, Hitler and Mussolini sought naively to
attribute the glory of their nation to a single ethnic (Arian) group, and the
fruit of this was racism, discrimination, oppression and proud self-exaltation.
Surprisingly, even among the all white Spanish population that may be racist
against dark skin minorities, the rich cultural heritage is something everyone
is proud of, and I never witnessed any hesitance by any faction of society in
acknowledging the contributors regardless of their cultural, national,
religious, or ethnic background. Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks,
Romans, Goths, Visigoths, Arabs, Jews and Christians, communists and
monarchs, we were taught they all equally played, both a reputable and a
shameful part in the forging of the nation.

According to what I was taught in school, history begins with the existence
of the written word, and everything before that is pre-history. So you could
say that even thou Pueblo Indians from the Southwest of United States had
developed agriculture and built towns, they were pre-historic peoples for
they had no writing. Had they had written records they should have been
included as part of the official history of this country. History is not merely
how the latest government was established and thereafter, but it is a
succession of peoples and events woven in time, and reflected and recorded
in the written word.
The earliest records of North American history are in the Archive of the
Indies in Seville, Spain. Written by the hand of the European explorers who
first explored and settled North America. Men like Ponce De Leon,
Hernando de Soto, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, or Vazquez de Coronado to
mention a few.
When I came to study in United States, I soon noticed that history seemed to
be told very much from an exclusive point of view, and that these explorers
as well as any Spanish or French contribution were eclipsed, vaguely
mentioned or not at all in history books. Even educated people did not
acknowledge or were aware of them. It is not known by the general public
that France and Spain explored and settled the vast majority of the territory
of what is now the United States, or that they played a key role in the
success of the American revolution war both, financially and militarily.
Unlike with the French, there seemed to be a general phobia with anything
Spanish. In fact, when I fist came to the US in 1983, most people did not
know where Spain was, or that it was actually a European country. You had
to be from Florida to know that St. Augustine, the oldest city in United
States, was founded by Spanish explorers in 1565. America seemed to be
exclusively a protestant Angle-Saxon creation and little or no credit was
given to anyone else. Who ever heard of Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish
military commander and governor of the Louisiana territory? During the
American Revolution war he crushed the British in the south, maintaining
the only supply route for the thirteen colonies through the Mississippi river,
as the British had cut off every other port or supply route. Both France and
Spain came to the aid of the “pretty needy” American rebels, who alone
were no match against British military might.

For years I could not understand this Spanish-phobia I sensed, this general
lack of awareness of any positive Spanish contribution to the forging of
America, and the negative light over anything Spanish. For example,
whenever the issue of injustice against indigenous population arises, it is
always the image of the cruel gold thirsty Spanish inquisitor that prevails.
No one ever thinks or mentions things like the massacre at Wounded Knee
or the trail of tears. The mocking of the Spanish with the derogatory urban
legend of the “Spanish lisp” is widely regarded as truth even among the
educated. Ironically, things considered very American and of great pride in
American culture, like the long-range cowboy, was not conceived by
Americans:
“People all over the world (thanks to Hollywood movies and television) know about the
great Texas longhorn cattle drives from South Texas, to the rail-heads in Kansas and
elsewhere during the years following the Civil War. Very few people, however, are
aware of the fact that Texas longhorns were trailed by Spanish Texans nearly one
hundred years before that time. A few historians have written about the Texas cattle
drives to Louisiana in 1779.
The first formally authorized cattle drives out of Texas went east, and their purpose was
to provide food for the Spanish forces who fought and defeated the British all along the
Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida during the American Revolution”.
(TCARA - The Texas Connection to the American Revolution Association)
Back in Spain I was talking about the subject to an attorney friend of mine
who had also a degree in history. That is when I first heard about ‘The
Black Legend’ (This was before the internet). Finally I could get a good
straight answer!
Out of many sources, here are a couple of definitions:
From Encyclopedia Britannica:
Black Legend, Spanish Leyenda Negra, term indicating an unfavorable
image of Spain and Spaniards, accusing them of cruelty and intolerance,
formerly prevalent in the works of many non-Spanish, and especially
Protestant, historians. The Black Legend remained particularly strong in the
United States throughout the 19th century. It was kept alive by the Mexican
war of 1846 and the subsequent need to deal with a Spanish-speaking but
mixed-race population within its borders. The legend reached its peak
during the Spanish-American war of 1898.

From Wikipedia:
The Black Legend (Spanish: La Leyenda Negra) is a style of tendentious,
nonobjective historical writing or propaganda that demonizes Spain, its
people and its culture in an intentional attempt to damage its reputation.
The Black Legend propaganda originated in the 16th century, a time of
strong rivalry between European colonial powers. A critique published in
1914 explains how this type of biased historiography has presented Spanish
history in a deeply negative light, purposely ignoring positive achievements
or advances. In 1958, Charles Gibson explained that Spain and the Spanish
Empire were historically presented as "cruel, bigoted, exploitative and selfrighteous
in excess of reality."[2][3]
When a history book is quick to mention the defeat of the Spanish armada
against the British but doesn’t mention the same armada when talking about
the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in their attempt to invade Europe, I start to
wonder. When a history book is quick to mention that Columbus was Italian
and that the Spanish settle “South America” with no mention of any other
Spanish settlement or exploration in North America, I start to wonder. When
the only historic pictorial depiction of a Spaniard is a soldier with armor and
lance subjugating Indians, and no mention of the fact that Spain was the only
colonial power to enact laws for the protection of the rights of indigenous
people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_Burgos) as far back as 1512,
or that the ‘Missions’ were established by the Spanish to teach Indians how
to grow food, which has been California’s agricultural heritage until this
day, I begin to wonder....
I am not trying to seek for the glory or rightful recognition of the Spanish,
but rather, I want to expose the bias that seems to have been implanted in the
minds of the general population, which we can unconsciously be passing
down to the next generation, fulfilling the conscious ill intent of biased
historians, which has created so much animosity.
 
Oct 2015
1,196
California
When I came to study in United States, I soon noticed that history seemed to
be told very much from an exclusive point of view, and that these explorers
as well as any Spanish or French contribution were eclipsed, vaguely
mentioned or not at all in history books. Even educated people did not
acknowledge or were aware of them. It is not known by the general public
that France and Spain explored and settled the vast majority of the territory
of what is now the United States, or that they played a key role in the
success of the American revolution war both, financially and militarily.
Unlike with the French, there seemed to be a general phobia with anything
Spanish. In fact, when I fist came to the US in 1983, most people did not
know where Spain was, or that it was actually a European country. You had
to be from Florida to know that St. Augustine, the oldest city in United
States, was founded by Spanish explorers in 1565. America seemed to be
exclusively a protestant Angle-Saxon creation and little or no credit was
given to anyone else. Who ever heard of Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish
military commander and governor of the Louisiana territory? During the
American Revolution war he crushed the British in the south, maintaining
the only supply route for the thirteen colonies through the Mississippi river,
as the British had cut off every other port or supply route. Both France and
Spain came to the aid of the “pretty needy” American rebels, who alone
were no match against British military might.

For years I could not understand this Spanish-phobia I sensed, this general
lack of awareness of any positive Spanish contribution to the forging of
America, and the negative light over anything Spanish. For example,
whenever the issue of injustice against indigenous population arises, it is
always the image of the cruel gold thirsty Spanish inquisitor that prevails.
No one ever thinks or mentions things like the massacre at Wounded Knee
or the trail of tears. The mocking of the Spanish with the derogatory urban
legend of the “Spanish lisp” is widely regarded as truth even among the
educated. Ironically, things considered very American and of great pride in
American culture, like the long-range cowboy, was not conceived by
Americans:
“People all over the world (thanks to Hollywood movies and television) know about the
great Texas longhorn cattle drives from South Texas, to the rail-heads in Kansas and
elsewhere during the years following the Civil War. Very few people, however, are
aware of the fact that Texas longhorns were trailed by Spanish Texans nearly one
hundred years before that time. A few historians have written about the Texas cattle
drives to Louisiana in 1779.
The first formally authorized cattle drives out of Texas went east, and their purpose was
to provide food for the Spanish forces who fought and defeated the British all along the
Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida during the American Revolution”.
(TCARA - The Texas Connection to the American Revolution Association)
Back in Spain I was talking about the subject to an attorney friend of mine
who had also a degree in history. That is when I first heard about ‘The
Black Legend’ (This was before the internet). Finally I could get a good
straight answer!
Out of many sources, here are a couple of definitions:
From Encyclopedia Britannica:
Black Legend, Spanish Leyenda Negra, term indicating an unfavorable
image of Spain and Spaniards, accusing them of cruelty and intolerance,
formerly prevalent in the works of many non-Spanish, and especially
Protestant, historians. The Black Legend remained particularly strong in the
United States throughout the 19th century. It was kept alive by the Mexican
war of 1846 and the subsequent need to deal with a Spanish-speaking but
mixed-race population within its borders. The legend reached its peak
during the Spanish-American war of 1898.

From Wikipedia:
The Black Legend (Spanish: La Leyenda Negra) is a style of tendentious,
nonobjective historical writing or propaganda that demonizes Spain, its
people and its culture in an intentional attempt to damage its reputation.
The Black Legend propaganda originated in the 16th century, a time of
strong rivalry between European colonial powers. A critique published in
1914 explains how this type of biased historiography has presented Spanish
history in a deeply negative light, purposely ignoring positive achievements
or advances. In 1958, Charles Gibson explained that Spain and the Spanish
Empire were historically presented as "cruel, bigoted, exploitative and selfrighteous
in excess of reality."[2][3]
When a history book is quick to mention the defeat of the Spanish armada
against the British but doesn’t mention the same armada when talking about
the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in their attempt to invade Europe, I start to
wonder. When a history book is quick to mention that Columbus was Italian
and that the Spanish settle “South America” with no mention of any other
Spanish settlement or exploration in North America, I start to wonder. When
the only historic pictorial depiction of a Spaniard is a soldier with armor and
lance subjugating Indians, and no mention of the fact that Spain was the only
colonial power to enact laws for the protection of the rights of indigenous
people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_Burgos) as far back as 1512,
or that the ‘Missions’ were established by the Spanish to teach Indians how
to grow food, which has been California’s agricultural heritage until this
day, I begin to wonder....
I am not trying to seek for the glory or rightful recognition of the Spanish,
but rather, I want to expose the bias that seems to have been implanted in the
minds of the general population, which we can unconsciously be passing
down to the next generation, fulfilling the conscious ill intent of biased
historians, which has created so much animosity.
In American history, based on my observations, the teaching of Spanish contributions straddles a very deligate balance. Yes Spain is a European country and in that respect, has become a casualty of the new sort of historic methodology when it comes to teaching history. This methodology which in recent decades have come to emphasize a more non-Eurocentric perspective has payed more attention to the point of view of the native American perspective, rightly so imo as their perspective have for centuries been pushed to the margins. Hence, the Conquistadores and the Spanish missionaries have come to be seen in a more negative light. However, since the US is part of the Anglo-sphere, this Spanish bias as you call it, also has to do with the fact that to most Americans, Spanish is associated first with Mexico and America's hispanic population, and this bias against Spain might also have to do with this American prejudice against anything having to do with Mexican. In other words, this bias you speak of is a double edged sword.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,538
Portugal
Hi Paul Rhys,

Welcome and… interesting first post.

I think that what you stated exists.

The USA, the former Thirteen Colonies, were British colonies, so they were essentially formed as an Anglophile country and inherited the old rivalry with the Spanish, and also inherited the Black Legend; More forgotten today in the UK than in the USA;

And, furthermore, the Spanish speaking territories in America (and the Philippines in Asia), were natural territories routes of expansion, in other words, were the enemy, as we seen in the 19th Century with the wars against Mexico and against Spain;

And, more recently there was the fear of waves of migration from the countries of Latin-America, and that waves could change the nature of the USA as a development of the British (Wasp) Thirteen Colonies. We saw a face of that in the recent elections.

Also sometimes it seems that at least in some parts of the population there is no clear differentiation between Spain and the Latin-American countries. That seems to lead to the idea that a French is an European, a Italian is a European, a German is a European… and a Spanish is a Latino or a Hispano. And the last reference it is not necessarly seen in a positive perspective.

At least this is my perspective from the other side of the Atlantic.

After your post I noticed that even Wikipedia has an article about this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanophobia
 
Last edited:

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,815
Australia
I would have thought that the preponderance of Spanish names throughout the south west of the US, and French in the south east, shows that the story of these nations in the exploration and settlement of what is now the United states is fairly well known.
 
Sep 2014
1,000
Texas
I own a Spanish mustang. We probably know more about the Spanish contribution to the American culture than most people. And being from Texas....
 

mark87

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,118
Santiago de Chile
In my experience it goes both ways. The role of the Spanish and the Mexicans in particular is far more known in my experience than you seem to give credit, it might not be the Spanish version of history but there is some credit given to them.
 
Oct 2015
1,196
California
In my experience it goes both ways. The role of the Spanish and the Mexicans in particular is far more known in my experience than you seem to give credit, it might not be the Spanish version of history but there is some credit given to them.
Its far more known California and the Southwest of the US, in fact Spanish history in the Americas is part of the curiculum in school. This may not be the case in New England which has a very different history.
 

mark87

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,118
Santiago de Chile
Its far more known California and the Southwest of the US, in fact Spanish history in the Americas is part of the curiculum in school. This may not be the case in New England which has a very different history.
To my knowledge indeed, the very topography of California attests to the role Spanish culture played in the making of the state as we know it today. That would make sense in my view.