Anger against statues in the US is not hispanophobia but ignorance

The diplomat and writer Luis Francisco Martínez Montes views with concern the destruction of statues of Spanish figures in the United States, but considers that it is not "hispanophobia" but "a sort of general cause" to the entire history of the West, which is fought with knowledge

Author of works of historical dissemination that highlight the enormous Spanish contribution to western civilization, Martínez Montes analyzes in an interview with Efe the wave of destruction of statues as part of the protests of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, of which they have been Victim Christopher Columbus, Isabel la Católica, Fray Junípero Serra and Spanish explorers and travelers.

"The great task in which we must continue to be engaged is that of knowledge", but "without pretense of protection", argues the author of "The United States and the rise of China", "Spain, a global history" and "Stories of the world. The great adventure of Spanish diplomacy ”.

Question.- What reaction provokes you that some activists have chosen symbols of the Spanish past in that country as the target of their anger in the United States?

Answer.- I regret that the protest movement against acts of violence suffered by the African American population is being used to eliminate symbols of our shared history with the United States. If anything represents the Hispanic legacy, it is precisely the constitutive diversity of the United States.

The official Spanish position on this matter has been clearly and with due measure expressed by members of the Government and by our Embassy in Washington, whose work in favor of the preservation and dissemination of the Hispanic past, together with organizations such as the Hispanic Council, the Fundación Consejo Spain-United States and many others, is constant and commendable.

Q.- Are we looking at one more example of hispanophobia disguised with other causes, in this case that of the Blacks Lives Matter movement?

A.- There is deep unease among sectors of the American population that consider themselves poorly represented in official history and discriminated against by institutions. In this particular episode of iconoclasm, on the one hand, the protest of the Black Lives Matter movement converges and, on the other, the attempt to rewrite history by pouring into the past and towards some of its protagonists value judgments typical of the present.

We are not exclusively facing an episode of hispanophobia, but of historical revisionism that is spreading to other countries and that in the United States affects figures that were considered untouchable, such as Jefferson or Washington. It is the history of the West, or some of its episodes, that is being subjected to a kind of general cause.

Q.- Should we better explain the Hispanic legacy in the United States and, in general, in world history?

A.- Diplomatic work consists of knowing how to use wisely the winds of history, even those that seem contrary. The current moment should serve to reevaluate the Hispanic legacy not only in the evolution of the United States, but in the origins of Modernity, including globalization.

Part of our problem is that the Spanish contribution to the evolution of universal history is seen, especially in the Anglo-American world and, by extension, in the rest of the world, still under its cultural influence, with single-color lenses. The anti-racist movement inherits topics that are very powerful in its attitude towards the Spanish past, without subjecting them to corresponding criticism.

Q.- So what does it suggest?

R.- For example, to better publicize figures of the Hispanic canon who go beyond stereotypes and who represent values ​​extolled by the movements for equality, including the recognition of the contributions of indigenous peoples and mestizo populations to the flow of civilization.

I am referring to characters like Inca Garcilaso, the first truly modern American, author of the first mestizo story in the Americas. Or Martín de la Cruz and Juan Badiano, indigenous doctors who carried out in Nahuatl and Latin, under the patronage of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, the first medical herbarium resulting from the crossing of European and Mexican knowledge, dating from 1553.

Or painters like Miguel Cabrera and Diego Quispe, who represented in the eighteenth century the crossbreeding accepted in Hispanic America, contrary to what happened in Anglo-Saxon America.

They are examples, among many others, of how, since the beginning of the Spanish presence in America, the indigenous and mestizo component formed a constituent part of the emerging global Hispanic identity and, by extension, of western modernity in practically all spheres, including the artistic and intellectual.

Q.- Is a specific policy in the United States necessary to bring down topics?

A.- All the Spanish governments in democracy have been extremely careful with the treatment of this issue. With the Hispanic population that is not strictly Spanish in the United States, we are united by emotional, linguistic, cultural, and increasingly economic ties, but not political. Any attempt at appropriation or claim to guardianship, in addition to anachronistic and unrealistic, would be misunderstood by Hispanics themselves and by the US authorities.

That said, there are a multitude of programs, public and private, aimed at reinforcing the ties I previously mentioned with Hispanic populations, which are very diverse. Outreach to influential sectors of the non-Hispanic world is also essential. That is the great task in which we have to continue working, that of knowledge.

Miguel Mirones,


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