As Juan Ramón Jiménez said in one of the verses of his extensive poems, "only water separates us." Between Spain and America there is a transatlantic link that goes beyond the geographical: it has to do with language and history. This, sometimes, told unfairly. This idea was the one discussed yesterday by María Saavedra, Juan Eslava Galán and Enriqueta Vila in the V Hispanic Heritage Forum, entitled «The footprint of Christopher Columbus in the United States». An appointment in which, by moderation of Daniel Ureña, president of The Hispanic Council – an entity that celebrates Hispanic heritage every year with this forum -, they discussed the manipulation of both the figure of Columbus and his actions during the discovery of America, a milestone that, more than controversial, should arouse pride. What about myth and what really in Columbus? "We raise statues not to the person who had a specific life, but to the great discoverer who deserves everything for throwing himself into the void without any reference," says Saavedra, a doctor in American History from the Complutense University and who has been in charge of writing the report of this year's celebration ("Columbus day? Yes, thank you"). He also added that the forum protagonist "was a tenacious man, with great intuition and that he made the most fruitful mistake in history," which was to discover America while searching for the spice lands.
"I don't think it's a myth," said Vila, a doctor in American History from the University of Seville and a research professor at CSIC. «He is a reality, a great sailor and a symbol that, at the beginning of the 20th century, was chosen to create a day that would unite us all», and pointed out that «as he was a great navigator, he was also a very bad ruler ». Therefore, the Genoese discoverer demonstrated both his lights and his shadows, the latter accentuated because "the Spaniards have always lost the battle of propaganda," said Eslava Galán, writer of historical novel and PhD in History.
The will of the queen
The main aspect that has deteriorated over time, both due to the scarce publicity on the part of Spain and the lack of true disclosure to reality, is the issue of genocide. According to the RAE, this concept responds to the «extermination or systematic elimination of a human group», a definition that, Saavedra points out, «does not correspond to what happened in America». "The media did not exist," he said, "how could a handful of conquerors end the entire indigenous population?" However, the historian does not deny that there was a "brutal" decline in the population, but that was due to "diseases, mainly the death in the West Indies was caused by measles, influenza or smallpox." In addition, he adds another reason: «Who was above Columbus then was the Crown of Castile and, as reflected in the testament of the queen, the objective of Spanish colonization in America was evangelization, which is also why there was no slavery but sudden ».
"There is another detail," continues Eslava Galán, "a study in Puerto Rico of DNA ensures that there is a high proportion of indigenous blood among the population of Las Antillas," which again disputes the current tendency to link the figure only from Columbus, but also from Francisco Pizarro or Hernán Cortes, with that of a genocidal. "No European power that has had colonization has produced miscegenation," says the writer, but Spain does, which is also due to "the Catholic queen encouraged from the beginning that the Spanish marry the Indians."
(Self) destructive weapons
Still holding Saavedra that "I do not want it to seem that in my opinion everything was rosy", he does affirm that "we must do justice to history." The basis of the problem? The current false dialectic, which is causing "a struggle to judge the fifteenth century with the declarations of the United Nations and the Bill of Rights of the year 2007". This, which is causing rejection of the "Columbus Day" and positions in favor of the Day of the Indigenous Population, responds, again, to a long journey of anti-Spanish propaganda. «Bartolomé de las Casas's book" General History of the Indies "was the most precious weapon to destroy the image of Spain", which is why "we have denied a past from which we have been convinced that it was bad." With this, Eslava Galán contributes that it is no longer just an external destruction, but also a "self-destruction". Taking as an example an editorial of "The Guardian", in which "they said that national myths must be maintained", the author of "The conquest of America told for skeptics" – was published this year – argues that there is "a contrast between us, that we continually scourge and apologize for things we didn't even do, and others that simply cover up what doesn't interest them and magnify what they do.
The feat of Christopher Columbus, as well as the other figures that contributed to the discovery of America and its consequences, is being deteriorated by the increasingly frequent indigenous movements. The statues are being torn down by minorities who do not see what really happened in history. To exemplify it, the speakers mention the War of Independence, in which the natives were not so much the victims, but the allies, "even more than the Creoles," says Vila. In fact, there was an indigenous who in 1810 participated in the Cortes of Cádiz, as well as Francisca Pizarro Yupanqui, mestizo daughter of the colonizer of Peru, "who came to Spain to integrate with a society, supposedly, obscurantist, racist and xenophobic," he said. Saavedra.
A year ago, during the Columbus Day party, Los Angeles withdrew a statue of the latter shouting "We must not celebrate the person responsible for a genocide." This case has also occurred in Latin American countries, such as Venezuela or Bolivia, and responds, again, to the lack of Spanish propaganda regarding the feat of the discoverer of America. "There has been a fight between the indigenous defense and the defense of Columbus," explains Saavedra, launching the question "But must we decide?" While it is true that the United Nations is taking its steps towards respecting uniqueness, "some councilors, as has been done in Washington, no longer celebrate Columbus Day." In addition, Saavedra recalls the case of the 38-ton and 6-meter statue in the Casa Rosada of Argentina, which "was torn down, was relegated and there was a protest by groups, by the way, minorities."
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