Latin American elites have been blaming the Spanish empire for the ills afflicting their countries for more than two centuries, but what if blame had to be found in the independence processes of these republics? What if it had been the liberators themselves who mortgaged the freedom of the young nations from the beginning by establishing fatal alliances with other powers to get rid of Spain? This is the thesis of Augusto Zamora, former Nicaraguan ambassador to Spain and former professor of Political Law at the Autonomous University of Madrid, who does not hesitate to denounce one of the essential myths of regional historiography, to put the accusing finger on those who gave life to the new States. In his book Damn liberators, a historical essay based on abundant bibliography, points out that the independence of Spain and Portugal “ended in fraud since it only meant changing the type of domination and master. The soft Iberian imperialism was replaced, almost without transition, by a more devious, cruel and predatory one, as was the informal imperialism of Great Britain ”.
The problems start from the beginning, because what began in 1810 in Buenos Aires, Bogotá and Mexico was not a vertebrate independence movement on popular unrest against the Crown, but merely an expression of the greed of the Creole oligarchies who rose to power taking advantage of a moment of extreme weakness in Spain, invaded by Napoleon’s troops. On the eve of the rupture, the viceroyalties enjoyed a certain prosperity thanks to internal trade and the system of economic compensation –something similar to European cohesion funds– that operated between rich and poor areas. Independence came when a strong feeling of common identity had already developed among the inhabitants of those provinces. And its cost was high. The liberators themselves, “built the institutions of the new states on racism and exclusion,” says the author. And they allowed from that early time that foreign interference – first the British, then the United States – became a constant in the life of Latin America.
In addition to Spain and the Spanish, with independence (“calling it a revolutionary movement is one of the greatest fallacies built on Latin American history,” says the author), the local population suffered. The indigenous people of Latin America, who after the first decades of slavery and abuse had achieved some fundamental rights thanks to the Laws of the Indies, lost them immediately. In many countries they were exterminated, or decimated, and their lands confiscated. In this regard, Zamora points out that even today, indigenous people of Nicaragua and Chile wield the Laws of the Indies to claim their rights against the republics. Although the author, a convinced Sandinista, cites the left regimes that have existed in the region as exceptions to the general rule of bad government, he acknowledges that they too have chosen to endorse “the Spanish” for the blame for all the scourges of Latin America .
Zamora is not in favor of colonialism, nor against independence, what he regrets is that this process served “to destroy and not to build”, giving way to an overwhelming number of fratricidal wars. Although the book is lost a bit in heterogeneous examples to demonstrate errors in the development of Latin America, it provides an interesting analysis of the history of a region in which the interested victimhood of the elites has weighed too much and has lacked not a little self-criticism.
Damn liberators. History of Latin American underdevelopment. Augusto Zamora. XXI century. 320 pages. 22 euros.
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