Friday, March 23, 2012
Defending the Spanish Empire
We also cannot avoid the racial aspect. This presents some uncomfortable facts and, in a way, does not paint a very good picture for the advocates of racial integration. The Spanish Empire led to the birth of an entirely new ethnic group unseen on such a scale elsewhere, certainly in the British Empire. Although there was always some mixing, for the most part, British colonists kept themselves segregated from the native populations in America, Africa, India or Australia. They also brought over more families (women included) to their New World colonies. The Spanish, largely, did not do this and the Spanish settlers who did come had no hesitation about mixing with the natives. The result was the mestizo ethnicity, originally a half-European, half-native mix but with the native becoming more dominant over time due to their greater numbers. This ethnic group is by far the dominant majority in Latin America and they tend to more closely identify with their native roots than their Spanish ancestry. This has led to some exaggerated nostalgia for the pre-Columbian civilizations in addition to the lingering hostility toward Spain. Again, this hostility is misdirected.
Spain is often criticized for the destruction of the native civilizations of Latin America such as the Incas and the Aztecs, with the Aztecs probably being the most famous. This is unfair, to some extent at least, for two basic reasons. In the first place, one cannot blame an entire nation for the misdeeds of a few. It is also often forgotten that, when Columbus was first dispatched on his famous voyage of discovery, Queen Isabella was adamant that the natives not be enslaved or mistreated but were to be regarded as free peoples “for as such they are”. It is also often forgotten that, initially, such as in Mexico with the Aztecs, the Spanish tried to work through the native leadership. Contrary to popular belief, Montezuma II was not the last Aztec emperor, nor was he even the next-to-the-last. It is also true that the Spanish did not arrive in the New World and immediately carry out a campaign of genocide to wipe out the native people. The vast majority of natives who died did so as a result of disease. Was it the Spanish who brought these new diseases? Yes, but it was inadvertent and the spreading of disease was something even Europeans didn’t fully understand at the time.