Other Discussions on Spain

Conquest and Reconquest

             Spain faces a public relations dilemma.  It is striving to rehabilitate
the Spanish monarchy, symbol of the Reconquest of its territory from the
Moors and of the conquest of America. It must do so without reviving the
hatred smouldering among  the conquered peoples.
        Since Spain seeks to be the bridge between Europe and the Arab world, the
Reconquest is the more immediate problem.  An earlier memo described last
year's protests in Granada against the ceremony celebrating its conquest by
Spain in 1492. To make it appear that it was not gloating over the defeat
of the Arabs, an art exhibition was opened there of what was called "la
        This year marked the 750th anniversary of the conquest of Seville in 1248.
It was not even a centennial, but the government chose to celebrate the
event, with the presence of the royal couple.  The history of the conquest
was glossed over. Fernando III's claim to the throne of Castile and Leon
may have been based on a falsified document.  He was able to conquer
Seville because of dissensions among the Moorish rulers.  The conquest was
possible because the population withdrew, leaving an empty city. Yet the
commemoration included a display of Moorish art and speeches about "the
three cultures" (Arab, Christian, Jewish). The conqueror was referred to as
San Fernando, the title by which he is commonly known, although he was made
a saint only in  1671 for political reasons.  It is reasonable to assume
that this theater was orchestrated by Prime Minister Jose' Mari'a Aznar of
the Catholic conservative Partido Popular. The autonomous region of
Andalusia, with its capital in Seville, is controlled by Socialists hostile
to him. They have been fighting over money and free pills for the sick. The
saintly celebration may well have been a bitter pill for the Socialists to
        The 1992 celebrations of the 1492 discovery of America did little, alas,
to improve Spanish America's image of Columbus and the Conquistadores.
Hern'an Corte's continues to be the official villain in Mexican
historiography, and Columbus has been dragged down too.  Since Mexico
refuses to realize that it is New Spain, Spanish propaganda has turned to
the Hispanos in the United States, including the chicanos, allegedly the
victims of the gringos.
        An appropriate occasion for celebration was the centennial of the 1598
proclamation of Spanish dominion over New Mexico by Juan de Onate. With the
collaboration of the American Ambassador in Madrid, a ceremony was held in
the village of Corral de Almaguer, whence his ancestors hailed.  Instead of
Spanish priests converting the Indians, a group of New Mexican Indians were
imported to dance their sacred dance. The report stressed that the robes
worn were sacred and untouchable.  There were no reports of any Spaniards
being converted. 

Ronald Hilton - 11/23/98