Other Discussions on Spain

Cuba, Spain, Mexico

A Spain-Cuba-Mexico axis is forming, discreetly unfriendly to the United States. The three countries are part of the Iberian Community, and in addition they are united by bitter memories: 1848 for Mexico, 1898 for Spain and Cuba. All suffered humiliation and loss of territory at the hands of the United States. The Roman Catholic religion also links them, however feebly. Mexico, once anti-clerical, now has good relations with Mexico, which awaits the visit of Pope John Paul in January 1999. In the good old days, when the U.S. supported Latin American dictators, the Catholic Church was ultra-conservative and was viewed benevolently by the United States. Since Medellin, the Catholic Church has put itself on the side of the oppressed masses, including the Indians, and opposes American "economic imperialism." The assassination of Guatemalan bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, shortly after he released a report on civil war atrocities committed by the Army, testimony to his support of the Indians and the people generally, who mourned his death. So did the world at large.

The new Spanish Ambassador to Cuba, Eduardo Junco, arrived in Havana the same day as Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who, coming on a state visit, exchanged with Castro speeches which official America did not applaud loudly. However, it should be noted that in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Canada had voted with the United States on continuing the blacklisting of Castro, and Chretien had consulted President Clinton before going to Havana. However, he criticized the absence of Cuba at the Assembly of the Americas in Santiago de Chile.

Mexico presents a more serious problem for the United States. Americans of Mexican origin may now have dual citizenship, and the Mexican government clearly views them as a lever to get support for Mexico in the formulation of U.S. policies. Mexico's ultimate aim is not clear. Former Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Jesus Silva Herzog, said jokingly (?) that Mexico would get back the territories it lost, but with good highways.

Spain is discreetly (?) joining this terra irredenta campaign. Vice Prime Minister Francisco Alvarez Cascos visited Mexico and thence with an entourage went on to El Paso, whose founding they celebrated. It was they said the 400th anniversary of the first American Thanksgiving. They travelled up the Camino Real through New Mexico to the Indian center of San Juan de los Caballeros [of the Spanish knights], known in the U.S. as San Juan Pueblo [of the Indians], the old Indian administrative center about 30 miles north of Santa Fe. The fact that Spanish sources used the name "de los caballeros" reflected the plan to stress the area's Spanish heritage. With Alvarez Cascos' entourage came a group of Spanish athletes holding aloft the Spanish flag. There was a meeting with governors of the Indian tribes, who voiced their resentment against the U.S. government, especially with regard to land titles. They urged the Spaniards to look in Spanish archives (the Archivo de Indias?) for titles supporting their claims. Once again, it was obvious that the Indians were being used for political purposes. Again, at a banquet in Santa Fe the stress was on the Spanish origins of New Mexico and on the happy coexistence of three peoples. A statue of Juan de Onate now stands in the city's main square, and Alvarez Cascos presented a set of colorful military uniforms like those of the 16th century to be used for ceremonial purposes.

That was the Spanish version. For the American version, see "Senator Dominici gets his stamp for the first U.S. Spanish Enclave" (Linn's Stamp News, April 6, 1998), which Fred Hansson kindly sent me. How the Spanish would resent the word "enclave"! The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee rejected Pete Dominici's proposal for a stamp commemorating the fourth centennial of the Spanish conquest of New Mexico. Dominici countered by blasting the Postal Service for issuing stamps commemorating characters like Buggs Bunny. He won, and a stamp was issued with a picture of the mission at Espanola ("the Spanish" community), north of Santa Fe and not far from San Juan. The map bears the inscription "Spanish Settlement of the Southwest [of the United States!] 1598." The whole exercise sounded like an attempt to publicize New Mexico and to attract tourists.

By coincidence, at the same time the U.S. Postal Service issued jointly with Mexico a stamp celebrating the Cinco de Mayo in the Holiday Celebrations series. Since the Cinco de Mayo celebrates the 1862 defeat of the French at Puebla, the stamp was scarcely a demonstration of Francophilia. However, there was no menton of Mexico in ther New Mexican celebrations. Mexico did not want to be associated with the Spanish conquest.

A more complete version appeared in the New Mexican newspapers, for which I am indebted to Timothy Brown. They mentioned anti-Spanish protests by Indians and others, which were not mentioned in Spanish accounts. At the meeting with the governors of the state's Indian pueblos, three of the nineteen did not show up due to "the weather." Those present reminded Alvarez Cascos that the Spaniards had killed or maimed many of their ancestors. A demonstrator raised a banner demanding that the Spaniards apologize; the police confiscated it. wais@listsAlvarez Cascos simply said let bygones be bygones.

Reading the various versions of these events, we are reminded of the question posed by Pontius Pilate: what is truth? He must have been reading four newspapers: one Roman, one Greek and two Jewish.

Ronald Hilton - 04/30/98

Cuba Mexico Spain