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SPAIN: Regionalism and History Textbooks

France has agreed to give Corsica a special status, raising the fear in many Frenchmen that French centralization will end. The nationalists in Corsica, Brittany and the French Basque provinces justify their terrorist acts on the grounds that in Spain the regions have far more autonomy, even though the Basque ETA says it is not enough.

This is having a curious effect on Spanish history textbooks. The Aznar government complains that the regions are using history textbooks in which Spanish history is relegated to second place. Galicia is a peculiar case. Franco was from there, as is Fraga Iribarne, his propaganda minister and now head of the regional government. Both fought for "Spain, one and great," but now there is a strong nationalist movement in Galicia. History textbooks there devote only half a page to the 1936-8 Civil War and the ensuing period. In Spain generally that was the case until a few years ago, but I would like to see how present textbooks treat the period. The problem is that Galicia during the same period Galicia rates 22 pages. Is that because Galicia was a Franco stronghold?

The Basque provinces present a similar case. Madrid charges that its history textbooks promote Basque nationalism. Curiously, the monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla is playimg an ambiguous role. Located in a region where Basque was spoken, and Latin developed into Castilian under its influence, it was also the home of the medieval poet Berceo, regarded as the father of Spanish literature. The designation of the monastery as the cradle of Spanish culture seems to have annoyed the Basques, who should have been flattered. The thought processes behind all this are very obscure.

The teaching of dialects has also been a source of discord. The Spanish government regards it as a dangerous waste of time, and Education Minister Pilar del Castillo rightly wants to stress literacy in Spanish and the teaching of practical subjects.

This adds a new element to our discussion of history textbooks. Our concern has been the dangerously conflicting versions of history promoted by national governments. Now we are faced with conflicting regional versions. This could become a serious problem in the United States. If people of Mexican origin become strong plurality in California and a majority in some districts, what will that do to California history textbooks?

Any clarification of the situation in Spain would be greatly appreciated.

Ronald Hilton - 8/11/00