Today, July 25, is the feast of St. James, Santiago, Spain's patron saint.
It is also the Day of Spain, celebrated this year with special pomp to
stress Spain's unity; October 12, in America Columbus Day, is the Day of La
Hispanidad, the cultural unity of Spanish-speaking countries. Saint James
is the symbol of Christian Spain. His body had miraculously sailed in a
stone sarcophagus across the Mediterranean, up the Portuguese coast, and
landed at Iria Flavia, a short distance from Santiago, the capital of
Galicia named after him. He (it?) was discovered by the Christians just in
time to encourage them in the reconquest of the Peninsula. Appearing on a
white horse in a cloud at a battle which historians say never took place,
Santiago urged the Christians on with his sword against the Moors. The
crusaders replied "Santiago, y cierra Espanha." ("Saint James, we will
complete the reconquest of. Spain!") Hence St. James' nickname, Santiago
Matamoros, Santiago the Moor-killer, hence the town of Matamoros, Texas.
Today, in Santiago's magnificent cathedral, there was a impressive service
at which the Archbishop defended human rights as part of God's supernatural
law. No talk of killing off the Moors. Speaking likewise in eloquent
Castilian (not gallego), the Mayor of Santiago denounced violence. That
they were referring to the Galician separatist movement was clear from an
interview in which the president of Galicia, Fraga Iribarne, denounced the
separatists who had thrown a molotov cocktail at the offices of the
newspaper El Correo Espanol.
His governing Partido Popular. the conservative party of Spanish prime
minister Jose Maria Aznar, stands for Spanish unity--hence the hatred of
Basque separatists. The second party of Galicia, the Bloque Gallego, wants
an independent Galicia. They feel close to Portugal, whose language is
really the gallego which the crusaders took south with them. It was
therefore no coincidence that on St. James' day Aznar visited Lisbon's
great international fair with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Guterres.
Together they toured the Spanish and Portuguese pavilions. Aznar's unspoken
message was clear.
Basque terrorists are linked with those of Galicia, but Santiago (with
Covadonga in neighboring Asturias) is the cradle of Christian Spain. The
independence movement there is consequently weaker, but who knows? This is
for me a sensitive subject. My life is scattered with research projects
half-finished or even abandoned. Under the republic in 1935, there was a a
strong autonomy movement in Galicia, inspired by those in the Basque
provinces and Catalonia. I wrote a study of it, but then Franco, himself a
gallego under whom Fraga Iribarne served as minister of propaganda,
squelched the movement. My publisher then lost interest. Such are the
vagaries of scholarship.