Other Discussions on Spain

St. James doesn't kill Moors Any More

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.

Ronald Hilton - 07/25/98