INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS:

NATIONAL and REGIONAL ATTITUDES OF SUPERIORITY



We have discussed hatred among nations as reflected in history textbooks, but not the widespread sense of local superiority, an important subject to which Dick Hancock refers: Some years ago in Toledo, Spain, I had the opportunity to attend a one-man performance of the famous picaresque novel, Lazarillo de Tormes.  This event, sponsored by the city, took place in one of the its small plazas. This man, who was nicknamed "El Mago," did all of the parts.  The thing that was fascinating was that he changed accents with each character that he depicted.  Lazarillo, the poor beggar boy, spoke with an Andaluz accent, which predominates throughout Latin America, while all Lazarillo's bosses--the blind beggar, the priest and the nobleman--all used the finest Castilian.  I don't know if this was a putdown for Andalusians, Latin Americans, a comedy device or simply a means to distinguish between the different characters.  
 
I do know that there is a patronizing attitude toward Latin Americans among Spaniards.  I had visited all Latin American nations except Cuba several times before I had a chance to visit Spain.  I thought that discussing Latin America would give me something in common with Spaniards.  I was quite wrong; they were not the least bit interested in Latin America. On one occasion, I told a lady that the atmosphere of Madrid reminded me somewhat of Bogotá; she was quite obviously insulted.  I guess that comparisons can indeed be odious!
 
Spaniards do not have a monopoly on this attitude.  I once had a conversation with an aristocratic lady in Schenectady, New York. She was telling me about all the places that she had visited in Europe.  Some of her conversation reminded me of a certain aspect of Chicago. When I spoke of this, she looked at me in a bemused fashion which caused me to ask her if she knew Chicago.  She replied, "O Lord no; I have never been west of Buffalo."  Her tone communicated her feeling that there is nothing west of Buffalo worth visiting.

RH: This attitude was common. When I came to this country, traveling first class on the "Samaria" thanks to the Commonwealth Fund, a lady from Boston asked me where I was going.  When I said UC Berkeley, she replied: "You should go to Bawston.  That's where all the culture is". Then there is the story of the two Boston ladies who traveled to San Francisco. They were relieved that the train was not attacked by Indians and that they were not scalped. In San Francisco, they went to the hotel restaurant, where one lady asked for fish. The other protested, saying, "My dear, no! So far from the ocean!". This is funny, but this attitude can be dangerous. When I lived in Nazi Germany, the people despised the Austrians and the Poles. There was therefore a fertile psychological ground for the conquest of these countries.
 

We discussed snobbery as a factor in relations between countries and regions I mentioned the snobbish attitude of Boston towards the West and said: This attitude was common. Then there is the story of the two Boston ladies who traveled to San Francisco. They were relieved that the train was not attacked by Indians and that they were not scalped. In San Francisco, they went to the hotel restaurant, where one lady asked for fish. The other protested, saying, "My dear, no! So far from the ocean!".  Gene Franklin adds this: A variation of this story is that of the couple who drove from Boston to San Francisco and were asked by a West Coast friend what route they took across the country.  The wife turned to her husband and asked, "Dear, did we come by Brookline or Watertown?"


Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: February 28, 2005