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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Leyenda Negra
Created by John Eipper on 08/12/20 1:21 PM

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Leyenda Negra (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 08/12/20 1:21 pm)

About the treatment of the Native Americans by Spain, first of all, we have to forget the "Leyenda Negra" (can we still use this name or shall we call it the Leyenda Colorada or Leyenda no Blanca?), as it was only psychological warfare conducted by British and Dutch interests. As you see the Britons have a long experience in such matters.

Spain, in reality, tried to protect the Natives pushed by Bartolomé de Las Casas, who probably even exaggerated to obtain Las Leyes Nuevas in 1542 by Charles the Fifth.  We may remember also the Papal edict "Sublimis Deus" by Paul III in 1537.

But the proof is very simple:

US: total population 330 million. Natives: 1%

Mexico: total population 130 million. Natives: 20%; Mestizos: 60%

Perú: total population 33 million. Natives: 45%; Mestizos: 37%

Bolivia: total population 10 million. Natives: 55%; Mestizos: 30%

Where was the genocide?

JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia's final question can be interpreted in more than one way, but I believe he's pointing the finger at these United States and our British forebears.  The long-lived Leyenda Negra, which as Eugenio observes is probably ripe for a name change, has been on the WAIS radar since the beginning.  See for example this Ronald Hilton post of 2001:

https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=61293&objectTypeId=55543&topicId=39

Defenders of Spain in the New World cite Las Casas and the Leyes Nuevas he helped enact.  The harsh reality is that these laws were enlightened in principle but impossible to enforce from an ocean away.


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  • Thoughts on "Leyenda Negra," Spanish as Lingua Franca (Silvia Ribelles de la Vega, USA 08/13/20 6:16 AM)

    I believe "Leyenda negra" is a very good name; why change it? The term has
    been around for over a century, but the concept started actually in Italy,
    already in the 15th century, according to Sverker Arnoldsson.


    As for as the treatment of Native Americans in Spanish or British and then
    American territories, I agree with Eugenio Battaglia (August 12th). The only Indian you
    will find in Massachusetts, for example, is the one on the State flag.


    As for Ronald Hilton's view on the Black Legend--let me blow my own
    trumpet, too---you should read his book La Leyenda Negra y la Ilustración.
    Hispanofobia e hispanofilia en el siglo XVIII
    , published by El Paseo in
    Sevilla in 2019, which I translated.


    http://elpaseoeditorial.com/es/inicio/60-la-leyenda-negra-y-la-ilustracion.html


    On a related topic, I was happy and impressed to read that John E does teach his students about the Manila Galleon route. The exchange of goods, silver of the Spanish Empire for spices and all kinds of luxury items traded by the Chinese, between the two mightiest empires of the world at the time meant, without a doubt, the first globalization. Spain did not have colonies, but provinces. The Spanish and the British empires were very different.


    Yes, to respond to John's question, my sons have learned Spanish from me (¡La duda ofende!). They are bilingual and bi-literate. They have no accent at all when they speak Spanish. When we go to Spain, they pass as Spaniards.


    I agree with John that Chinese will not become the lingua franca of the world: too difficult to write and to speak, I think. I always hope that the Hispanic countries of America one day will wake up, and put into motion the incredible potential they have, and Spanish will become the new language of the world. Wouldn't that be wonderful?


    JE comments: No less an authority than Ronald Hilton used to say that Spanish would be the ideal lingua franca.  Esperanto wins hands down for simplicity of grammar, but Spanish has the huge advantage of limited vowel sounds and (especially) phonetic spelling.


    Silvia, thank you for the reminder that our own Prof H was an authority on the Leyenda Negra.  The book you translated originally appeared in French:  La Légende Noire au 18e Siècle.  As for the legend's "blackness," I believe it's just a matter of time before all linguistic associations of black with "evil" will be eliminated.  How about the "Leyenda Infame"?

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  • Indigenous Populations in US vs Latin America (Richard Hancock, USA 08/14/20 5:00 PM)
    I would like to comment on Eugenio Battaglia's post (August 12th) on US mistreatment of Native Americans compared to that of the Spanish in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. The important subject that Eugenio does not bring up is that in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia, the Spaniards encountered relatively advanced and more stable populated civilizations compared to the tribes in the US. In conquering those tribes in the South, the Spaniards simply took over the leadership from the native elite.

    In contrast, the US Indian tribes did not have nearly so well developed civilizations as those in Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia. The most advanced civilizations in Mexico were the Mayans and the Aztecs. In Peru and Bolivia, the advanced tribe was the Incas. In the US, there are no archeological ruins that can compare with those of the Mayans and Aztecs in Mexico and with those of the Incas in Peru.


    To get an impression of the more primitive level of US Indian societies, one should read Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's "Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America," which gives an account of his travel (in 1527-1537) with two other Spaniards and an African Slave, Esteban, who were shipwrecked in Florida and traveled from there through the south, crossing the border near present-day El Paso, Texas, to the west coast of Mexico somewhere in Sinaloa on the Gulf of Lower California. They found that the Indian groups that they encountered during this perilous trip lived on the verge of starvation, in constant conflict with each other.


    The only Indians in the US that could be considered as a somewhat modern civilization at the time under discussion would be the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico. They lived at a permanent location, in relatively modern houses. In fact, the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico has the oldest permanent human residences in the US. When Spain conquered New Mexico in 1595, the Pueblos were the only sedentary tribes in the country. They lived by the produce of irrigated farms, although they did some hunting at times. The other Indians that lived in the US were wandering tribes that lived through hunting and plundering other tribes.


    In making these observations, I do not mean to approve of the bad treatment of Indians either in the US or Latin America. I merely wish to state that conditions were different in the US than in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia where the population of Indians was and is much more dense than in the US.


    JE comments:  Richard Hancock makes an essential point, not only about "developed" civilizations in the Americas, but also the question of population density in North vs Mexico and Central/South America prior to the Europeans' arrival.


    I first encountered the venerable Álvar Núñez as a freshman in college.  His is a fascinating story, although what intrigued me most as an 18-year-old was his second surname:  Cabeza de Vaca/Cow Head.  He traveled an extraordinary distance on foot, although not quite from today's Florida to Sinaloa.  The region known as La Florida was much larger then.  The best estimate is that he was shipwrecked near Galveston Island, Texas.


    Cabeza de Vaca faced starvation numerous times during his wanderings, but he also sampled turkey nearly a century before the Pilgrims did.  Here's a Thanksgiving 2007 comment:


    https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=18435&objectTypeId=12685&topicId=1


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