A Politically-Incorrect History of Hispanics
As told from the remnant of the Spanish Empire, Tucson, Arizona
August 24, 2019
By Mencken's Ghost
TUCSON - A politically-correct (PC) version of the history of Hispanics in the United States and the rest of the Americas is in vogue today. Trigger warning: The PC version will be replaced herein with the correct history, which is politically-incorrect.
In a nutshell, the PC version says that Hispanics have been an oppressed minority group that has suffered racism and ugly stereotypes at the hands of whites, a suffering that continues with today's racist border policies.
The PC version also says that the victimization of Hispanics began with Columbus and reached its denouement with the Spanish-American War and the War with Mexico, both of which had their roots in the American imperialism of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. Slavery also played a role, the story goes, because one of the reasons for the establishment of the Republic of Texas was to spread slavery west into Mexico.
Left-leaning media and intelligentsia are now saying that the United States isn't great or legitimate because it was founded on the backs of slaves, although slaves were first brought to North America by the British long before the Declaration of Independence.
But left out of this indictment, and more germane to the subject at hand, is the historical fact that slaves were introduced by Hispanics (Spaniards and Portuguese) to the Iberian Peninsula in the 1400s and then to the Americas in the early 1500s, which was one hundred years before Jamestown. Therefore, using the logic of the left, this means that Spain, Portugal, and the nations in the Americas that are the former colonies of European Hispanics are not great or legitimate either, because they were built on slavery.
To further complicate matters, Hispanic conquerors also enslaved Amerindians, and some Native-American tribes enslaved other tribes.
These historical facts complicate the notion of reparations. If Americans should pay reparations to the American descendants of former slaves, then Hispanics in Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America should pay reparations to the descendants of former slaves who reside in their respective nations.
But forcing Hispanics to pay reparations goes against the prevailing orthodoxy of today's identity politics, an orthodoxy that says that Hispanics are victims of racism and other "isms" and are thus deserving of being labeled a minority and counted as non-whites in diversity goals and college admissions. It certainly wouldn't be fair to force members of an aggrieved minority group to pay reparations.
Actually, Hispanics are a much larger group than many other ethnic groups in the United States, some Hispanics are the wealthy and privileged descendants of the historical Spanish aristocracy that has ruled Latin America for centuries, and Hispanics can be of any race, including white, black, Amerindian, or mestizo.
An example of Hispanic diversity can be found in an adult softball league in Tucson. I recently watched one of the league's games while sitting in the bleachers among the players and their families from the previous game. They had brought beer and sangrias for a post-game celebration, were playing music that was a mix of calypso and rock, were good parents judging by how they doted on their kids, were talking and joking in Spanish, were having a good time, were well-behaved and fun to be around, and were whiter than this Italian. I later found out that they were Puerto Ricans who work for the Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems, which apparently hires graduates from a Puerto Rican technical college.
Puerto Ricans are considered to be Hispanics, but that catch-all label hides the fact that about 70% of Puerto Rico is white, and that about 30% is black, Amerindian, or a mixed race. The Puerto Ricans at the softball game were certainly not oppressed victims. Nor is Puerto Rican Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who attended the elite schools of Boston University and Harvard University.
Mexican-Americans also play in the softball league. Most of them are different in appearance and customs than Puerto Ricans, but many of them are indistinguishable in skin color from this Italian, although, granted, my Roman nose is larger.
So which Hispanics are minorities and which are not? Which have been oppressed and which have not been?
Or more specifically, which ones have a bloodline that goes back to the Conquistadors—to brutal conquerors who committed genocide and were slaveholders? On the other hand, which ones have no Spanish blood and are descendants of Africans or indigenous peoples whose blood was shed by Spaniards? And how do the ones with mixed ancestry separate the so-called evil of their European side from the victimhood of their black or Amerindian side? Do they hate the white side of themselves and love the other side?
Similar questions can be asked about my heritage. Although my maternal and fraternal grandparents emigrated from Italy, I have no idea what my race is and don't care to know. Given all of the races that have crisscrossed the Italian peninsula over millennia, my DNA could be a mix of Roman, Greek, Middle Eastern, North African, Germanic, Turk, Hispanic, and even Saxon/Norman, given that the Plantagenets had marched through Italy. I could claim egotistically that I'm the product of the Italian Renaissance, but lurking somewhere in my cultural heritage is probably an ancestor who was a brutal barbarian. Or just as likely, an ancestor was a Roman slave.
Maybe the complexity of Italian history explains why I've had a lifelong interest in the complexity of Hispanic history. Or maybe it stems from growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, which is upriver from New Madrid, Missouri, where Spanish explorers established a settlement near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers—a settlement that was named after the capital of their mother country. I had known as a kid that the French had settled St. Louis and much of the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans; but until I began reading Hispanic history, I did not know how far the Spanish Empire had extended into North America.
My interest was also piqued from living for several years in the barrio of San Antonio, Texas, where I saw hard-working, family-oriented Mexican Americans trying to get ahead in spite of the legacy of Spanish rule.
Today, my interest continues, due to now living in metro Tucson, where the City of Tucson has a population that is 42% Hispanic. Of course, Tucson used to be part of Mexico, and before that, part of New Spain.
Tucson is poor and shunned by large tech companies, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook—none of which would ever think of placing a headquarters or high-wage office in a city like Tucson, although Tucson is home to the University of Arizona, which has 35,000 students, many of whom major in computer engineering and other STEM disciplines. These companies won't admit it, but their executives, who are progressives in name only, won't live in a city where the poverty rate is twice the national average and where K-12 public schools have above-average dropout rates and below-average test scores.
One explanation for Tucson's troubles can be found in the excellent new book, El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America. There is something in this very detailed history of Hispanics for readers of every political persuasion to like and dislike, which is a sure sign of scholarly writing and research.
The book explains that the Catholic Spanish Empire and its colonies lagged behind the Protestant British Empire and its American colony in the adoption of enlightenment values and the commercial philosophy laid out in The Wealth of Nations. Granted, the Spanish Empire ended slavery in most of its territories before the United States was to fight a civil war to end the horror, but that emancipation was less out of principle and more out of economic circumstances and a defensive response to the slave rebellion that took place in Haiti.
The Spanish crown always had been more interested in finding and mining gold and silver and in converting Amerindians to Christianity than in establishing ongoing commercial enterprises, a middle class of traders and shopkeepers, and democratic institutions. Coupled with a one-party political system and a two-class social system of relatively few aristocrats at the top and everyone else at the bottom, this culture kept prosperity from becoming widespread.
Only when the Spanish culture and governance gave way to Anglo culture and governance in places like California and Texas did widespread prosperity and classical liberal government take root, albeit after considerable brutality and bloodshed. Much of New Mexico and Southern Arizona was bypassed by this cultural and political sea change and remained Spanish in character.
Which takes us back to Tucson, where this history will end.
The northern boundary of New Spain in what is present-day Arizona was the Gila River to the north of Tucson. Much of Arizona to the south of the river, including Tucson, is still suffering economically from the legacy of Hispanic, or Spanish, rule. By contrast, much of Arizona to the north of the river, including Phoenix, is doing much better economically, due to embracing enlightenment values and the lessons of Adam Smith.
The City of Tucson and the surrounding Pima County have had a de facto one-party (Democrat) government for decades and have been hostile to big corporations coming into the region and upsetting the status quo. Reinforcing the status quo is the fact that Tucson is the only city in Arizona that holds partisan elections. It also has a system of ward primaries and city-wide elections that makes it very difficult for Republicans and Independents to win office.
In other words, the Spanish Empire lives on in Tucson, at least in spirit and culture. Ironically, this has harmed Hispanics the most, leaving too many of them poor and trapped in bad schools.