One of my recent articles poured cold water on those who are hoping – against all evidence – that a probable change of government will halt Spain’s decline. I argued that the causes of such decline go beyond the damage caused by the current vandalistic radical left government and pointed to the abuse committed by all political parties on the weaknesses of the ’78 Constitutional regime as the destructive force that has been undermining our nation for decades. However, it is not the only one.
Indeed, another reason for our national crisis is the lack of self-esteem of the Spanish people, prone to an unhealthy self-criticism and an excessive exaltation of everything foreign, who have internalized that chain of unchallenged historical falsifications called “the black legend”. Paradoxically, a millenary nation whose Golden Age was described by the French historian Hippolyte Taine as “a superior moment of the human species” suffers from an inferiority complex that leads it to admit mistreatment without complaining.
The latest example has been a Mr. Petro (current President of Colombia) criticizing “the Spanish yoke” on the eve of coming to Spain on an official visit and being applauded in the Congress and received by the King. A self-respecting country would have reacted ipso facto and even postponed the trip, but the problem is not only that we are used to receive scorn without flinching, but that part of our unpatriotic political class thinks just like the Colombian clown.
The Black Legend
Like a tree without roots, no nation survives without historical references, since they unite its citizens around a common trunk and a shared identity. Precisely because of this, the enemies of Spain have systematically robbed us of any historical references. Who are these enemies? Some are well known, such as the peripheral regional nationalisms that germinated after the loss of the Empire in 1898. Weak and unpopular as they were until very recently, these nationalisms are themselves well aware of the importance of historical references, whether real or invented.
But the greatest damage to our self-esteem has its origin in that secular campaign of defamation called the black legend (which no country has suffered as much as Spain) initiated by Anglican England and Calvinist Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries for geopolitical and, above all, religious reasons, and continued later by the Enlightenment, Freemasonry (the WEF of the past) and radical left Marxist atheism, all of them united by their common animosity towards Catholicism. Thus, Spain’s unforgivable sin is to have been the most important Catholic country in the world. This is the key to understand everything, for the Catholic phobia leads to a Spain-phobia, as Spain’s history is so inextricably linked to Catholicism (since 589 A.D.) that, without it, it becomes unintelligible. Therefore, although it is possible for Spain to survive without its Catholic identity, it is clear that it will not be able to do so with an anti-Catholic identity.
The hatred of Catholicism of the Spanish extreme left became obvious in the Catholic genocide committed during the Red Terror in the early stages of the Spanish Civil War, when in a few months more than 7,000 priests, religious and nuns and thousands of innocent lay people were sadistically murdered for the mere fact of being Catholics, the greatest persecution of Christians since the time of Roman emperor Diocletian.
The black legend has been distorting the great milestones of the History of Spain. For example, the Reconquista – Spain’s slow reconquest of its territory after the 711 A.D. Muslim invasion – has been discredited through the invention of a golden “coexistence of the three cultures” (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) that hides the intermittently violent apartheid – as the Arabist historian Serafín Fanjul rightly calls it – to which the conquering Muslim minority subjected the Christian majority. Likewise, the profound identity-religious sense of the Reconquest has been overshadowed by highlighting the internal struggles between Christian kingdoms that dotted our Middle Ages.
Another despised landmark has been the War of Independence (1808-1814), in which Napoleon suffered his first defeat at the hands of a regular army and in which the Spanish people (with the opportunistic support of our traditional English adversary) expelled the French invader once again from our land. Particularly notable was the resistance and victory of the Galician people, who decimated the French troops. Years later, and already in exile, Napoleon lamented that this “damned” Spanish war had been “the first cause” of his downfall.
The proof that aversion to Catholicism is stronger than patriotism can be found in the fact that atheist and enlightened France, the child of the bloody and failed Revolution (failed at least until the “Third” Republic of 1870), was seen by many as a symbol of progress and reason against the backward Catholic obscurantism, despite the barbarism of the invading troops towards the Spanish civilian population and the irreparable devastation they caused to our national patrimony: Castile is literally carpeted with churches, monasteries, libraries and even cemeteries that were desecrated, looted, burned and vandalized by the very enlightened French. Likewise, the French invasion sparked the emancipation movement of our American provinces, which did not want to belong to France. That said, it is illustrative that Napoleon, a military genius, but a psychopath whose megalomania led to the death of millions, can maintain an ostentatious tomb in the Invalides in Paris without any deranged person even thinking of exhuming him.
The great conquest of America
However, the most important feat in the history of Spain has been the discovery and conquest of America, described by the American Charles Lummis as “the greatest, the longest and the most marvelous series of valiant feats recorded in history”. Even today, the achievements of Columbus, Cortes, Pizarro and so many others who, with a handful of brave men, brought civilization to an entire continent, are still a source of admiration.
Indeed, when Spain arrived in the New World, it found a primitive society that did not know the wheel (invented in Mesopotamia 6,000 years earlier) or the arch (developed 2,000 years earlier). Comparisons are odious, but how to compare the simplistic pre-Columbian architecture with the majesty of Greek and Roman temples or the slender beauty of Gothic and Renaissance churches? How to compare the temples of Chichen Itza with the cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople or St. Peter’s in Rome, or the crude pre-Columbian art with the finesse of Botticelli, Titian or Leonardo or the sublime perfection of Michelangelo’s David?
Where were the Aztec and Inca equivalents of Aristotle, Seneca, Shakespeare, Cervantes, St. Thomas Aquinas, Copernicus, or Galileo? To this pre-Columbian, barbaric, dystopian and cannibal society, in which tens of thousands of people were sacrificed annually while most of the population lived in semi-slavery, the Conquest brought the European culture heir to Greek philosophy, Roman law and Christianity. Spain ” freed” the continent (in the apt expression of the Argentine historian Marcelo Gullo) by leading the local uprising against a reign of terror and allowing a leap in civilization such as history had never known before. Naturally, the conquistadors were not angels and committed abuses, injustices, and outrages consubstantial to the fallen nature of man (what conquest, what era and what country is free of them?), but the final balance is unquestionably grandiose.
For Spain, the arrival in America meant not only the discovery of an unknown land, but also “the discovery of itself, of its virtues and signs of identity“. Although the lust for wealth was a reality (in some cases, the fruit of legitimate ambition and, in others, of unbridled greed), Spain did not limit itself to extracting gold and silver but shared the best of itself. The first hospital founded in Mexico (the Hospital de Jesus) was built in 1521 and is still functioning as such 500 years later, the first school was opened in 1523, the first University in 1553 and the first Spanish-Nahuatl (the local language) dictionary was published in 1555.
The humane treatment of the Indians was the subject of serious anthropological and legal official debates, from the great Queen Isabella the Catholic, whose humanitarian defense of the Indians is well documented, to the laws of Burgos of 1512 (recognizing their right to freedom and private property) and the Edict of King Charles I in 1530, which strictly forbade any type of slavery. This legislation, a predecessor of human rights, was enormously ahead of its time, although the reality in faraway America was not always faithful to the spirit and letter of the law.
Finally, and unlike other powers, the Spaniards mixed its blood with the local population without any racial prejudice and considered the new continent as provinces and not mere colonies, not in vain the 1812 Constitution defined the Spanish nation as “the gathering of all Spaniards from both hemispheres”.
Spain’s conquests vs. British conquests
Compare this with what England and the East India Company did in India: starting in 1599 and for almost 250 years, they devoted themselves exclusively to plundering and pillaging everything they could without blending in with the native population or creating a single school, hospital, or university until well into the 19th century. Tellingly, etymologically the word “loot” comes from a Hindi word of identical pronunciation.
The moral superiority of the Spanish conquest over that of other European powers can be defended with hard data. When Mexico became independent in 1821 after three centuries of Spanish rule, its GDP per capita was only 25% lower than Spain’s (having surpassed it in earlier periods), its literacy rate was only slightly lower, and its life expectancy was very similar.
In contrast, when India gained independence from England in 1947 after more than three centuries of British presence, it was still a very poor and illiterate country: its GDP per capita was one tenth of that of England (90% lower), only 12% of its inhabitants could read and write (compared to 95% of the English) and its life expectancy was 32 years, compared to 69 in England.
The reality is that the two great creators of the black legend, England, and the Netherlands, accused Spain of precisely what they themselves were doing, as Spanish writer Cadalso denounced in his famous book Cartas Marruecas in 1789. Indeed, with a culture obsessed with money, both countries focused on maximizing the economic return on their conquests with absolute neglect of their functions as a vector of civilization or evangelization. In fact, their behaviors could sometimes be described as genocidal (in South Africa, India, Indonesia, or Tasmania), like those of the USA with the Indian population.
What if we regain our pride?
Finally, it should be noted that the Spanish Transition period from Franco’s regime to democracy (1975-1978) reinforced the doubts about the legitimacy of our past. Indeed, its political leaders identified the defense of Spain’s historical legacy with Francoism and decided to make people believe that the Big Bang of our country had taken place on December 6th, 1978, when the current Constitution was approved. The Socialist Party at that time already had a negative view of the history of its own country (can you imagine the director of the Van Gogh Museum having a bad opinion of Van Gogh’s work?) and many leaders of the Transition coming from the dictatorship wanted to get rid of their past by renouncing to the defense of the historical truth. On such flimsy foundations, how did the architects of the 1978 Constitutional system think that a solid and lasting edifice could be built?
It is worth asking ourselves what it means to be a Spaniard today. What do we feel proud of as a nation: folklore, soccer, tennis, food? Is that all? Can we really find nothing more meaningful to be proud of? It should not surprise us, therefore, that this battered and depressed Spain suffers from an identity crisis that is like a cancer that gnaws us from within. We do not respect ourselves and, therefore, we are not respected by others. We are not even respected by our unpatriotic political class, which acts like a fox put in charge of the henhouse. This explains its abusive parasitism, its ignominious political and moral bailout of Basque terrorist group ETA when it had been defeated by the Civil Guard or the very suspicious subordination of President Sanchez to Morocco, a fact that has only met with a muted media impact and the yawning of the lazy opposition parties. When will you respect yourself again, Spain? When will you see yourself in the mirror as you really are?
 Imperiofobia, Mª Elvira Roca Barea, Siruela 2016, y Fracasología, de la misma autora, Espasa 2019
 Madre Patria, Espasa 2021, y Nada por lo que pedir perdón, Espasa 2022
 La Maravillosa Historia del Español, de Francisco Moreno Fernández, Instituto Cervantes 2017
 The Anarchy, del historiador escocés W. Dalrymple, Bloomsbury 2019
 The World Economy: Historical Statistics, Angus Maddison 1998.
Global life expectancy by region 1820-2020 | Statista