July 10, 2006

Avast, Matey, Pro-Illegal Immigration Bilgewater Ahoy -- Arrrggghhh!

From the New York Times:

Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend

Vineyard Haven, Mass.

COURSING through the immigration debate is the unexamined faith that American history rests on English bedrock, or Plymouth Rock to be specific. Jamestown also gets a nod, particularly in the run-up to its 400th birthday, but John Smith was English, too (he even coined the name New England).

So amid the din over border control, the Senate affirms the self-evident truth that English is our national language; "It is part of our blood," Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, says. Border vigilantes call themselves Minutemen, summoning colonial Massachusetts as they apprehend Hispanics in the desert Southwest....

The early history of Spanish North America is well documented, as is the extensive exploration by the 16th-century French and Portuguese. So why do Americans cling to a creation myth centered on one band of late-arriving English — Pilgrims who weren't even the first English to settle New England or the first Europeans to reach Plymouth Harbor?...

There's another, less-known legacy of this early period that explains why we've written the Spanish out of our national narrative. As late as 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War, Spain held claim to roughly half of today's continental United States (in 1775, Spanish ships even reached Alaska). As American settlers pushed out from the 13 colonies, the new nation craved Spanish land. And to justify seizing it, Americans found a handy weapon in a set of centuries-old beliefs known as the "black legend."

The legend first arose amid the religious strife and imperial rivalries of 16th-century Europe. Northern Europeans, who loathed Catholic Spain and envied its American empire, published books and gory engravings that depicted Spanish colonization as uniquely barbarous: an orgy of greed, slaughter and papist depravity, the Inquisition writ large....

By then, the black legend had begun to fade. But it seems to have found new life among immigration's staunchest foes, whose rhetoric carries traces of both ancient Hispanophobia and the chauvinism of 19th-century expansionists...

Also missing, of course, is a full awareness of the history of the 500-year Spanish presence in the Americas and its seesawing fortunes in the face of Anglo encroachment. "The Hispanic world did not come to the United States," Carlos Fuentes observes. "The United States came to the Hispanic world. It is perhaps an act of poetic justice that now the Hispanic world should return."

America has always been a diverse and fast-changing land, home to overlapping cultures and languages. It's an homage to our history, not a betrayal of it, to welcome the latest arrivals, just as the Indians did those tardy and uninvited Pilgrims who arrived in Plymouth not so long ago.

Well, that worked out well for the Indians, didn't it?

Good grief.

First, let's note exactly where Mr. Horwitz, a prominent travel author (his "Blue Horizons" book about following Captain Cook's voyages is pretty good) wrote his paean to Hispano-America: not Laredo, not Santa Ana, but "Vineyard Haven" on Martha's Vineyard, which must be the least Hispanic spot in America. For some reason, writing (or reading) books and Mexican-American life just doesn't go together well.

Second, 16th and 17th Century English anti-Spanish feelings were both justified (Spain tried to conquer England in 1588) and enormously productive. English contempt for Spain, with its autocratic rule, cultural decline, economic stasis, and Inquisition encouraged the development of modern English breakthroughs. The subsequent history of Spain and Spanish America shows the overall wisdom of English opposition to all things Spanish.

Third, Horwitz's theory that modern skepticism about illegal immigration is somehow tied to the old English "Black Legend" about Spain is historically illiterate. Horwitz skips over the inconvenient phenomenon of Hispanophilia that entranced Anglo California for close to a century. There wasn't the slightest hint of Elizabethan anti-Spanish legends in California in the 1960s when I was a kid. Instead, the local elites were nuts over all things Spanish Californian.

California's Hispanophilia fever began with the 1884 publication of Helen Hunt Jackson's romantic novel of life in Old California, Ramona, which became a hugely popular annual outdoor pageant starting in 1923.

The cult of Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California Missions, followed. After WWII, William Randolph Hearst paid to have the Missions restored.

Zorro, a nobleman with a secret identity who battles injustice in Spanish California, first appeared in a 1919 pulp magazine, and became a popular (but surprisingly awful) TV show in the 1950s.

The artistic high point of Hispanophilia was the rebuilding of Santa Barbara in the Spanish Mission Revival style following the 1925 earthquake. To this day, the Rose Parade in Pasadena includes numerous equestrian squads with wealthy riders dressed up in fantasy tributes to the lifestyle of upper class Californios of the old days.

Indeed, in California, contrary to Horwitz's theory, Hispanophilia has been a conservative trope, while the Black Legend has been leftist and Mexican. The Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission notes:

Santa Barbara, with its Old Spanish Days Fiesta, its legally mandated colonial architecture, its mission, and its reconstructed royal presidio, has long been in the forefront of preservation of Spanish heritage in California. In return, in 1954 the Spanish government presented the city with the Order of Carlos III, a knightly order presented to cities as well as individuals — although never before to a municipality outside Spain. While the medal itself is on display in the mayor's office in city hall (and worn by him at his annual formal reception kicking off Spanish Days), all city flags have blue and white streamers floating from the pole, in token of the order. Due to King Carlos III's devotion to the Immaculate Conception, those colors were made the symbol of the order bearing his name.

In further testimony to Santa Barbara's hispanophilia, in 1985 the current Spanish king donated yet another statue of Carlos III to this city. It was placed at Storke Placita, the passage connecting De La Guerra Plaza to State Street. For the next ten years, thanks to the renewal of the anti-Spanish black legend among leftists and would-be indigenists, the statue was urinated on, daubed with excrement, and had various hats, signs, articles of clothing, condoms, and other items draped on it. After a decade of this treatment, the king was removed and replaced with a sundial. He was at last placed by the reconstructed presidio, the Spanish-era fortress, on the corner of East Cañon Perdido and Anacapa.

The spell that visions of Spanish California cast over Anglo Californians can be seen in the irony that In LA traditionally, Hispanics live in places with Anglo names (e.g., Boyle Heights) while Anglos live in places with Hispanic names (e.g., Calabasas). That's because in the 20th Century, Mexicans moved into 19th Century inner city neighborhoods that had been given WASP names -- e.g., famous math teacher Jaime Escalante ("Stand and Deliver") taught at all-Hispanic Garfield H.S. -- while whites moved out to new areas that were given glamorous-sounding Spanish names in the Hispanophilic 20th Century -- such as El Camino Real H.S. (By now, however, the Hispanic population has grown so large that inner suburbs like Santa Ana have gone all Latino).

Hispanophilia was all pretty silly (California before American-rule was backward, indolent, poor, and not terribly glamorous), but the Spanish Mission architecture (which was revived in the 1980s) was attractive and well-suited to the California climate.

Today, though, the Southern California cultural elite has virtually no interest in anything Hispanic, and is much more obsessed with East Asian and Indian culture. To be frank, Beverly Hills types consider Latino things to be tawdry, boring, and a little depressing. So, what finally brought an end to California's Hispanophilia?

Too many Hispanics moved in.

It turned out, when you got to know them in large numbers, that they weren't dashing and daring Zorros after all.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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