Five Anglo-Saxon films loaded with Black Legend and historical errors about the Spanish

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Some are reputed to have an acid sense of humor and to spend all day having tea. Others to love above all things “Liberté, la Égalité, la Fraternité” and roquefort cheese. Many in the north of being too hardworking or overly civic … All countries and races have a series of stereotypes linked, almost always false or incomplete but rarely as harmful as in the Spanish case. A good part of the topics about the Spanish derive from what was proclaimed by the Anglo-Dutch propaganda of the 16th century (they were the precursors, although not the only ones) about the violent, fanatic, backward and depraved nature of the country of Felipe II. A hate speech that is still reflected today in the way in which the rest of the world and the cinema see the nation of siesta, bleeding and clapping.

Movies are never completely harmless. The images are engraved in the mind with much more depth than the written word », says Henry Kamen about the danger of perpetuating certain prejudices.

“Pirates of the Caribbean”

As account Stephen Vincent Boisseau in the study «The image of the presence of Spain in America (1492-1898) in British and American cinema ”, it is unthinkable that today in theme parks aimed at children, the looting, for example, of a Chinese town in 1930 by Japanese troops or a German one by troops was staged in an attraction with happy music Swedes in the 17th century. And that is precisely what is represented in the Disney films of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” saga: the joyous staging of the robbery, torture and looting of Spanish cities in America, which were at the time the tapes were developed the country with greater presence in the area.

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” saga has contributed to trivialize the looting carried out by pirates, especially Anglo-Saxons, on populations of the Caribbean

“This indicates a trivialization of evil in the public’s mind, with an internalization by hundreds of millions of people of the idea that it is admissible and normal to carelessly view crimes committed by pirates,” he points out in his report. Stephen Vincent Boisseau. From an Anglo-Saxon view of history, there is an apology for behavior typified as criminal criminals according to western and international criminal legislation. The suffering of thousands of people is normalized to extol some heroes, or antiheroes, who enjoy undeserved fame in the Anglo-Saxon imagination.

In parallel to the increase in trade between America and Seville, the French Monarchy and other enemies of the empire began to finance pirate expeditions against the ships that the Spanish used to transport merchandise. In 1521, French pirates under the command of Juan Florin managed to capture part of the known as “The Treasure of Montezuma”, the bulk of the wealth that Hernán Cortés sent to Carlos V after the conquest of Tenochtitlan, opening a whole new avenue for assaults and boardings. However, the Spanish soon learned to defend themselves against the French pirates, who were later joined by the English and the Dutch, through impressive galleons, much more armed than pirate ships, and a system of convoys that, centuries later , would serve the allied nations in World War I to structure their defense against German submarines.

Between 1540 and 1650 – the period of greatest flow in the transport of gold and silver – of the 11,000 ships that made the America-Spain route, 519 ships were lost, most of them due to storms and other natural reasons. Only 107 did it for pirate attacks, that is, less than 1%, according to the calculations of Fernando Martínez Laínez in his book “Tercios de España: Una legendean infantry”.

Between 1540 and 1650, the period of greatest flow in the transport of gold and silver, of the 11,000 ships that made the America-Spain journey, 519 were lost

The historian Germán Vázquez Chamorro, author of the book “Female Pirates” (Algaba Ediciones), downplays the influence that piracy could have had in the process of decline of the Spanish Empire. In his opinion, the most famous pirates risen to fame, especially for English literature and propaganda, actually attacked fishing boats or boats of little or no value to the Spanish Crown. In fact, Spain’s enemies dispensed with allying themselves with pirates when they discovered other methods of gaining ground on this empire. Thus, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all nations conspired to mercilessly pursue and punish pirates.

Roosevelt, the hero who massacred Spaniards

One of the reasons why the US He convinced his public opinion of the need to expel the Spaniards from Cuba because, following the dogmas of the Black Legend, it was a town of uncivilized bad Christians who were exploiting the local population. The yellow press and also politicians like this contributed to this propaganda campaign. Theodore Roosevelt, who would be president of the country from 1901 to 1909 and directly intervened in war.

Roosevelt was a staunch defender of the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon-Germanic race, as he wrote in his book “The Conquest of the West,” implying that Indians, African-Americans, and Hispanics were inferior beings. For these convictions and for mere political interest, the then undersecretary of the Navy did not hesitate to the outbreak of war with Spain to enlist as lieutenant colonel, second in command of the 1st Voluntary Cavalry Regiment, a unit of more than a thousand riders known as «Rough Riders» («hard riders»). However, Roosevelt’s role in that hill of San Juan (Santiago de Cuba), the bloodiest battle of the war, was mythologized until falling into blatant lies. The image of the politician leading a brave charge of his regiment against a mined hill of Spaniards spread with Remington paintings.

Frame of Roosevelt in the series «Rude Riders»
Frame of Roosevelt in the series «Rude Riders»

Over the years this mythical vision earned Roosevelt the Medal of Honor of the congress and cinema works, without the slightest hysterical criteria, as a tribute. William Night in 1919 he directed “The fighting Roosevelts,” a biography authorized by the President that included the charge at San Juan. The reality is that Roosevelt and his men went up the hill on foot, while they were the Buffalo Soldier, a unit of African Americans who had saved the Rough Riders on the previous hill, who carried out the most direct attack in front of a group of Spaniards in numerical inferiority. The Rough Riders were late for the fight, but in time to take an iconic photograph and shoot the Spanish in the back. Roosevelt himself boasted after the conflict of killing enemies like animals: “I killed with my own hand a Spaniard like a hare.”

«I killed with my own hand a Spaniard like a hare»

Other later films like “The negative” (1925) and The Rough Riders (1927) portrayed the conflict in the same romantic terms. Also, in 1997, on the eve of the centennial of the conflict, the series «Rude riders», which uses “the inversion of guilt, the concealment of historical facts, the exaggeration and misrepresentation of facts” to present an alternative reality to what really happened in Santiago de Cuba. In addition to lies and myths, fiction emphasizes the union of Yankees and Confederates in the war, as well as the integration of Native Americans, African Americans, and even a Hispanic character, Sgt. Rafael Castillo, who claims to fight for the freedom of Cubans, Americans like him, against the Spanish who mistreat them with hunger, beatings and take their wives.

Completely improbable reconstruction of the US situation in 1898, where Confederate veterans would never have agreed to have blacks around when the Ku-Klux-Klan roamed at ease in the south; where the Mexicans knew that Spain was no longer the true enemy, after the signing of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty (1848), which forced Mexico to cede half of its sovereign territory to the United States; and where the natives were confined to miserable reserves.

“The name of the rose”

Another film cited by Stephen Vincent Boisseau as an example on the topic of Spanish fans is “The name of the rose” (1986), based on the novel by the Italian Umberto Eco with the same title. In this work, a series of murders occur in an Italian abbey in the Order of Saint Benedict of the 14th century The British friar William de Baskerville, a former inquisitor follower of Roger Bacon and William of Ockham, two British promoters of science and logical reasoning as a divine gift, has to investigate. Faced with the progress represented by the English, the person responsible for the crimes turns out to be the Castilian monk Jorge de Burgos, a superstitious fanatic who hates laughter and progress.

Umberto Eco describes it like this:

“The one who had just spoken was a monk hunched over by the weight of the years, white as snow; I don’t mean the hair, but also the face, and the pupils. I understood that I was blind. Although the body was already shrinking from the weight of age, the voice was still majestic, and the arms and hands powerful. He fixed his eyes on us as if he were watching us, and always, also in the days that followed, I saw him move and speak as if he still had the gift of sight. But the tone of the voice, on the other hand, was that of someone who was endowed with the gift of prophecy ».

Still from Sean Connery as the enlightened friar from “The Name of the Rose”

Somehow William of Baskerville he is a forerunner of the Reformation and Jorge de Burgos one of those Catholics who would supposedly cling to the past in the Council of Trent. The idea that the Anglo-Saxon world, through Protestant reform, managed to break the chains that tied Europe to the Middle Ages is a constant to explain why today, at least in appearance, the Catholic area of ​​the continent is less developed economically and scientifically. However, there is no causal correlation between the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. As noted science historian David Wooton noted in an article in Nature magazine in 2017, titled History: Science and Reformation“The scientific revolution took place independently of the Protestant reform, if it had not existed, the scientific achievements would have been the same.”

There is no causal correlation between the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, only temporal

The proof of this is that there were great Catholic scientists, like Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal or Mendel, without being born on one side or the other of Europe guaranteed a path of roses for the discoverers. Because it is also not true that Protestants were more permeable to certain discoveries. In Spain the work of Copernicus enjoyed great prestige and the University of Salamanca considered it to be compulsory reading, while it was prohibited in the Universities of Zurich (1553), Rostock (1573) and Tübingen (1582), among others in Protestant territories. Calvin came to attack the Pole for daring to place himself above the Holy Spirit.

«1492: The conquest of paradise»

The supposed genocide of the indigenous population in America is another of the props of what is known as the Black Legend. The film “1492: The Conquest of Paradise”, directed by Ridley Scott in the year that commemorated five hundred years after the arrival of Columbus, he resorts to the usual topics to explain how a backward and fanatical nation like Castilla, represented as a field of executions and inquisitorial repression, ended up enriching itself by corrupting a paradise in the land. Idea taken from the myth of “good wild” of the Enlightenment, so that indigenous and pre-Columbian societies are presented as a lost paradise corrupted by Europeans. This hardly matches the human sacrifices, cannibalism, and brutality that the conquistadors found in some American towns.

Gérard Depardieu, like Columbus, in “1492: The Conquest of Paradise”

In the movie of Ridley ScottThe Genoese Columbus must face the opposition of many elements of Castilian society in order to carry his expedition forward, so that more than with Spanish help he manages to reach America in spite of them. The anti-Spanish vision appears reflected in the systematic mistreatment of the Indians as soon as they step on land. The Spanish Adrián de Moxica, a real character who went with Columbus on his third trip, cuts hands and mistreats the Indians who do not give him gold and taxes, while the supposedly Genoese navigator opposes this way of acting of the Spanish. The reality is just the opposite. Christopher Columbus turned a deaf ear to Isabel La Católica’s claims of “treating these Indians very well and with affection” and enslaved the Taíno Indians on their successive trips until dramatically reducing their number.

The Spanish Adrián de Moxica, a real character who went with Columbus on his third trip, cuts hands and mistreats the Indians who do not give him gold and taxes, despite the fact that the supposedly Genoese navigator opposes this way of acting

The chroniclers Bartolomé de Las Casas criticized the cruelty of Columbus to the Indians and recalled in his texts that it contradicted the spirit “of benevolence, sweetness and Christian peace” claimed by the Catholic Monarchs. When Columbus appeared with a thousand slaves on his second return to Spain, the queen of castile He ordered the sailor to return these men and women to the New World, which was too late for many of them, due to the Iberian cold and exposure to unknown diseases.

Elizabeth: the Golden Age

The Anglican tradition places the fight between Catholics and Protestants of the 16th century, staged in the misnamed Invincible Army, the founding myth of the English nation. Felipe II is the villain of a fable where English Catholics, like today Catalans who do not declare themselves independent, are painted by nationalists as traitors or agents in the service of foreigners. The real English are the Anglicans and the rest are foreign fanatics.

In “Elizabeth: the Golden Age”, Elizabeth I is depicted as a war that drove troops to the coast in case the Spanish landed in England

The British movie Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007), where Felipe II is played by a Jordi Mollà With a sinister voice and a dark personality, he collects all the anti-Spanish nationalist myths. Not only does she portray Elizabeth I as a compassionate, light-illuminated warrior woman in front of the intriguing King of Spain, she also presents the catastrophe of the Great and Happiest Spanish Army as a consequence of the victory of the fast and cunning English ships over the slow ones. and late Spanish ships, despite the fact that there was hardly any fighting between the two squads.

The Hispanicist Henry Kamen He criticized the film for its lack of rigor and its concessions to the nationalist tradition when presenting the Spanish as “the diabolical enemies of Spain”, an idea present for centuries in the persecution and execution of thousands of Catholics, in addition to perpetuating an image “absolutely negative and incorrect of the historical relations between England and Spain ». In general, the British historian defined the tape as “a blatant hymn of praise for England and its greatness.”

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