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Tema: Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

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    Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

    Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition (I)


    Today I would like to share some personal thoughts on the Spanish Inquisition, without attempting to give even a short historical overview nor entering the debate on numbers (though they are amazingly eloquent), revolving around three questions: what did the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition actually do? Why did it do so? And finally: was it right?

    What did the Inquisition do?

    Everybody knows this: it persecuted heresy. It tried heretics. What not everybody knows is what a heretic actually is. Not everyone who is not Christian is a heretic. In fact, to be a heretic it is necessary first to be a Christian, or at least to pretend to be. "Consequently he that holds the Christian faith aright, assents, by his will, to Christ, in those things which truly belong to His doctrine", says Saint Thomas Aquinas. But, he continues, one may deviate from the rectitude of the Christian faith: "though he intends to assent to Christ, yet he fails in his choice of those things wherein he assents to Christ, because he chooses not what Christ really taught, but the suggestions of his own mind." (Summa Theologica, II-IIae, q.11, a.1) Someone who isn't Christian cannot deviate from a faith that was never his, and therefore cannot be a heretic. And not being a heretic, he can't be tried by the Inquisition.

    Generally speaking, the Spanish Inquisition did not order the execution of any Jew or Mahometan, nor even tried any in court, for the simple reason that there were no Jews or Mahometans in Spain. The Inquisition was established in 1478 and began to act in 1480; the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and the Moriscos in 1502. In the relatively short space of time between the creation of the Holy Office and the expulsions, I only know of one case (the Holy Child of La Guardia) of non-converted Jews being tried (though not because of their faith; they were accused of ritual murder). I haven't found any reliable sources, however, with information on whether these two Jews were tried by the Inquisition, as were the other six Conversos involved, or rather by the ordinary courts.


    In any case, after the expulsions there were ―officially― only Christians in Spain: those who weren't had either left or converted. The Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, establishing the Inquisition a decade before the expulsions, offered a clear-cut alternative: either you stay and convert, or you leave; but if you stay, you had better be serious about it. Undoubtedly, this choice is made in less than favorable circumstances, considering how toilsome it must be for a family to move to another country with a few months' notice, losing money in the hurried sale of properties that have to be left behind (which weren't all). But conversions weren't forced. Many, naturally, preferred to convert insincerely, putting their purse before their religion. That they did not take their faith seriously, however, does not make it an injustice that the Catholic Monarchs did theirs.


    For Catholics, the Inquisition wasn't a reign of terror where no one dared utter a word that might be misinterpreted and carry him to the pyre.
    "Heresy is derived from a Greek word meaning choice, whereby a man makes choice of that school which he deems best", as Saint Thomas quotes Saint Jerome, and then Saint Augustine: "By no means should we accuse of heresy those who, however false and perverse their opinion may be, defend it without obstinate fervor, and seek the truth with careful anxiety, ready to mend their opinion, when they have found the truth." (Summa Theologica, II-IIae, q.11, a.2) The Inquisitorial trial was, as its name implies, a judicial proceeding of inquiry. It was strictly regulated by law, offering many guarantees that prevented arbitrariness. There were many opportunities throughout the trial to clear up misunderstandings and for the accused to show repentance.

    Torture or torment was a common means of gathering evidence in Spanish and European tribunals of the time, by no means restricted to the Inquisition, and in any case much less widespread there than in other ordinary courts. It was only applied if the declarations of the defendant were contradictory, and all confessions obtained this way had to be ratified within twenty-four hours, this time without torment. If the contradiction persisted, it could be applied up to two times more, and after the third the prisoner had to be let free. Torment had to be applied in the presence of a doctor, who could stop it, postpone it, or limit it to the healthy parts of the body. The only approved methods were the garrucha (strappado), the toca (a sort of waterboard), and the potro (the rack). Considering that other methods far more horrendous were used at the time across the Pyrenees and that the waterboard, for reasons known to all, remains as infamous as ever, to portray the Spanish Inquisition as history's torturer par excellence is not only a falsification of historical truth, but utterly Pharisaical. In any case, torment was applied on a scant 2% of the people tried.

    Not all those found guilty were burned at the stake. Only those who did no repent or relapsed for a second time suffered capital punishment, though up until the very end they were offered a chance for repentance and a quicker death by garrote, before their bodies were burned. But there were also several lesser punishments given for less serious offenses, such as the sambenito (a sack of cloth worn for public shame), lashes, imprisonment, and galleys for men and “galley-houses” (casas de galeras) for women, where they worked and learned a trade. The jails or Penitential Houses of Mercy of the Inquisition were renowned for a more benevolent treatment compared to ordinary jails, and in fact prisoners were known to fake heresy or blaspheme in order to be transferred to the Inquisition's jurisdiction. How far is this reality from the widespread misconception, evidenced in the film Alatriste, that a man could suffer no worse fate ―even cutting his own throat― than to be arrested by the Inquisition!

    The Inquisition, properly speaking, did not kill convicts: it relaxed them to the secular arm, which carried out the punishment. This may seem at first glance an exercise of sophistry made to avoid taking responsibility for the dirty work, but there is a reason behind it. And his detail, apparently trivial, is absolutely essential in order to begin to understand what the Inquisition really was. Once again, Saint Thomas makes us see:

    "For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but after the first and second admonition, as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Galatians 5:9, A little leaven, says: Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame." (Summa Theologica, II-IIae, q.11, a.3)

    The secular powers want to persecute heresy. hey have always wanted to, because heresy is always a real threat. And they would do so even if there wasn't an Inquisition. But the Inquisition serves as a buffer, it administers this task through a special process of inquiry and lets the authorities know its conclusion. The secular authority benefits from this separate jurisdiction, led by theologians and canonists, because it provides a specialized knowledge of Theology that isn't strictly the competence of princes. And competent knowledge of theological complexity serves to mitigate the zealous tendency of secular powers to punish heresy where there isn't any, as is evidenced by the witch hunts that took place beyond the Pyrenees and the across the North Atlantic.

    Through this mediation the Church not only contributes to serve justice: it also brings in a chance for mercy. One can imagine the Church, standing between the heretic and the prince, saying to the latter: I will help you to better administer your Justice, but first you will let me offer my mercy. Thanks to the Inquisition, someone who is found guilty of so grave an offense is given the unheard-of opportunity to repent and leave the Court completely forgiven, with a second chance and a new life. "On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer."

    Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk? (Mark 2,9)


    Firmus et Rusticus (in English)

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    Re: Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

    Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition (II)






    Continues from Part I:

    In the previous post I began a personal reflection on the Spanish Inquisition, to be structured around three questions, by answering the first: what did the Inquisition do? Because we can't attempt to understand the motivations behind its establishment, much less to examine them critically, without knowing the facts. And these facts have been falsified by the “Black Legend”, whose favorite target is the Spanish Inquisition, not even bothering to carefully manipulate them, but -rather successfully- spreading outright lies.


    Once we have laid down some of the most unknown facts about the Inquisitorial trial, forming a better idea of what it actually did, we can now ask:

    Why did it do it?


    First of all, I want to clear up a point. By the term Spanish Inquisition we refer to a particular institution created by Sixtus IV's Papal Bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus at the request of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, giving the Crown special influence over it in matters such as the appointment of the members of the Council of the Supreme and General Inquisition (one of the many Councils within the polysynodic structure of the Spanish Monarchy) and the appointment of the Inquisitor General himself, though he had to be approved by the Pope. In this it was different from the Roman or Medieval Inquisition, which depended on local Bishops or the Pope himself. The Inquisition, in a wider sense, was neither a creation of the Catholic Monarchs nor exclusive to Spain. Medieval Inquisition spread over many kingdoms in Christendom (it reached Aragon but not Castile), and wherever it sprung it was because, it was deemed, heresy was not sufficiently persecuted in that place. Which means heresy was persecuted anyway. It didn't take an Inquisition to do it:

    “We have the «Fuero Real» (1255 Castilian law), ordering that he who turns Jew or Moor, die for it and the death for this deed be of fire. We have the «Partidas» (ley II, tít. VI, Part. VII) telling us that the preaching heretic should be burnt by fire, so he should die, and not only the preacher but also the believer, that is, he who listens to and receives his teachings.”



    -Menéndez Pelayo, Historia de España, ed. Jorge Vigón.






    Heresy was also punished outside of Spain, before and after the time of the Catholic Monarchs, and not only in Catholic countries. The Spanish Inquisition's uniqueness lies in its particular structure and Crown dependence, but not in persecuting heresy.


    Catholic martyrs of the English "Reformation"


    Why, then, did the Inquisition in general, and the Spanish one in particular, exist?


    Because heresy is contagious. And if something is understood to be harmful, it is natural to want to stop it spreading. I'm not -for now- evaluating whether heresy is actually harmful of not, I'm merely stating that it was perceived as such. Its contagion has two consequences, one that affects the individual and the other affecting society as a whole.

    First consequence: through the fault of one the souls of many are lost. If a doctrine is considered instrumental for salvation, or at least extremely useful in order to reach it, naturally it will be considered desirable and good, whereas its corruption condemnable and bad. Let us say a certain soccer player decides that it is a better idea to pass the ball with his hands rather than with his feet, since it will be easier to maintain the ball's possession and therefore to win the game, which is, needless to say, the team's objective. All the other players think it a good idea, and when they try it in the next game, they receive a red card one after the other. They lose the game, naturally. Now, suppose the day before the coach says to him: look here, you have a pretty good imagination, but the rules of the game are these, and if we try your brilliant idea we are going to lose. The player doesn't take heed, so the coach leaves him in the bench and eventually kicks him out of the team. For the benefit of the other players, who believed him in good faith. And got the red card anyway. This is the idea. Freedom of speech isn't the central problem: it is the truth or falsity of what is said, and the consequences it may have.





    I'm feeling quite the demagogue comparing the bench with the pyre. True, the Inquisition burned relapsed and unrepentant heretics at the stake. This is perhaps the most shocking thing about it for modern sensibilities, especially to those who have come to think of Christianity as a sort of Hippie pacifism. Doesn't Saint Thomas Aquinas say: "In obedience to Our Lord's institution, the Church extends her charity to all, not only to friends, but also to foes who persecute her"? He does, and he continues:
    "Now it is part of charity that we should both wish and work our neighbor's good. Again, good is twofold: one is spiritual, namely the health of the soul, which good is chiefly the object of charity, since it is this chiefly that we should wish for one another. Consequently, from this point of view, heretics who return after falling no matter how often, are admitted by the Church to Penance whereby the way of salvation is opened to them.
    The other good is that which charity considers secondarily, viz. temporal good, such as life of the body, worldly possessions, good repute, ecclesiastical or secular dignity, for we are not bound by charity to wish others this good, except in relation to the eternal salvation of them and of others. Hence if the presence of one of these goods in one individual might be an obstacle to eternal salvation in many, we are not bound out of charity to wish such a good to that person, rather should we desire him to be without it, both because eternal salvation takes precedence of temporal good, and because the good of the many is to be preferred to the good of one. Now if heretics were always received on their return, in order to save their lives and other temporal goods, this might be prejudicial to the salvation of others, both because they would infect others if they relapsed again, and because, if they escaped without punishment, others would feel more assured in lapsing into heresy. For it is written (Ecclesiastes 8:11): "For because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear."
    For this reason the Church not only admits to Penance those who return from heresy for the first time, but also safeguards their lives, and sometimes by dispensation, restores them to the ecclesiastical dignities which they may have had before, should their conversion appear to be sincere: we read of this as having frequently been done for the good of peace. But when they fall again, after having been received, this seems to prove them to be inconstant in faith, wherefore when they return again, they are admitted to Penance, but are not delivered from the pain of death." (Summa Theologica, II-IIae, q.11, a.4)

    Precisely because man lives within society, and he can't be taken into account as an abstraction separated from it, it isn't unjust to punish heresy with death for the good of that society, just as it can be done for other crimes: "if the health of the whole body demands the excision of a member, through its being decayed or infectious to the other members, it will be both praiseworthy and advantageous to have it cut away. Now every individual person is compared to the whole community, as part to whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6)."

    A little leaven corrupteth the whole lump. Heresy not only puts in peril the souls of individuals, it has a second consequence visible in the social sphere, of lesser salvific importance (1) but more tangible in our worldly surroundings: the spread of heterodox doctrines subverts the political order.

    Be it a Catholic or Protestant country, be it one that worships the Emperor or goddess democracy, the powers that be are never thrilled about the subversion of the pillars on which they rest. This is common to every age. If heresy on the subject of religion has become irrelevant to modern States it isn't because they have suddenly been enlightened with the tolerance that has eluded societies ever since, let's see, the beginning of time. It is a matter of indifference because religion has been confined to the realm of the private, and the foundation of political loyalty has radically veered:


    “Hobbes and Bodin both prefer religious uniformity for reasons of state, but it is important to see that once Christians are made to chant "We have no king but Caesar," it is really a matter of indifference to the sovereign whether there be one religion or many. Once the State has succeeded in establishing dominance over, or absorbing, the Church, it is but a small step from absolutist enforcement of religious unity to the toleration of religious diversity. In other words, there is a logical progression from Bodin and Hobbes to Locke. Lockean liberalism can afford to be gracious toward "religious pluralism" precisely because "religion" as an interior matter is the State's own creation.”






    Modernity's “heresy” is not about theology. It is about refusing to accept what we have recently come to call political correction, an ever-advancing ideological amalgam that rests on an individualistic anthropological vision that is completely demential and divorced from reality (since it postulates that individual liberty is and should be sovereign, that is, devoid of all limits, included those given by the nature of things). This enslaving compendium of follies, social engineering as some call it, has been developing itself since the Revolution -drawing from Lutheranism- sowed its premises, taking more radical forms as people get accustomed to earlier stages. Every day we see this new “orthodoxy” is no matter of indifference to those in power, as is religious orthodoxy. In fact, it is absolutely essential for them. Whenever someone publicly refuses to accept its vertiginous evolution, panic takes over. Behind all the media abuse this person receives, one can detect a certain feeling of uneasiness, of urgency. And with good reason: his attitude is a threat, with veritably subversive potential if its spread isn't halted. He has called their bluff.

    Clearly, heresy has consequences. Every idea does. Heresy isn't subversive because of the fact that it is different. It is subversive because of the content that makes it different. This should be the thought we keep in mind as we try to pass judgment on the Inquisition, answering the third and last of the questions asked at the beginning of the previous post. This I leave for next time.



    (1) I say of lesser rather than without salvific importance, since it may be argued that a society, however amoral it may be, insofar it is a society it is a desirable good. Materially and, I venture, spiritually desirable. I am thinking of Antiquity's Just man, a Socrates, one who doesn't know Revelation. The order of the city offers the chance of self-perfecting in a manner impossible, or less probable, in a state of anarchy or in the jungle.


    Firmus et Rusticus (in English)



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    Re: Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

    Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition (III)




    "Before suffering the slightest damage to religion and the service of God, I would lose all my states and a hundred lives if I had them, because I do not wish nor do I desire to be the ruler of heretics." -Philip II

    Having thus far offered a personal perspective on what the Spanish Inquisition did, and why it did it, it only remains for us to ask:
    Was it right?
    The Inquisition preserved Catholic orthodoxy. The first question, then, is whether orthodoxy is desirable in the first place. Surely any Catholic would say yes, at least in the individual sphere. Even today, the Church upholds orthodoxy and defines nascent heresies, governing the faithful through its authorities. But our modern anti-Christian Western States (as they were all forged in opposition to the Catholic Church, even during the least anti-clerical periods they are genetically predisposed against it) do not recognize the means the Church has -Canon law- for doing this task. Much less do they let orthodoxy inspire their laws. Orthodoxy is reduced to a mere take-it-or-leave-it suggestion given by priests to the faithful.


    Is this satisfactory? Some will say: it certainly is, you can't mix Church and State. But, when orthodoxy governs a country's political institutions, does it mean that Church and State are mixed? Or does it mean, rather, that precisely because they are not mixed, the government is bound by the rules of the Church? If that were the case, would it have advantages for everybody, including those who don't believe? In other words: is orthodoxy objectively good?

    "The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. [...] If some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs."
    -G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy




    Heresy has consequences. Men's actions are affected by the way they understand things. The ideologies or "isms" of the 19th and 20th centuries did not carry out their terrible social and political schemes arbitrarily: they were putting into practice a particular understanding of man and his nature, as given by their respective “philosophies”. Chesterton pictured Christianity as a “huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years.” ne extra excrescence, or one less, and Christendom's superb edifice would collapse. A single man, no matter how intelligent or well-intentioned he may be, cannot foresee the consequences an idea of his will have in a thousand years if it breaks away from orthodoxy's vine. This vine's constancy throughout all times and epochs is guaranteed by Tradition, which protects it from men's changing whims. In order to find an example of the destructive power of a single man, it isn't necessary to look among the great firebrand heresiarchs: Catholic Descartes, sitting quietly next to his furnace, planted perhaps the greatest philosophical time-bomb in history.

    By abiding in orthodoxy's vine, out of prudence if not faith, man's creative efforts are guaranteed survival. On the other hand, it is a historical law that heresy sparks a fire that quickly consumes itself: it is by definition barren. Before it dies out, however, it will lay waste to the entire world if permitted to spread. It takes only one man's changing of a definition in order for Christian Civilization (unique in upholding man's value, stemming from his connection with God, against the otherwise inevitable pagan pessimism that always ends in scorn for human life and ultimately slavery) to turn into a monstrosity.

    The modern State, which boasts of religious indifference, is in fact the most tangible fruit of a religious heresy. According to William T. Cavanaugh, “the "Wars of Religion" were not the events which necessitated the birth of the modern State; they were in fact themselves the birthpangs of the State. These wars were not simply a matter of conflict between "Protestantism" and "Catholicism," but were fought largely for the aggrandizement of the emerging State over the decaying remnants of the medieval ecclesial order.” Protestantism is the doctrinal vehicle that made possible the end of Christendom and the beginning of the modern world. Luther's freedom of biblical interpretation broke its religious unity, opening the way for the proliferation of as many sects as there are interpretations and providing the opportunity for rulers to pitch them against each other in order to consolidate a completely independent power. Heresy became a tool for the powerful, and because of it this time it managed to survive. First by “cuius regio, eius religio”, later by religious tolerance (not extended to Catholics for not accepting this new state of things), the modern secularized State presented itself as the solution, when in fact it has always been the problem itself.



    The period of the Wars of Religion, between Luther's ninety-five thesis and the treaties of Westphalia in 1648, is one of the bloodiest in all European history. Spain never had any such internal wars. Excluding, of course, the rebellions in the Low Countries, a territory where the Inquisition was never established. A coincidence?





    If Philip II of Spain never actually said “twenty clerics of the Inquisition keep the peace in my realms”, as it is commonly attributed to him, I imagine that it is because this was fairly obvious to everyone. With a little preventive work, the Inquisition kept Spain united and immune to the massive fratricide that characterized modern Europe, and so it stayed until Napoleon's military and ideological invasion sowed a seed of discord that remains to this day, after two hundred years and numerous civil wars (all, without exception, attributable to this new revolutionary wedge in Spain's Catholic unity). The Inquisition, by defending Catholic orthodoxy, prevented Spain's monarchy from turning absolutist, as did those kings to whom Luther's heresy offered the opportunity of becoming the supreme religious authority within their kingdoms. But it didn't set out to do these things. They are consequences of its main, most important purpose: the Inquisition prevented the corruption of the Faith and thus saved souls. This is something that its modern Catholic detractors tend to ignore, forgetting in the name of charity to their fellows the greatest charity of all.

    In 1827, royalist Catalonians revolted against the “ministerial despotism” of Ferdinand VII's second period of government, which started in 1823 after the defeat of the liberal regime established by a 1820 army coup. This constitutional regime, nominally monarchist, kept the King a prisoner in his own palace. When he returned to the throne, the King maintained some of the reforms implemented during this period: most notoriously, the abolition of the Inquisition and the establishment of a secret police. The Catalonian royalists, piously thinking that the King was once again the reluctant puppet of the government, rebelled under this warcry: “Long live the Inquisition and death to the police!” As late as 1827, when reality was not yet obscured by myth, the Inquisition was popularly acclaimed. Can we truly believe that these royalists, who had fought against French and Spanish revolutionary governments in 1808 and 1820, merely wanted to exchange one tryranny for another? Can we deny that, on the contrary, they saw in the Inquisition their surest defense against this new kind of despotism? Can we resist echoing their warcry?



    I conclude this series of posts with a very interesting BBC documentary, very much worth the time. As a final thought I want to share an idea from the documentary. The kings of Spain never bothered to defend themselves against their enemies' propaganda, which created the myth we know as the “Black Legend”, because they considered it beneath their dignity. This attitude, letting their works instead of words speak for themselves, honors them. However, Spain is no longer the world power eloquent in works that it was in its golden era. Truth will not impose itself anymore. We have a duty, not only Spaniards but honest people everywhere, to stop spreading this myth about the Spanish Inquisition concocted in 16th century printing presses, and to pursue the truth of it. You will find, as I have, that a little information on this subject can make a big difference, and shatter prejudices built up by centuries of propaganda.

    <span style="font-style: normal;">

    Firmus et Rusticus (in English)











    Annuit Coeptis dio el Víctor.

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    Re: Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

    Militia est vita hominis super terram et sicut dies mercenarii dies ejus. (Job VII,1)

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    Re: Nobody expects... the real Spanish Inquisition

    Libros antiguos y de colección en IberLibro
    It is certainly disheartening―but not in the least surprising, I should add―to see Spain and her name defamed for centuries by those standing opposed to her very essence, Catholicism, and her glorious pursuits throughout the orb. The foreign perception of Spain as a brutish, coarse and long-evaporated former power is not the reason for my torment, however; the corruption of the Spanish mind and the degree of susceptibility to a particularly ruinous inferiority complex is infinitely more important, for the Spaniard has been deceived into accepting the supposed inferiority and barbarism of his country, and in turn set on the revolutionary path contrary to all the precepts we hold dear with our devotion to the ‘old ways’ repudiated by the Rousseauvian vultures and their sophist-shepherds.

    It is only with frustration and great dissatisfaction that I emerge from discussions of my fatherland elsewhere. There exists throughout the world (and, it must be said, especially in Iberoamerica and the Iberia itself) a supreme ignorance of Spain’s historical missions. Only her crimes, exaggerated as they have been by centuries of politico-religious rivalries and conflicts in the Old Continent, are ‘known’ by the masses; neither the gallant Spain of the heroes of the Reconquest, nor the civilising Spain of libraries, cathedrals and universities is known. It is not uncommon, for instance, to spot a Spanish-American mestizo professing a wish (or, rather, a lament) for his republic to have been conquered and colonised by Englishmen, not the Spanish ‘prisoners and criminals’.

    It is time, I believe, for an alternative to be proposed; the Black Legend as embodied by the engravings of Theodor de Bry, or the French jests of l’Afrique commence aux Pyrénées, though irrevocably dismissed by all those with half a brain, perdures much like the recalcitrant strongman in the southern continent to which we do not belong, for with the exception of the splendid autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, along with the plazas de soberanía, Hercules himself separated us from Africa. The task of quashing and repelling the calumnies against our country, though noble, is without reward as are uncountable other lofty pursuits, but it is ultimately necessary and neither pretext nor excuse will free use from this burden. The obligation is not to the present, but to those past who elevated Spain to the divine heights of glory thought possible only with opiates.

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