Saturday, Nov 29, 2014
Columns

Reiniers: Rewriting history doesn't make it true


Published:

RE: Spanish America - Sí United States of America - No

Revisionist history is common but not factual. Cherry picking recorded history is clever but misleading. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a historian at the University of Notre Dame has written a debatable history of the U.S. and Hispanics in the New World.

It has a fascinating premise: The author's contention is that America was settled from south to north - not east to west and that The United States is a Latin American country. Hispanics colonized America long before the English.

America's Indo-European, African-American and American Indian descendants, and Canadians simply don't recognize this fact. Fenando-Armesto decided to set the record straight. With the second Hispanic colonization now underway (25 percent of American kids are Hispanic), it is only a question of time before they become a majority, as the U.S. is slowly transformed into a bilingual nation. (This is a familiar story. One European Imam told his flock not to be concerned about their minority status. With a 3.5 Muslim birthrate, it would be only a question of time before Muslim fertility archived their majority status.)

It isn't clear whether the future U.S. capital should be Mexico City or San Juan, which the author reminds us, is the "first enduring European colony in the United States still occupied today," and is in U.S. territory. San Juan, Puerto Rico is a more logical capital than Washington D.C. as this would honor Christopher Columbus's landing in 1493, over a century before Jamestown was colonized by a British trading company. (Democrats are paving the way, endorsing Puerto Rico as the 51st state with 15 percent unemployment, a reliable democratic voting bloc and two more Democratic senators.)

What piqued my curiosity were several book reviews in the New York Times, one of which recites Fernandez-Armesto: "From the brave conquistadors who dreamed of .the Fountain of Youth" and goes on to disparage pro-slavery Texans, the slaughter of the bison, the virtual "elimination" of the American Indian, and the "intentional infliction of pain."

Describing the conquistadors as "brave" flies in the face of recorded history, which identifies them as soldiers of fortune, best known for their greed and cruelty to the natives. Many Americans are embarrassed that FDR proclaimed Columbus Day a holiday in 1937, because they view Columbus as the man who brought the horrors of the conquistadors to the New World.

Nevertheless one can't deny the importance of Christopher Columbus or his daring and fortitude. He made four exploratory voyages, and although he focused on the Caribbean and South America, he provided the impetus for the colonization of North America. It was going to happen anyway. It was just a question of who, and when.

No one group was covered in glory when the Americas opened up to explorers, conquerors, settlers and soldiers of fortune. Those were different times. American settlers had no justification for slavery, but it cannot be ignored that slavery was introduced into the New World by the Spanish; and they enslaved or slaughtered the indigenous peoples. American settlers tried to distance themselves from the American Indian and negotiate treaties. The settlers were farmers interested in homesteading - not stealing gold and jewels from the natives and carting the loot back to Spain.

The entire world was in a state of flux. Explorers were commissioned by European kings to plant the flags of their country all over the globe, and then let the king figure out how to subjugate and hold on to another new colony.

The Dutch are an excellent example of those times. They started settling on the east coast in 1613 with New Amsterdam. They created a thriving city of traders, but then the English sailed into the harbor decades later and sized the multicultural colony, renaming it New York, which historian Frank Shorto refers to as the "island in the center of the universe."

The Dutch made no further claims to their colony after it was taken by the English. They simply lost it to a superior force. That's the way it was back in the day. This is interesting because the Dutch make no historical claims to New York City and its other colonies whereas the Mexicans certainly do make claim to the Southwestern United States. Reconquista (reconquest) is alive and well. In many places it is an accomplished fact. Fernandez-Armesto's book is simply preaching to the Hispanic choir.

There are millions of Americans who are of Dutch heritage and millions of others from scores of other mixed ethnicities who see themselves simply as Americans. Others relish being hyphenated Americans

During the Mexican-American war U.S. troops captured Mexico's capital, Mexico City in 1847, but unlike the English, made no permanent claims to the city. The Hispanic invasion is quite different. They are making such claims, and according to Harvard's Samuel Huntington, are threatening to "divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages."

In June 2000 Bill Clinton lamented, "I hope very much that I'm the last president in American history who can't speak Spanish." He should have added, "And I hope the day comes when every Hispanic living and working in the U. S. can speak English."

John Reiniers is a retired attorney and regular contributor who lives in Spring Hill.

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