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The Role of Spain in Contemporary Race Theory George Mariscal University of California, San Diego It is hard not to wonder how much of the recent enthusiasm for cultural studies is generated by its profound associations with England and the ideas of Englishness. —Paul Gilroy, The BUck Athntic The background for my essay is no less than four hundred and fifty years of what is popularly called "the Black Legend," that is, European writings that since the 155Os have cast Spain as the cruel, arrogant, irrational southern neighbor of the continent. It is well to remember that Erasmus refused to travel to Spain because, according to him, there were "too many Jews there" and that Spenser's judgement on Spanish bloodlines \xvA View of the Present State oflrefondwas that "of all nations under heaven I suppose the Spaniard is the most mingled, most uncertain and most bastardly." The extent to which these and other constructions of a Spanish other led inexorably to the Enlightenment's exclusion of Spain from the realm of the civilized and even to the U.S. hostile takeover of Spain's empire at the end of the last century is not my focus here, yet Spanish colonialism's role in contemporary race theory is necessarily predicated upon all of these earlier moments and the discursive networks that nourished them. Because the Spanish New World experience was the more dramatic one—early contact with complex indigenous societies, defeat of rival empires, access to precious metals—and therefore better suited to novelistic treatment, it has traditionally received a "privileged" notoriety compared to the English experience. ' By notoriety I mean a negative celebrity produced by a focus on the early decades of Spanish conquest and the massive destruction of indigenous societies in America. Those aspects of Spanish colonialism that get thrust into the foreground are in most cases the most stereotypical ones, the most violent and depraved ones, the ones, in short, outlined early on by Spanish humanist writers themselves in their critique of the colonial project. There is little doubt that Anglophone scholarship on colonialism and race has yet to escape the discursive heritage of Las Casas and his English translators. For English-speaking schoArizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies Volume 2, 1998 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies lars, Spanish colonialism serves a double function—because Spain is the most fanatical representative of European expansionism, Spain is the least "European" of Europe's nations, or, in Spenser's words, "the most uncertain and most bastardly." Following this logic through, English, Dutch, and French colonial behavior, we are taught, could not have been anything like the Spanish. Yet we know that the principal players in the belated English colonial project looked to the Spanish experience for guidance. Despite their use of Las Casas in order to construct a barbarian Spain for European consumption, those writers who laid the groundwork for the English invasion of Ireland and North America conveniently bracketed his tolerant views of indigenous peoples and instead drew directly from Spain's most anti-Indian texts such as those by Fernández de Oviedo and López de Gomara. Richard Eden and Thomas Hacket, to name only two of the most influential ideologues, supplied the colonizers with precedents drawn from the Spanish experience, for the Spanish in America, Hacket claimed, had "invented good lawes and statutes for the brideling of the barbarous and wicked, and for the maintayning and defending of the just" (Canny 586). We can be fairly sure that many colonizers—Sidney and Spenser, for example—were acquainted with Spanish texts and took them to be models for colonizing "inferior" peoples such as the Irish and the Amerindians. One of the most striking features of early modern racialized discourse is its relatively limited vocabulary. English representations of the Gaelic Irish, for example, echo descriptions of Gypsies found in medieval Spanish texts: "Thei regards no othe, thei blaspheme, thei murder, commit whoredome, hold no wedlocke, ravish, steal and commit all abomination without scruple of conscience" (Canny 584). In seventeenthcentury English writing, the Spanish repression and final expulsion in 1609 of the moriscos would provide an additional model for the on-going colonization of Ireland. The historical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-9009
Print ISSN
1096-2492
Pages
pp. 7-22
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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