September 25, 2022

Insight – El32

General knowledge and culture with a libertarian approach.

Latin America or Hispanic America?

3 min read
Spanish America

Ibero or Hispanic America refers to countries with Iberian or Hispanic influence (Spain and Portugal).

The term “Latin America” was coined by a henchman of Napoleon III, as a propaganda weapon to devalue Spanish influence. Don Juan Valera, in his Cartas Americanas, defended, already in 1888, the denomination “Hispano-Americans” as opposed to “Latin-Americans”.

Julián Marías’ book La Comunidad Hispánica de Naciones (published by the Francisco López de Gomara Association as the tenth volume of the series “La Corona y los Pueblos Americanos”, in 1992), on pages 88 to 90, explains the origin of the name “Latin America”: “it was used for the first time in 1861 in the Reveu des Races Latines, by Michel Chevalier, an active collaborator in Napoleon III’s policy in Mexico; this Chevalier, a celebrated economist, was a sectarian free trader and anti-socialist, which is paradoxical and ironic, given the disposition of many supporters of the name “Latin America”. In the following years,” says Marías, “only six French authors and two Spanish-Americans who had been living in France for some time, as John L. Phelan, an admirable historian of Hispanic America, has documented with great precision. The subsequent success of this name among Hispanic Americans is “inexplicable,” says Marías, “because it is a ‘colonialist’ name par excellence, invented to favor an entirely foreign intervention. It is also -and this is the most serious- a false term, because “Latin” as such has nothing to do with America, because nobody includes Quebec in it, which is what could be considered as such, and because to speak of “Latin race” in Latin America, with the presence of millions of Indians, mestizos, blacks, mulattos and people of other ethnic origins, does not make the slightest sense”.

“The usual name – Marías also says – even long after independence, was “Spanish America”.” Furthermore, in his Intelligible Spain (1981), Marías wrote: “For the Hispanic countries of America, the greatest temptation has been the intentional myth of “Latin America” (…); that expression feigns a sufficient unity without reference to Spain, that is, to the effective principle of linking its members among themselves. If the Spanish ingredient is eliminated in the Hispanic countries, any historical community among them is volatilized, their shared roots disappear, and with it any social connection that could articulate them in a coherent world.”

Julián Marías adds (“Problemas de las Españas”), “Hispanoamérica and Iberoamérica seem the preferable and fairest names (and entirely equivalent, since Hispania and Iberia mean the same thing, both include Portugal, and therefore their American compounds equally comprise Brazil; Camoens knew this very well when he sang precisely of the Portuguese as uma gente fortíssima d’Espanha).”

As I manage to talk in depth with a greater number of Hispanic Americans living here in Madrid, the more I realize that many of the ills of their countries of origin and the complexes with which they live here, come from the systematic effort to deprive them of their history and their roots. On the other hand, I do not cease to give a good hiding to those from here who dare to belittle the Spaniards from there. For me, as for Cela (when he received Vargas Llosa at the Academy) there is no doubt: they are Spaniards from Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico… It is incredible that so many people ignore the enlightening history of the term “Latin America”.


1 thought on “Latin America or Hispanic America?

  1. The Black Legend (Spanish: La leyenda negra), or the Spanish Black Legend, is a theorised historiographical tendency consisting of anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic propaganda. Its proponents claim that its roots date back to the 16th century, when it was originally a political and psychological weapon that was used by Spain’s European rivals in order to demonize the Spanish Empire, its people and culture, minimize Spanish discoveries and achievements, and counter its influence and power in world affairs.

    Protestant Revolutionary propaganda during the Hispano-Dutch War and the Anglo-Spanish War against the Catholic monarchs of the 16th century, is said to have fostered an anti-Hispanic bias among subsequent historians. Along with a distorted view of the history of Spain and Latin America, other parts of the world in the Portuguese Empire were also affected as a result of the Iberian Union and Luso-Dutch Wars. This 17th-century propaganda found its basis in real events during the Spanish conquest of the Americas, which did involve atrocities, but it often employed lurid and exaggerated depictions of violence, while ignoring similar behaviour by other powers.

    Although the existence of a 16th- and 17th-century Spanish black legend is agreed upon by the majority of scholars, aspects of the legend are still debated.[5] Charles Gibson described it as “The accumulated tradition of propaganda and Hispanophobia according to which the Spanish Empire is regarded as cruel, bigoted, degenerate, exploitative and self-righteous in excess of reality”.

    Like other black legends, the Spanish black legend combined fabrications, de-contextualization, exaggeration, cherry picking, and double standards with facts. There is disagreement among scholars over whether a biased portrayal of Spanish history continues into the present day, and the degree to which it might be significant if it does.

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