Back when I was in college, there was a Costa Rican dude that I knew who would sometimes express ideas that were strange to me.
For example, as I wrote in one of my first articles here, the dude had a Full Autism moment over my use of the word “American” to describe myself.
Similarly, there was something else that I noticed about him that seemed strange to me as a….
Uhhh, well, dare I say it?
As an American.
In which this dude was all around very active in some local college club for “Latinx” people.
If I remember right, the club was called “Latinx something.”
The something part I don’t remember but the word “Latinx” was in it.
So we already know what we’re dealing with here, aren’t we?
Anyway, Mr. Latinx of Costa Rica was, at one point, the President of this club.
I was never part of it myself but I knew the guy personally because he was part of another fraternity and I was part of an organization to approve college funding to different clubs.
It is common on this college for clubs to request money to help them organize campus events or whatever else that was needed.
So, one on particular day, Mr. Latinx came into the office to give the pitch for why his Latinx club needed an x amount of money.
Now, assuming you weren’t mentally retarded or greedy, you could basically get the money you requested.
This college was, in my opinion, very generous with the money they gave to students and clubs.
So you’d need to have an IQ south of 100 to not get a budget approved.
And, to his credit, his budget was perfectly fine!
And typical for what the Latinx club would request.
Every year, they basically held the same events.
Mostly just a bunch of random cultural events to promote all things Latin America on the campus.
In his budget for the semester, he had two events in particular that were interesting to me.
One of which was a standard “celebrate Hispanic Heritage month” event where they’d celebrate the culture of various Latin countries.
And Spain also!
And, among other events, they also wanted to host a “movie event” where they’d have access to some space on campus to play a movie for anyone on campus to watch.
With whatever minimal funding they needed for that.
The curious thing to me though, especially back then when I had more a limited introduction to all things Latin America, was hearing about it all being "contradictory" by some.
Where, for one month, they’re going to host a “Hispanic Heritage month.”
Then, in the same semester, host a movie that was very much Anti-Spanish legacy.
I forgot what the movie was called exactly but I remember seeing it again actually when I was in Bolivia funny enough only some odd months after that semester.
So I’ve seen it twice but it’s been years since I’ve seen it.
From what I remember, it was basically some low budget movie that was more popular among leftist Latino crowds but didn’t make much mainstream success.
It focused on the theme of “decolonization” as it talked about the legacy of Spain and how bad it was for Latin America and indigenous people in general.
And, above all, focused on current efforts to “decolonize” Latin America from these influences above (Spain, the US, etc).
Where it seemed like part of the message was to contemplate "how much better" Latin America would've been without Spain involved.
And focused on some random groups of people who do shit to "decolonize" Latin America from its Hispanic influence.
From what I remember, they would promote speaking some random indigenous language to making music and whatever else.
Funny enough, I had to watch the movie because some class I took had us write a paper on it.
At the event, I remember there being some Latina chick with that same mentality talking with some professor along those lines.
I don't remember exactly what she said outside of something about how "all things Spain shouldn't be celebrated" and something else about "celebrating instead our indigenous roots."
Was she indigenous herself? I have no idea.
Though, as you can see in this article I wrote here, there are a few people who seem to want to disregard the Spanish part of their heritage and only focus on the indigenous part of it.
So, to me, it looks like a contradiction in some respects.
Like how I knew we funded their money needed for a “Hispanic Heritage month.”
Hispanic meaning anything related to Spanish heritage.
So we need to “decolonize” ourselves from Spanish heritage in Latin America but let’s celebrate it also?
Genuinely, I find this to be a weird thing about some Latinos.
And I emphasize the word “some.”
Most Latinos, in my experience, are not crying in raging anger about SPANISH COLONIALISM AND ITS IMPERIALIST LEGACY!!!
Most are just trying to live their respective lives.
In the same way that, as an American with strong Irish heritage, I’m not bitching about the legacy of England on Ireland.
Or how we had an independence war with them in the US.
And, on that note, I think some would look at the story above as evidence that it’s mostly US Latinos (especially those who weren’t born in Latin America) to think this way.
Or at least a small percentage of them anyhow to be fair.
Is that true?
Only Some American Latinos?
As a whole, I’d say maybe!
For the most part? Sure.
I could be wrong though – I’m simply shooting from the hip to answer that question as I think about all the people I know personally who have had that mindset.
And almost every single one that I can think of right now happened to be a young Latino person that was on a college campus in Ohio.
The only times I have encountered this mindset personally in Latin America was when I visited relatively far left folks like the Zapatistas in Mexico as you can see here or other social movements.
Of course, in the Zapatista case, that’s a movement of more indigenous folks who, for most of them (if not all), don’t have a whole lot of “Hispanic heritage” to celebrate anyway.
Because a lot of their heritage is much more indigenous and also because of the politics of the movement against the legacy of Spain and other countries like the US.
Or the Mexican federal government or the local one in Chiapas where they are located.
Anyway, that’s my personal experience with this.
Almost everyone I know with this mindset is a young US Latino and a few have been those born and raised in Latin America.
Larger Examples in Latin America?
But let’s drift away from my personal experiences now…
Can we see large scale examples of this type of mindset in Latin America?
Or examples that have at least some semblance to it?
To a degree, we sometimes can!
There are examples of actual important folks in Latin America taking a stab at Spain!
For example, you have Chavez of Venezuela here having an argument with the King of Spain.
Or the strong words of Castro about Spain here.
You also have AMLO of Mexico demanding that the king of Spain “apologize for the conquest” in the legacy of Spain in Latin America.
Though, as you can see here, apparently polling suggests that a majority of Mexicans think that demanding the apology wouldn't help Mexico at all.
Maybe instead they’re more focused on wanting a government that doesn't pander and actually does something to improve their lives now?
And I’m sure you have other Latin presidents of the left who have taken stabs at Spain or its colonial legacy.
Some of whom, if we are being honest, are of strong Spanish heritage themselves!
For example, you can look here for the heritage of AMLO.
“His maternal grandfather José Obrador Revuelta was a Cantabrian who arrived as an exile to Mexico from Ampuero, Spain, while his maternal grandmother Úrsula González was the daughter of Asturians. Through his paternal grandparents, López Obrador is also of Indigenous and African descent”
What about Castro as you can see here?
“Castro was born out of wedlock at his father's farm on 13 August 1926. His father, Ángel Castro y Argiz, a veteran of the Spanish–American War, was a migrant to Cuba from Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. He had become financially successful by growing sugar cane at Las Manacas farm in Birán, Oriente Province. After the collapse of his first marriage he took his household servant, Lina Ruz González – of Canarian origin – as his mistress and later second wife; together they had seven children, among them Fidel. At age six, Castro was sent to live with his teacher in Santiago de Cuba, before being baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at the age of eight.”
Then we have Chavez here.
“Chávez was born on 28 July 1954 in his paternal grandmother Rosa Inéz Chávez's home, a modest three-room house located in the rural village Sabaneta, Barinas State. The Chávez family were of Amerindian, Afro-Venezuelan and Spanish descent.”
Still, as you already know, those leaders above are of leftist origin in Latin America!
Which probably just reinforces my point here – those in Latin America with this mentality of discussing the negatives of the colonial legacy of Spain tend to be of leftist origin.
Otherwise, most folks down here aren’t talking about for that reasons as I said above (focused on living their own lives in the present).
Still, what does one make of all of this?
Is there a contradiction with an individual who, on one hand, celebrates Hispanic culture but, on the other hand, criticizes Spanish colonial legacy?
Of course, to be fair, I didn’t know any examples of Castro, Chavez or AMLO celebrating Hispanic culture.
I just assumed they probably have but really just wanted to show how the narrative against Spanish colonial legacy does exist down here and it’s not JUST American Latinos who talk this way.
Still, let’s break down my own thoughts on the matter as a non-Latino.
Not an American one nor one born in Latin America!
So I have no emotional investment into this – just my off the hip impressions.
First, as I said, I don’t have any emotional investment into the issue because I’m not Latino. I truly don’t care that much about the issue but I do see the mentioned contrast as slightly interesting. So anything I say after this sentence are just shooting from the hip thoughts that come to mind as I write this out right now.
Second, as we saw with the movie incident above, you do have some Latinos who, despite probably having some Spanish heritage in their blood, don't like talking about that or even acknowledge that part of their heritage.
Perhaps because they tend to not be very white and so they simply identify less with the European side of their heritage.
Also, in their narrative, they dislike Spanish legacy for its atrocities but ignore the atrocities of the indigenous people in their heritage.
Because plenty of indigenous people did fucked up things also.
You’ve had other indigenous groups in Latin America who have also done fucked up shit like slavery, genocide, rape, etc.
They were just not as expansive with their shit behavior as the Spanish were.
Therefore, should anyone with heritage tying to some indigenous group of the Americas not celebrate that part of their heritage because of the fucked up things their ancestors did?
So going back to celebrating Hispanic Heritage or not...
Some months before, I actually touched on this subject previously in another article here discussing similar thoughts expressed online on this subject. One perspective I came across as how people shouldn't even speak Spanish in Latin America.
“exactly! Spanish comes from Spain and I'll bet no one in these comments was born in Spain. Why be so proud of knowing a language that was forced on our ancestors?”
And someone else replied to that comment as you can see here:
“if you are Mexican our ancestors where Spanish too. The native population got decimated with desease, most of the Mexican population is mestizo, a mix between the natives and spinards. Mestizos spoke spanish, which is why its the official language in Mexico. I dont get why people act like they only have native ancestors.”
Third, can you celebrate Hispanic Heritage (and its legacy) in Latin America while denouncing the colonial aspect that also killed lots of people?
Obviously, if it wasn’t for the Spanish (and Portuguese) legacy, Latin America as we know it wouldn’t exist.
There would be nothing "Hispanic" about it to begin with.
It would be a very different region in my opinion if there were no European colonial powers coming by.
And the negatives of the legacy are obviously part of the package then practically speaking.
Without the colonial aspect happening, you wouldn’t have had as much or any cultural and linguistic legacy left behind realistically speaking.
Latin America, after all, is a mixing of various cultures through its long history of numerous peoples relocating to the region.
However, having said that…
I don’t think it’s wrong or even inappropriate necessarily to acknowledge the bad of the legacy.
Similarly, the US has had its fair share of bad shit and good shit in its legacy.
I can say the following sentence and it wouldn’t be hypocritical or even necessarily contradictory:
“Slavery in the US was terrible but the US has done many great things to that we can celebrate on 4th of July.”
Or for the Spanish legacy….
“Killing millions of indigenous people and promoting colonialism was terrible but there are cultural and historical aspects in the legacy of Spain left in Latin America that we can celebrate.”
You can acknowledge the bad while still celebrating the good that happened.
Especially because plenty of Latinos have some European heritage in their background.
At the end of the day, the Spanish legacy isn’t going anywhere!
Which is the last point – Spanish legacy is so infused into Latin America that you can’t ignore it.
You have plenty of Latinos who are white as fuck with strong Spanish heritage.
They can still celebrate their heritage also while recognizing that bad happened also.
Though, as I said, in my personal experience, I've only noticed left leaning American Latinos actually go as far into saying that the Hispanic part of Latin America should not be celebrated because of the bad.
Even though left leaning Latinos in Latin America recognize the atrocities of Spain, I never see them denounce anything to do with Hispanic cultural legacy in the region.
They tend to take an approach like anyone else that simply recognizes the mixing of cultures into the region like Castro here.
"Queremos seguir siendo esta maravillosa mezcla de españoles, de indios y de africanos. Nos sentimos privilegiados por eso. Es lo que nos dio la historia; es lo que nos dio Dios, para los creyentes; es lo que nos dio Santiago hace 2000 años."
Anyway, the paragraph below that I wrote summarizes my thoughts on this is the following:
“Latin America is a region with a long history and numerous cultural influences mixing together. Most of those cultural influences had ancestors who did fucked up shit. We can celebrate the positive aspects of the influence ALL of them had while also recognizing that they all did fucked up shit also.”
And that really captures my main sentiment on all of this.
Anyway, if you have any comments, drop them below in the comment section.
Follow my Twitter here.
And, uhhh, enjoy Hispanic Heritage Month.
Thanks for reading.