Above: Columbus before the Queen by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816 – 1868).
Editor’s note: the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar is October 12th which explains why Columbus Day matters to Our Lady.
Hispanidad is a concept that the sentinels of political correctness have completely banished even from our Spanish language, but which has been slapped with the label of being “traditionalist” or “conservative.” But the truth is that hispanidad is in no way a conservative-coined term, but a much more ancient concept, unlike what happens, for example, with the expression “estado español [Spanish state],” which today in Spain is paradoxically used by Nationalist and Leftist sectors to avoid even having to refer to our nation as “Spain.”
What do we mean by “hispanidad“? This word is similar to the English terms “humanity” or “brotherhood” which, while designating a great multitude of people who transcend race, blood and geography in a desire for union, also refers to a set of qualities or virtues that solidify the bond.
Hispanidad means, in the first place, all the peoples of Hispanic culture and origin scattered throughout the world and expresses, in the second place, the set of qualities that distinguish the peoples of Hispanic lineage and culture from the rest of the nations of the world. In his Defensa de la Hispanidad, Ramiro de Maeztu, when investigating the constituent qualities of hispanidad, focuses on what he calls “humanismo español [Spanish humanism].” This, he says, consists of “a profound faith in the essential equality of men in the midst of differences of value, of the different positions they occupy and of the works they do.”
For Maeztu, the most characteristic feature of Spaniards is that they affirm this essential equality of men, without denying the value of their differences. In the eyes of the Spaniard, every man, whatever his social position, his knowledge, his character, his nation or his race, is always a man. There is no nation more reluctant than the Spanish to admit the superiority of some peoples over others, or of some social classes over others.
This concept of a truly Christian concept of “equality,” typical of humanismo español, is masterfully summed up in the famous work of Miguel de Cervantes, in which Don Quixote, when he is crushed and stoned, after spearing the sheep he has mistaken for soldiers, says to his squire: “Know this Sancho, one man is not more than another, but he who does more than another.” And this is where the concept of equality, typical of humanismo español, is distinguished from the “sappy” and “sentimental” egalitarianism that they are now trying to impose on us in order to destroy us as a people and sow the weeds of resentment among us.
Yet besides this essential equality, men are free to act and indeed act differently. He who does more than another, he who strives more than another, he who fights more than another, become more than another. For in fact, all people are equal in origin, holders of the same dignity, of the same rights and obligations, and it is up to the established power to ensure that this equality is effective, so that people, regardless of their sex, race or creed, can assert themselves on an equal footing.
In other words, men who are equal by nature become unequal by merit.
And it is in this assertion that the unadulterated principle of equality is completed. There is no true equality if the one who does more than the other is not more than the other. But this is how today’s politicians and social engineers, the apostles of resentment, have adulterated the principle of equality, punishing those with great merit so they will be “equal” to those who do nothing, or else imposing quotas and parities that are nothing more than the ultimate expression of inequality. Or in the most manifest absurdity, they subordinate personal merit to the conditioning factor of sex.
Hispanidad as the fruit of Christendom
Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Immortale Dei described Christendom as the time when the philosophy of the Gospel governed the States. At that time, the efficacy of Christian wisdom and its divine virtue had penetrated the laws, institutions and morals of the people, infiltrating all classes and relations of society. The religion founded by Jesus Christ was firmly placed in its rightful place of honour and flourished everywhere thanks to the benevolent support of the rulers and the legitimate guardianship of the magistrates.
Following the teachings of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Christendom consists of a group of peoples organically interwoven in subordination to the sun of the Papacy and the moon of the Empire. This is, as Gustave Thibon would say, a historical epoch in which the intellectual armour and the social incarnation of the Gospel lived side by side and gave unity to the whole of society. But Christianity, between 1517 and 1648, suffered five successive fractures: the religious fracture of Lutheranism, the ethical fracture of Machiavellianism, the political fracture of Bodinism, the juridical fracture of Hobbesianism and the historical fracture of the Peace of Westphalia.
Between these dates, while Christendom declined, Europe was born and grew, a secularised and mechanical substitute for it. Nevertheless it was at this time that the historical sense of Hispanidad was born, profoundly and truly opposing the transcendental turn that was taking place. If the wounded Christendom was beginning to agonise, to prolong its execution and replace its protagonism, Spain was born in the Americas, converted into a kind of minor and reserve Christendom. It was the Baroque Civilisation ascending just as other parts of Christendom were in decline.
The religious heresy of Protestantism was fought not only doctrinally by the great theologians of our golden centuries – the halls of the Council of Trent were filled with Spanish voices – but also militarily by the tercios of Flanders. On the other hand, there is no doubt that one of the great fruits of hispanidad in its moment of expansion was the conquest and evangelisation of America.
The Conquest and Evangelisation of America
as the Great Heroic Deed of Hispanidad
The Spaniards have never believed themselves to be a superior people, but at least as long as the principle of true equality prevailed, they were convinced that they were capable of doing what other men could do. Believing in the essential equality of man, their ultimate aspiration for centuries was to undertake enterprises that would stimulate man to realise what each carries within him of goodness in potential. This supreme ideal of the Spaniard was embodied as in no other enterprise in the conquest and evangelisation of America.
Manuel García Morente, the great Spanish philosopher, author of Idea de la Hispanidad, said that in the history of Spain, the departure for America, the conquest and civilisation of America, is not an accident more or less fortuitous or more or less skilfully exploited, but a trait that necessarily springs from the depths of the Spanish soul. The Spaniards did not go to America to bring America to Spain, but to live there, to found civilisation there, to create there other Spains, other ways of being Spanish in a profound mestizaje.
The Spanish do not feel and hardly understand abstract relationships. Their concept of equality needs to know the other as soon as possible, to establish a relationship with the other that is based on the singular person of that other. That is why, among Spaniards, the relationship is more important than the contract. And the obligations of friendship outweigh legal obligations. According to Morente, being Spanish at that time was closely linked to the ideal of the “Christian gentleman.”
Thus, the Spaniard was bound by ties of friendship. He knows men, deals with them, lives with them. But not as cold abstractions of political law or civil code, but as warm realities of love and pain. And it is from this need to merge with others in love and pain that the impulse of Hispanidad is born. We will not deny that in that fusion with America, which completed the Spaniards as such, many abuses were committed, but they were abuses never permitted by law nor guaranteed by religion, unlike what happened, for example, in the Anglo-Saxon colonisations.
Contrary to what the Black Legend claims, there was never genocide in Spanish America. In Spanish America, there was indeed a massive Indian die-off, mostly caused by diseases brought from the Old World, and there were certainly many brutal encomenderos, but never genocide, unlike, for example, in North America, where the natives were virtually exterminated (or else herded west like so much cattle). Nor was there in Spanish America the gigantic slave trade that other colonial powers organised in black Africa.
Queen Isabella the Catholic forbade the enslavement of Indians, and this prohibition was reaffirmed by her grandson Charles V, even though slavery was still an institution and the cornerstone of world economic organisation. How is all this to be understood? It can only be understood in the civilising light of the Christianity that drove the Spanish kings and many of those brave Spaniards who embarked on an adventure with unforeseeable consequences. This is the essential reason for the celebration of the 12th of October (the date of the first landfall of Christopher Colombus) : the joy of having shared with an entire continent the gift of the Catholic faith that for centuries had been guarded by the Christians of that time.
The same faith, by the way, which according to Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, in the famous epilogue of his Historia de los Heterodoxos españoles, gave Spain the conscience of a nation, of a great nation, freeing its people from being a crowd of collective peoples, born to be the tenacious prey of any greedy neighbour. The day when this Catholic, apostolic and Roman faith is finally lost, we in Spain will return to the cantonalism of the Taifa kingdoms at the time of the Islamic invasion of Spain.
And the same is true of all regions of Hispanidad, from the isles of the Philippines to the mountains of Chile to the Hispanic guild houses of Flanders.
We are moving more or less hastily towards this end, and he who does not see it will be blind, but our hope always remains in Him Who is the Lord of History and Whose promise made to Blessed Father Bernardo de Hoyos (“I will reign in Spain and with greater veneration than in other places.”), makes us hope that His Sacred Heart will once again reign in Spain and in the rest of the nations of the Spanish-speaking world. Until then, we commend ourselves to Our Mother, la Virgen del Pilar with an Ave Maria.
Translated by Adrian Alvarado.
Álvaro Chillarón de la Fuente is a young Spanish Catholic writer, musician and apologist. A specialist in the field of humanities, he is passionate about everything related to Hispanic heritage and Christian culture, hence his commitment to learn and teach everything that he feels is based on the Good, the Truth and Life. He is a columnist at Revista Hispánica and resides in Madrid, Spain.