Spain's Decline Is Nigh Complete As It Bows Before the Great Barbarian
By: Manuel A. Tellechea
The New York Tribune
Commentary Section, p. 7
January 27, 1988
Don't speak to me about Spanish democracy; it is a myth, an ugly, obscene myth enveloped in the 1001 lies in which the history of that matchless land is forever imprisoned.
Just last week, Spain's Senate voted to award its Gold Medal — the highest honor that it bestows — to Fidel Castro. The medal for Castro was proposed by the president of the Senate, José Federico Carvajal, as a kind of personal expiation in the guise of a national encomium. A few years ago, Carvajal had taken exception to Castro's characterization of Columbus as "the greatest mass murderer in history" and of Spain as "the first enemy of the colored peoples of the earth." For daring to rebuke him in the mildest of terms, Castro called Carvajal a "facistoid puppet."
But all that is forgotten now. Carvajal will travel to Cuba to present the medal personally; he will be accompanied by a "delegation of honor" composed of all the political parties in the Spanish Senate (yes, even Adolfo Suárez's conservative coalition).
Carvajal will tender to Castro the congratulations of Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, who, on a state visit to Cuba last year, referred to Castro as "the best known and most distinguished man of Spanish blood." Perhaps Carvajal will even ask Castro to serve as honorary chairman of the Quincentennial Commission, which Spain established to coordinate all activities relating to the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America (1492-1992). Castro could explain to the present chairman, Don Cristobal Colón XXII, whose father was assassinated last year by ETA — the Basque terrorist organization trained by Havana — why his distant ancestor was "the greatest mass murderer in history."
That wouldn't be the only thing that Castro would have to explain to the Spanish, either. But for now, I am interested in an explanation from Spain for this award, which disgraces Spain far more than anything that Castro ever did or said.
The Medal reads: "In recognition of your [Castro's] steadfast friendship and world stature as a leader of the Non-Aligned world." The inscription is elliptical. Let me fill in the gaps: "Your steadsfast friendship (which has meant the ruin of hundreds of thousands of Spaniards) and your stature as a world leader (bought with the blood of innocents, which is the ink with which tyrants write their names big on the pages of history)."
It is significant that the Medal makes reference to the "Non-Aligned" Movement. I suppose that, having just recently expelled a U.S. fighter squadron on the eve of a referendum that will decide whether Spain remains in NATO, the Spanish government has need to validate its credentials in the "Non-Aligned" Movement, and how better than to hang a medal on the neck of that artifex of crime, the Soviet Union's most abject satrap, Fidel Castro. If it were possible to neclare neutrality in the struggle of good against evil, the "Non-Aligned" Movement would be, to used Oliver North's phrase, "a neat idea" — all the fireworks but none of the fire. But the "Non-Aligned" Movement, as presently constituted, is a collection of states professing various degrees of allegiance to Moscow; the least ideological among them, indifferent to Soviet world conquest; the most militant, committed to it. 100 years ago, José Martí wrote what may well have been the motto of a genuine non-aligned movement: "Union with the world but not with any one part of it, nor with any one part of it against another." No nation in the so-called "Non-Aligned" Movement would subcribe to that today.
But it is not my purpose to dissect the "Non-Aligned" Movement which would be something on the order of cutting open a skeleton. I mean, instead, to expose through this reprehensible award the perfidy and evil of the men who are undoing the Spanish Civil War. I confess that if the Spanish Senate had not voted Castro its Gold Medal, I would have continued to ignore the decline of Spain as something too horrible to ponder. Even now I feel little empathy for Spain, a nation which was saved from the abyss of Communism 50 years ago and which now is making a game of jumping over it. I who have lost one country already must reconcile myself to losing a second: Spain is the homeland of my spirit as Cuba is the homeland of my heart (and the United States the homeland where my heart and spirit reside).
I suppose that having declared myself an enemy of "democracy" in Spain, I am now expected to wish for the good old days of the generalissimo, but you will excuse me if I pass. I admire Franco as the first man to liberate and raise up a nation devastated by Communism. I don't admire the Franco who refused, in his own words, to "abandon Cuba" when the evil that he had eradicated in Spain resurfaced in Cuba on the shoulders of a gallego like himself. Until his death in 1975, Franco's Spain was Communist Cuba's largest trading partner in Western Europe and her most steadfast ally in the free world after Mexico. When Franco died, Castro ordered 9-days of mourning on the island. Put that in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
But even Franco at his most senile, for all his mistaken notions about Iberian solidarity, never saw fit to decorate Castro with any of the knightly or noble orders that he dispensed as a not-so-nominal king. That particular distinction has been left to a democratic Spanish government. Still, I don't believe that this is so much a buss on the face of Castro as a slap in the face of all Cubans, slaves at home and free men abroad alike.You see, the Spanish haven't yet "forgiven" Cubans for severing their ties to the motherland 90 years ago. Outrageous? Hardly. The British had at least as long a memory. When the United States was torn asunder in the Civil War, England could hardly conceal her glee, and as far as it was possible without risking war with the United States, it aided and abetted the South. As Lincoln reminds us, the U.S. had by then been independent for "four score and seven years." With Spain, it is worse. She officially dates her decline from 1898, the year she lost Cuba.
Spain ruled Cuba for 406 years; for at least 330 of those years Cuba was the "Ever Faithful Isle," Spain's favorite child, her precious "Pearl of the Antilles," the last and most firmly welded jewel in the Spanish Crown, which generated every year one-third of Spain's revenues. In 1868, Cubans began in earnest their first great War of Independence. It lasted 10 years and cost the lives of one-sixth of the island's population. The war ended when Cubans were bled white and Spain was bankrupt. It resumed less than 20 years later in 1895 as a holocaust for yet another generation of Cubans.
The Spanish preferred a national hecatomb to losing Cuba, which had long ceased to be merely an interest and become a national obsession. In a desperate attempt to cut off supply lines to the rebels, Spain emptied the countryside and sent the refugees to campos de reconcentración (that's where we get the name), where barbed wire, which had been invented only years before to corral cattle, was used for the first time to constrain humans.
But it was all unavailing. This time the rebels had the advantage — they had replenished their numbers in 20 years but Spain was still bankrupt. By 1898, when the U.S. intervened under the pretext of the Maine, the rebels were in control of 90 percent of the island's territory. That's why it took the U.S. a few weeks and 200 casualties (mostly from diarrhea) to defeat the Spanish in Cuba. The Spanish-American War was indeed "a splendid little war" for Americans but only because it had been a hell for Cubans.
Once the war was over, the Americans feared that their Cuban comrades-in-arms would institute a reign of terror on the Spaniards to rival the bloodbath and mass expulsions to which the Loyalists were subjected in the aftermath of the American Revolution. No such retaliation ever occurred. More than 100,000 of the soldiers sent by Spain to quell the rebellion opted to remain on the island after Spain's defeat, where, until 1959, they enjoyed all the rights of citizens in a Republic they had once fought to smother in its cradle. Among these was Castro's own father, Angel Castro, a penniless soldier from Galicia who made a fortune in Cuba. From 1898 to 1958, more than one-million Spaniards immigrated to Cuba (the majority as refugees from the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939). Cuba, in fact, holds the honorable distinction of having been the largest haven in the Americas for the victims of both Fascism and Communism before World War II.
At one time, native-born Spaniards and their children comprised 40 percent of Cuba's population. Their influence, however, was even greater than their numbers. On the eve of the Revolution, Spaniards owned half the small businesses on the island, with combined assets in excess of $3.5 billion (U.S. interests totalled $3.7 billion). Castro took it all away from them and sent 100,000 Spaniards back to Spain without a peseta in their pockets and 50 years of hard work come to naught. Most of the repatriated Spaniards were in their 60s and 70s and had spent the bulk of their lives in Cuba. Let it be duly noted that this was done to Spaniards by the son of a Spaniard.
Now that traitor to his country and "La Raza" is to receive the Gold Medal of the Spanish Senate — a few more ounces of gold from Spain.