We were surprised when Babalú reported about the 10 Catalan women, officials in the regional government, who joined the "Ladies in White" in protesting the plight of Cuban political prisoners and demanding the return of democracy to Cuba. Since the inception of BUCL's Campaign Against Spanish "Explosion" (they meant "exploitation"), Spaniards have been portrayed on Babalú in only one color — black, which was all that was needed since Babalú transformed itself into the last redoubt of the "Black Legend" in non-leftist circles. They must have been surprised to no end when Hugo Chávez and Daniel Ortega began sputtering the same anti-Spanish propaganda at the Ibero-American Summit. Chávez, Ortega, Prieto & Gómez (sounds like a law firm that would really screw you) mistake Spanish corporations for the Spanish people. This is a grave mistake since Spaniards identify even less with their capitalists than Americans do with theirs. As for Zapatero's Socialist government, it is as unpopular in Spain as George Bush is here. The fact that there is a Socialist government in Spain is largely due to George Bush, whose mercenary wars of aggression proved as unpopular in Spain as in the U.S. Hapless Aznar supported Bush although he was up for re-election and Bush was not and sustained the defeat that would have been dealt Bush if he had to face the electorate across the morass that he has created in Afghanistan and Iraq. On the positive side, Zapatero's tenure is coming to an end and it is highly unlikely that he will be returned to office. He feels his vulnerability and confronted Hugo Chávez to increase his appeal among moderate voters, but his history is too well known for him to reinvent himself as a centrist. It will be interesting to see if Babalú's assault on the Spanish people will continue after the Socialists are banished from office. Is their hatred for the motherland so great that political parties and even contrasting policies towards Communist Cuba have no effect on their ingrained hispanophobia? We will see soon.
We had expected that the solidarity shown by the Catalan women would at least resonate with Babalu's readers, but such does not appear to be the case. The "Comments" section is full of the usual Spanish-bashing. Conspicious among the comments is one by Profesor Antonio de la Cova, patriot and historian, whom we introduced to Val Prieto two years ago in the hope that he could supply the historical perspective that was so wanting in Babalú. This Professor de la Cova has done for the most part. But he faltered and badly on this occasion. He admonished Val, "Don't expect any solidarity from the Spanish Socialist government. Spain has never acknowledged and refuses to apologize for their reconcentrado policy of 1896-97 that exterminated 170,000 Cubans (10% of the population) in 18 months." I have myself on more than one occasion (here and on Babalú) commented on the fact that the first concentration camps were established in Cuba by Valeriano "Butcher" Weyler, the greatest evil that ever befell Cuba before Fidel. This is not something, however, that the Spanish Socialists need to apologize for since they were the only party in Spain that not only denounced the camps but supported Cuban independence. Their leader then, Pi y Margall, whom Marti called an "Apostle," was the idol of the Cuban rebels who after independence named a street in Havana in his honor. The architects of Spain's reconcentrado policy were Spanish Conservatives led by Prime Minister Cánovas del Castillo, who in consequence was assassinated by an Italian anarchist who originally wanted to kill the boy-king Alfonso XIII or the Queen Regent but whom the great Puerto Rican patriot Ramón Emeterio Betances, Delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in Europe, convinced to kill Cánovas instead. In the span of 100 years, the Socialists and the Conservatives have switched places in Spain in respect to Cuba: it is now the Conservatives who favor freedom for Cubans and the Socialists who are in complicity with the forces of reaction in Cuba. Of course, we would not expect Val to be familiar with any of this (he doesn't even know that the Cuban flag has 5 stripes instead of 13), but we did expect Professor de la Cova, who is, to place the blame for Spain's genocide in Cuba where the blame rightly belongs. Let's, by all means, demand an apology from Spain for the reconcentrado policy when the Conservatives are again in power and see what happens. The apology would ennoble them but would not alter history. It would still be wrong to hold modern Spaniards responsible for the crimes committed by political leaders who are long dead and unmourned. There should certainly be no bar sinister attached to nations because of "blood guilt." When Spain commemorated the centenary of its defeat in 1898, the most traumatic event in its history, it did not honor Cánovas del Castillo or the other fanatics who pledged to fight to the last peseta and the last soldier to keep Cuba a Spanish colony (even if Spanish honor was sacrificed too). Instead, Spain celebrated the life of the man who liberated Cubans from Spanish despotism and Spaniards from its ignominy as well. Democratic Spain has embraced José Martí (as earlier it did Simón Bolívar) as the highest expression of the Spanish spirit in the 19th century. This Spain, the Spain of the Catalan ladies, is Martí's Spain, which he acclaimed in Versos sencillos as "Franco, fiero, fiel, sin saña" (Frank, fierce, faithful, free of viciousness).