Claude’s comments: To Javier Carbajosa, Ambassador of Spain—the mother of white supremacism

Are we truly a banana republic? Or have we gotten too accustomed to the imperial arrogance of US ambassadors?

Is the government beholden to Spain to such a degree that we have to servilely kowtow to the absurdities thrown at us by Spanish Ambassador Señor Javier Carbajosa Sanchez?

Photo: Spain Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Javier Carbajosa.
(via Spain Embassy)

As other commentators have noted, the Spanish government’s removal of General Francisco Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen is enough reason for the Ambassador to put his mouth somewhere else, rather than in Trini domestic business. Franco’s remains were moved against the protestations of millions of Spaniards.

What civilisation was Señor Carbajosa drawing from for his fake lesson to us that ‘history cannot be rewritten to the taste of the consumer’?

Europeans have always written history to the peculiar taste of colonial and imperial ‘consumers’. It is because of this historiographical prejudice that European military historians for over a century omitted the Haitian Revolution—the most disastrous war they ever fought in the Americas.

It is because of white supremacist ‘consumerism’ that Spain has kept troves of Moorish relics and thousands of Moorish documents locked away in boxes, inaccessible to scholars. The Moors of North Africa were conquerors and rulers of Spain for more than 700 years.

But there is a bigger issue than General Franco and historical consumerism that Señor Carbajosa could enlighten us on. In a previous article, I demonstrated that Rome (the Papacy) constructed a cosmology of white supremacy.

Photo: The painting ‘Christ Before Caiaphas’ was done by Italian painter Duccio di Buoninsegna before Michelango’s ‘Italianised’ version of Jesus.

But the artwork in the Sistine Chapel merely complimented an already constructed ideology and philosophy of white supremacy that is Catholic Spain’s greatest ‘gift’ to white people around the world—to borrow a concept of eminent local historian, Dr Eric Williams.

The ubiquitous deployment of supremacism allowed a white European, however downtrodden, illiterate, destitute or criminal, to enter the privileged colonial caste and wield authority over ‘native’ peoples.

It was the Kingdom of Castile that created the ideology of white supremacism known as limpieza de sangre (purity of [white] blood), which was first deployed within Spain to subordinate the majority population with mixed Moorish blood. Limpieza de sangre is the foundation ideology of American ‘one-drop’ segregationism; of German Aryanism; of French asimilationisme; of England’s WASPism (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant); of South African Apartheid; of Australia’s white policy.

To summarise, limpieza de sangre makes Spain the mother of all white supremacists.

Spanish conquistadores (conquerors), beginning with Christopher Columbus, took the ideology of limpieza de sangre to the Caribbean. They called the Taino ‘monkeys’, ‘noble savages’ and ‘dirty dogs’. Even when natives converted to Christianity, they were said to lack the intellectual capacity to be the equal of a Spaniard.

Photo: Late Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar poses in front of a statue of Chief Hyarima in Arima.
(Copyright Maria Nunes)

Spanish colonisers created racial castas (castes) to rank colonised peoples all of whom were ‘below’ the ‘pure-blooded’ Spaniard. They degraded their own offspring as mulato and mulata (from mulo/mula, mule), names still in use in Latin countries today to describe the offspring of a Spaniard (or other European) and an African, or ‘a well-endowed’ café-au-lait woman.

They called native Africans ‘bozales’ (uncivilised blacks); the offspring of African and native was a pardo, also called zambo (monkey or wolf, same as sambo); but an offspring of a pardo and native was a mulatto lobo (mule-wolf); the offspring of a Spaniard and native was a mestizo or coyote (a wolf-like animal). Every conceivable racial admixture had its unique terminology.

While some degrees of mestizo later had access to lower-level civil occupations and political administration, anyone of bozal descent was absolutely denied these opportunities.

British, French and other colonisers borrowed these ideas of, and attitudes to, mixed-race people in the Americas—even deploying some of the Spanish terminologies, and ultimately perfecting the ideology of limpieza de sangre.

To completely eradicate white supremacy we have to come to terms with all these ‘germs of rot’ left behind by European colonisers. They affect our politics, employment practices, access to resources, and self-esteem.

Photo: A “tribute” to explorer Christopher Columbus.

‘Mulatto politics’ or the ‘mulatto complex’ is alive and well throughout the Caribbean—it has for long determined the racial selections of political leaders, resulting in a distinct bias for lighter-skinned heads of government.

Armed with the Patronato Real (Royal Patronage) of 1508 (granted by Pope Julius II), Spain systematically combined Mitre and Crown (papal and monarchical authority) in the Americas. The Patronato Real, complemented by Bulls such as Inter Caetera (1493), ceded to the Spanish Crown administrative authority over the colonial Church.

To assist the conquest and administration of the Americas, Spain incorporated the dreaded Inquisition (managed wholly by the Church) as a Ministry of imperial government. They used this immense power to create havoc among the peoples they encountered in the Americas.

The most satanic decree of European imperialism was Spain’s Requirimiento (Requirement) issued in 1513 against the peoples of the Caribbean (mainland conquest was first attempted in 1517). Reading this document aloud, Spanish conquistadores demanded that indigenous peoples surrender immediately or face the most inconceivable horrors, even if they did not understand a word the Spaniards were reading.

Photo: State-sponsored cruelty during the Spanish Inquisition.

Following is an excerpt from the very long document:

“But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses;

“We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him;

“And we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”

This is the ultimate arrogance of white power. Just imagine, this document was actually intended to appease critics who accused Spain of violating the Law of Nations by subjugating sovereign people who had done them no wrong, and without a declaration of war.

Spain never baulked in tearing down native monuments in the Americas. Based on the authority of the Requirimiento, Catholic Bishop Diego de Landa, ordered the burning of the books (Codices) of the Maya—a process that lasted several decades.

Photo: Christopher Columbus leads a Spanish mission to the “new world”.
(Copyright Latina American Studies)

They destroyed between 5,000 to 20,000 Mayan sacred statues and statuettes. They destroyed thousands of sacred Aztec images and looted every artwork they could find. In many instances, the Inquisition considered influential Mexican noblemen, priests and prophets as living idols and burnt them to death (see David Tavárez, The Invisible War).

Italians in New York City were the ones who revived the secular memory of Columbus in the late 18th century and began his glorification by building and exporting statues, and naming every conceivable thing after him.

Yet in Columbus, Ohio, an Italian member of the Columbus Italian Club recently conceded: “I understand why they are doing it, I understand it’s offensive and means things to people that it doesn’t mean to Italians.”

Would Señor Carbajosa’s fellow Ambassadors to the US dare to threaten the president of Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio?

The president declared that the removal of the huge, 20-ton statue on the campus: “is a symbolic gesture of our commitment… to continue and accelerate the fight against systemic racism.”

This is what the Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees had to say about the removal: “We do not seek to erase history, but to make an intentional shift in what we visibly honor and celebrate as an institution.”

Photo: Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s equestrian statue is dismantled in the city of Santander in December 2008.
It was the last remaining statue to Franco.
(Copyright Rafa Rivas/AFP)

So, is it only the history of Trinidad that cannot be written, Señor Carbajosa?

After a petition to remove another Columbus statue in front of City Hall (Columbus, Ohio) reached 2,600 signatures, one Councillor tweeted: “It’s (past) time for his statue to go.”

The Cross Rhodes Freedom Project’s (CRFP) petition delivered to the Port of Spain City Corporation on Tuesday last had over 8,000 signatures.

Is Señor Carbajosa saying—like the slave masters of old—that ‘natives’ of Trinidad have no sense of honour or cannot know what is good for them unless the slave masters tell them so?

Señor Carbajosa actually puts his money where his mouth is, because his Embassy financially and morally supports the disgraceful commemoration of Discovery Day in Moruga.

Without Spanish money, Eric Lewis, the sculptor and curator of Columbus statue on Moruga beach, might long have stopped insulting the people of T&T with his charade of commemorating Discovery Day—which has been made more nauseatingly egregious by his degradation of Emancipation, in combining it with Discovery Day.

Pathologically, this is symptomatic of a mind deeply infected with the disease of mental slavery.

Photo: Staff at the Spain Embassy play dress up as conquistadores alongside First Peoples Chief Paul Navarro (far right) during Discovery Day celebrations in Moruga.
(via Spain Embassy)

I wonder if Señor Carbajosa will call on his government to declare war on T&T if we follow the example of protesters who tied a rope around the neck of Columbus in Minnesota State Capitol last Wednesday and brought it down; or if we do like the people of Richmond, Virginia, who threw Columbus into a nearby lake.

French Revolutionaries in 1794 destroyed so many monuments of the ancien régime that they call the episode ‘revolutionary vandalism’. The ancien régime was the feudal system that ended with the revolution.

What was done to the Columbus monument over the last weekend was an appeal to those in authority who are too blind to see the writing on the wall—to save the statue from revolutionary vandalism by removing it from its plinth, while there’s still time.

When Spain’s Socialist prime minster ordered the removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen, he said: “Spain cannot allow symbols that divide Spaniards.”

Franco’s removal was pure politics, the far right supporters of Franco versus the ruling far left. On the other hand, the Columbus monument insults the consciousness of all Caribbean peoples—even those not yet conscious enough to understand that their defence of Columbus, or vacillation, is a manifestation of the profoundness of colonial brain washing.

Ambassador Carbajosa was so infuriated by the local garlanding of Columbus that he could rudely caution us about the ‘desecration of private property’.

Photo: Spain Ambassador Javier Carbajosa (centre) inspects the army in Suriname.
(via Spain Embassy)

In its proper context, desecration is associated with sacred objects. I don’t think Señor Carbajosa was speaking glibly; his was a deliberate choice of words.

In 1640, the Roman Catholic Council of Zaragoza declared 12 October—the anniversary date of Columbus’ Caribbean landfall in 1492—the feast day of the saint, Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady [Mary] of the Pillar).  Because of this synthesis, the Roman Catholic order, Knights of Columbus (KoC), treats Columbus as their patron saint.

In 2009, the KoC formerly petitioned the Pope to canonise Columbus. Only with Columbus as saint could Señor Carbajosa’s accusation of desecration make sense.

There is a chapter of the KoC in Trinidad. Señor Carbajosa is a Catholic. That’s all the more reason to ensure an indigenous monument replace the Columbus statue.

For the past 200 years, Columbus has been the mascot of white supremacism for every colonising European-American power. The CRFP is after the mascots of white supremacy.

Not all colonial place names are mascots of white supremacy. But even if governing authorities and local communities choose to change those that are not, that’s our sovereign prerogative—not the Spanish Ambassador’s.

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About Claudius Fergus

Claudius Fergus is a retired Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at UWI’s St Augustine Campus who specialises in the abolition of British colonial slavery and its transatlantic slave trade. His major work on the subject is Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies (2013). He has other extensive publications in peer-reviewed journals and edited books.

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One comment

  1. That statue isn’t just in a place, it is on Independence square. How can we have a symbol that is the opposite of Independence stand at the lower end of Independence square in our capital city of all places, for those who enter the city at that location it’s the first thing they see entering the city, leaving the city again it’s the last thing they see. The Ambassador has no right to stick his nose into a matter of local politics regardless of whether he or his government love Cristoforo Colombo or not. Trinidad and Tobago is not Spain, or Britain, we have our own flag and our own honour, we have every right to decide how to decorate our public places. Ofcourse Columbus is a hero to Italians and Spaniards but that doesn’t mean that we must see it their way, a hero in one land can be a criminal in another, and even in countries where a person is glorified maybe some may chose to change their mind once challenged on it. Columbus is almost always displayed as an explorer, not a single monument would display him negatively, so is this a neutral act to display someone always in a good light even though their wrong deeds are well known?
    It is not simply displaying history, it is praise, glorification and celebration. Otherwise let’s see if the Spaniards would finance a statue of Columbus enslaving and killing natives, I mean after all it’s just for historical purposes right?
    For the Ambassador it is not about Columbus, Columbus’ actions were done in the name of Spain, so if Columbus’ positive image falls the Spanish may have to do some serious self reflection, that is precisely what they do not want to do. Spain doesn’t want to stand accused and convicted of crimes in the Americas, crimes for which they never had to account for.

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