Book Notes: Madre Patria by Marcelo Gullo Omodeo

United States has thrown away its enormous industrial advantage but didn’t try to hold on to its digital advantage to compensate. Western European countries are dying because they have lost the belief in transcendence. If there’s no transcendence, if human life is only about wringing as much pleasure as possible from the current moment, a culture doesn’t manage to perpetuate itself.

China will benefit from this mess because China took over both the industrial and the digital advantage and isn’t trying to wipe itself out and denigrate its civilizational achievements. European countries will become exhibits in a museum that will exist for the benefit of Chinese tourists. China will reward well-behaving countries with an abundance of tourists and punish misbehaving ones by keeping tourists away.

This is bad, says Argentinean political scientist Marcelo Gullo. But rather than bemoaning the situation, let’s try to look at the positive side. While the US is figuring out the details of its new position as China’s corollary (or whatever it wants to be in relation to China) and European countries self-erase through mass migration, they will all be distracted enough from the Hispanic world to allow Hispanics finally to get over their manufactured differences and unite.

Have you ever wondered, asks Gullo, why there’s one huge Brazil and a dozen tiny Uruguays-Paraguays around it? Or why Guatemalans hate Salvadorans and Chileans detest Peruvians? Why the history of the discovery and conquest of the Americas by Spain that’s being taught everywhere is such a monumental lie? Why the Hispanic world is cracking up under the weight of ridiculous separatisms? Why the Black Legend of Spain is still so immensely popular everywhere, including Spain?

In his book, Gullo answers all these questions and proposes a solution to many of the problems that plague Hispanic countries. Many of these problems, he says, stem from the foundational myth of Latin America (whose very name is a monstrous imposition by the scheming French) as having been born through rape, horror, and unprecedented, genocidal violence. All anybody ever gets taught about the discovery and the conquest is the legend of a noble savage raped and tortured by dirty, demonic Spaniards. Obviously, every conquest implies violence but reducing the entire Spanish Empire to endless, unmitigated horror is politically convenient for many but very detrimental to Hispanic people.

This is a thousand-page book, and I can’t retell it in a brief post. I highly recommend it because it’s a beautiful, powerful read. Gullo is unusually good at keeping verbal flourishes to a minimum and, instead, writing in a clear prose, breaking up long chapters into a multitude of short sub-chapters. His argument is tendentious at times but a lot less so than what we usually here about the history of the Hispanic world.

The US is now busily concocting a Black Legend of its own. Before we all abdicate our brains to inane bleatings about stolen lands and foundational racisms, we should look at what the Black Legend of Spain did to a country that was the US of the 16th and 17th centuries. Whether Hispanics manage to come together or not – and I hope they do – is up to them. But do we have to repeat the mistakes others have made with the insistence of crazed woodpeckers? Or can we just do something else already?

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