Undo Your Black Legend

For over a hundred years Spanish intellectuals have been whining about Spain being marginalized in Europe and not taken seriously as a real European country. There are mountains of books about this, both scholarly and regular. It’s a constant subject of discussion on the left, the right, and in between. “They (meaning Germany, the UK and France) are marginalizing us on purpose!”

But then look what happens. A war begins. A bloody, genocidal war in Europe. Now is the time to show leadership, make yourself relevant, come to the fore. Please tell me, has anybody heard of Spain in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine? No, of course not. Spain is replaying US culture wars (that have very little relevance in the country) with a passionate abandon while the UK is seizing the opportunity to show true leadership.

And it’s always like that. I recently reviewed a 600-page scholarly volume on the history of Spanish feminism. Fascinating stuff. Then I come to the last chapter, and suddenly there’s not a single Spanish name anywhere. The author lists every American fad and doesn’t even notice that she herself has completely erased Spain from the chapter about the present and the future. (As I put it in my review, she was so busy fighting male dominance that she completely accepted American dominance).

On COVID it was the same. Spain was a pathetic, beaten down follower.

What I’m trying to say with all this is that before adopting the narrative of “I’ve been marginalized and persecuted by evil forces,” maybe look at how you have contributed to the problem. Not all problems are of one’s own making but many are.

Spain erased its own relevance at every opportunity. We have recently seen the New Right in the US do the same. Sometimes, people, countries, movements simply talk themselves out of success. I still have a lot of hope for Spain because of its powerful anti-neoliberal art. But there’s a stunning incapacity to bring it to anybody’s attention outside of the country. Spain even has its own state-run branding agency. What does it do? Nothing.

So yes, sometimes it’s definitely your own fault.

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