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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

From the Castilian and Catalan


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[Sidenote: Things which Spaniards are _not_.]

Spain clearly has entered upon a new era of her history. No man can predict, with safety, toward what goal she is tending, although there is some ground for a feeling of optimism. With the leading facts of Spanish history already before the reader, it is perhaps well at this point to give a summary account of contemporary Spanish traits and social problems, thus providing a further basis for estimates with regard to the possibilities of the future. It is best to begin with a statement of some of the things which Spaniards are not,--with a view to controverting certain widely circulated notions. Spaniards are _not_ unusually cruel or vindictive. The notion that they _are_ has arisen in various ways. Spaniards are emotional, and under the stress of excitement are capable of acts of great violence, but on the other hand they very rarely plan a crime in cold blood. The bull-fight has been charged to an innate cruelty of Spaniards, but whatever one may think of the game, the _aficionado_, or bull-fight "fan," is appealed to by the skill of the bull-fighter and the courage of the bull, rather than by the flow of blood. As regards treatment of animals, the evidence is somewhat against the Spaniard. The superficial tourist is apt to think that the majority of Spaniards in third class of the railway coaches are double-dyed brigands,

for they wear wretched clothing and carry huge knives,--but the former is the result of economic necessity, and the latter is to cut bread with--and not each others' throats. The historians, however, are very largely to blame, especially those who maligned the dominant and hated Spaniards of the sixteenth century. Spaniards themselves, with their fierce party spirit and rhetorical gifts, products of their emotional make-up, have provided the arguments which have been used against them,--notably in the case of Las Casas' condemnation of the Spanish treatment of the Indians. In the second place, they are _not_ lazy; rather, they make excellent laborers, and work long hours without complaint. The idea that they are indolent arises in part from the fact that the titled classes still retain some of the traditional aversion to manual labor; in part from a certain lack of ambition, such that many Spaniards, notably those of the south, do not work, after they have gained enough to live on for perhaps only a little while; partly because of a lack of responsibility which many of them display, with the result that they do not do well when not under supervision; and partly, again, because histories have so described Spaniards of the past, and this time with some truth. Many of the factors which once made manual labor unpopular are not any longer operative, such as the prevalence of slaves, serfs, and Moslems in industry or agriculture, wherefore the earlier stigma attaching to those occupations has been removed. In the third place, Spaniards are not proud and arrogant to the extent of being haughty, although they do have a sense of personal pride which is rather to be commended than condemned. In the fourth place, to call a man a "Spaniard" is not a sufficient definition, for there are wide differences in blood and language as well as in feelings in the various regions of Spain; the serious-minded, progressive, European-blooded Catalan is certainly farther apart from the easy-going, pleasure-loving, improvident, part Moslem-blooded Andalusian than is the Englishman from the American, or perhaps the southern Frenchman from the North Italian. In addition to Castilian, or Spanish, there are the distinct languages of the Catalans and Basques, with a great many variants, or dialects, from the Castilian and Catalan. Nevertheless, it is true that all are "Spaniards." Castilian is generally understood, and, until the recent reappearance of Catalan, was the only literary language; the people are patriotic to the country, even though the fire of local attachments is still uncommonly strong in them; the bull-fight and the national lottery are popular in all parts of Spain; Spaniards read the same books, have the same government, and, in fine, have been brought together, though widely divergent in traits, by the circumstances of history.


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