Fernando Ortiz and the Transatlantic Exchange Network
Fernando Ortizs pioneering work established the foundations for the study of the black population in...
Hispano-Americanism emerged in the 1880s and spread in Spain and Latin America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was a current of thought that sprang from ideas developed by the pan-Hispanic movement of the 1840s-1860s, which emerged at a time when Spain was trying to move past the loss of its American colonies and build a relationship adapted to new geopolitical realities with the young republics. However, the period of its greatest growth and broadest influence can be dated to the period between the 1880s and 1936 and the establishment of lasting intellectual, economic and diplomatic transatlantic exchanges. Paradoxically, the term hispanoamericanismo did not enter the dictionary of the Real Academia Española1 until 1936, precisely at the time when this first phase came to an end and the Americanist ideal was caught up in the ideological polarization and tragic confrontation that led to the Civil War.
Hispano-Americanism emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as Spain withdrew from the international stage and began looking inward at its national conscience. The movement advocated closer ties between Spain and the Hispano-American republics sharing a common heritage, and a modernization project based on economic and intellectual exchanges. The first organs that promoted the Americanist project (organizations, magazines, etc.) appeared in the 1880s, at a time when Spain was looking on from the sidelines as the great European powers built vast colonial empires, especially in Africa. clinging to the three overseas possessions that had survived the break-up of its American empire between 1810-1825, Spain was deemed a second-rank power in decline. Some groups with connections abroad wanted to compensate for the loss of prestige by deepening ties with Spanish-speaking countries. Cultural proximity, the persistence of economic ties and the increasing flow of immigrants from Spain to Latin America would cement a special relationship with the territories it had ruled for three centuries.
Originally, academics, politicians, diplomats, emigrants and businessmen promoted Hispano-Americanism to tighten the slackening links between Spain and its former colonies. The movement relied on various organizations that gradually emerged across the country, especially in the provinces that had the closest connections to the colonial past, or interests in developing Spanish-American relations. Some of these groups were created as places of local sociability, such as the Real Sociedad Colombina Onubense, founded in 1880 at the monastery of La Rábida to annually commemorate the date of August 3, 1492, when Christopher Columbus left the port of Palos in the Andalusian province of Huelva on the voyage that would lead him to "discover" America. Others, like the Unión Ibero-Americana, constructed a political project by conducting awareness-raising campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1885, Madrid's leading intellectual and political figures created the Unión Ibero-Americana, a public-interest organization that quickly turned into a semi-official agency to promote Spanish Americanism until its demise in 1936. The group gradually saw many offshoots spread across Latin America bringing together the different republics' leaders and representatives of the Spanish communities that had developed there. Other organizations followed in the 1910s: After the Unión Ibero-Americana in Biscay (1906), business circles close to the Regionalist League of Catalonia (La Lliga) and the employers' association Fomento del Trabajo Nacional (Frederic Rahola, José Puigdollers, Rafael Vehils) founded La Casa de América in Barcelona (1911), which promoted transatlantic trade to find outlets for Catalan manufactured products. The Centro de Cultura Hispano-Americana was created in Madrid the same year, while the Real Academia Hispano Americana de Ciencias y Artes appeared in Cadiz in 1910 and La Casa América-Galicia in A Coruña in 1920. All of these organizations had specialized magazines, such as La Rábida. Revista Colombina Iberoamericana (1911-1933), L'Unión Ibero-Americana (1886-1926), which later became La Revista de las Españas (published until 1936) and Mercurio. Revista comercial hispano-americana (1901-1938). The press was one of the main media to convey the Americanist ideal to the general public, which soon led to exchanges between leading writers, diplomats, businessmen and intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Unión Ibero-Americana organized the 400th anniversary celebrations of the "discovery" of America (1892), which Spain saw as an opportunity for a historic reconciliation with its former colonies following a long, circuitous process of negotiating friendship and mutual recognition treaties with all the republics between 1836 and 1894. However, the Americanist movement did not really gather momentum until after the "disaster of 1898," the loss of its last overseas colonies, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, after the Cuban uprising and the Spanish-American War. This stinging defeat prompted soul-searching about the "moribund" state of Spain and the "decadence" of the Latin world compared to the English-speaking countries, according to a cultural interpretation applied to the geopolitical issues of the time. Now that Spain was no longer the colonial overlord, Spanish and Latin American intellectuals could join forces to build a new, forward-looking relationship between nations based on equality. They included philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who in 1900 became rector of the University of Salamanca and kept up a steady correspondence with major Latin American writers, such as Uruguay's José Enrique Rodó, Venezuela's Rufino Blanco Fombona, Argentina's Manuel Ugarte and Paul Groussac and Peru's Ricardo Palma, to mention just a few.
It was in the context of fin-de-siècle "regenerationism" (regeneracionismo) that Hispano-Americanism appeared as one of the possible ways to revitalize Spain by modernizing its old structures and restoring some of its international luster. In 1900, Spain leveraged the presence in Europe of the many American figures who had come to visit the Paris Universal Exhibition to organize the Hispano-American Social and Economic Congress in Madrid, a major conference aiming to revive transatlantic ties in every area from maritime trade to the harmonization of laws, copyright, postal agreements, migratory regulations and scientific exchanges and cooperation.2 The congress hosted delegations from 14 republics, creating a new space of transatlantic discussion and understanding after the 1892 quadricentenary, which had already brought Hispano-American scientific congresses and conferences to the Ateneo in Madrid.
Alongside major political figures of the 1880s and 1890s, including Emilio Castelar, Juan Valera, Rafael María de Labra, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Mariano Cancio Villaamil, the academic world was the pioneer force of Spanish Americanism. Steeped in the work of German philosopher Karl Krause and close to the Institución Libre de Enseñanza, the University of Oviedo group launched a busy campaign to foster closer intellectual ties. One of the most successful results was a series of lectures in 1909 and 1910 by professors Rafael Altamira and Adolfo González Posada in different Latin American republics to introduce the new Spain, open and eager to restore some of its influence in America.3 For the most part, the visits met with a favorable reception, but some became mired in controversy, such as when Cuba's Fernando Ortiz accused historian and legal scholar Rafael Altamira of spearheading a neocolonialist campaign to spiritually reconquer Spain's former possessions.4
The Americanist project's inherent ambiguities partly account for these dissenting voices. In Spain, the movement was part of a broader discussion about a collective identity perceived as being in crisis and constituted a nationalist project backed by different sectors. The liberal, reform-minded Americanism promoted by these circles found common ground with more conservative proponents in the desire to offer Spain a unifying collective ideal that would transcend the country's widening ideological rifts and territorial divisions. Compared to other currents that surfaced at the same time, such as Iberianism, a minority project generally associated with federalist and Catalan circles, and Africanism, which lacked a real social base and, in any case, soon became unpopular due to military setbacks in the campaign to establish a protectorate in Morocco (1909-1927), Americanism enjoyed broader support and was intended to be non-partisan. By relying on a supposedly coherent and consensual narrative around the American project, it offered Spain a true post-imperial purpose, opening up the possibility of restoring its influence in the concert of nations through the utopian vision of a Hispania Mater called upon to assume the leadership of the Hispanic world.
This new momentum was given impetus by the growing concern of some Latin American elites over the United States' increasing commercial, financial and diplomatic expansionism and military interventionism, especially in the Caribbean and Central America. On both sides of the Atlantic, intellectuals, politicians and diplomats from the Spanish-speaking world were the first to perceive the danger of the globalization process in terms of a threat of "North Americanization." After defeating Spain in 1898 and seizing the Colombian province of Panama in 1903, the United States flexed its muscles on the southern continent, raising fears in Hispanist circles that Latin American societies would lose their identities and that emerging new sectors and the "imperialist" Yankee power would challenge the traditional cultural hegemony of the criolla elites.
This context proved fertile ground for the myth of "la Raza", an ill-defined idea that referred at the same time to a civilizational foundation considered common to Hispanic countries, a sort of ethos forged by history but also a collective of peoples considered members of the same human family united by a shared history, language, religion, traditions, etc. Although it appeared in the 1840s, the myth gained ground only in the first decades of the following century, when nationalist sentiment was running high in the Latin American republics as they celebrated their first centenaries. On both sides of the Atlantic, the idealized image of La Raza was a response to questions about the place of Hispanic countries in the international concert. The specter of the "moribund nation" haunted the Spanish generation of 1898 at the same time that neo-Darwinian theories about the supposed decadence of Latins were spreading along with the fear that the rise of peripheral nationalist movements would break the country apart. In this context, the idea of la Raza, whether characterized as Spanish, Hispanic or Hispano-American, offered a wider, uplifting national vision. As the source of cultural unity, the invocation of la Raza laid the groundwork for a pan-nationalism that, based on a common language, postulated the existence of a cultural community that would lead to economic, political and diplomatic convergence. This metaphorical construction was a globalizing concept considered capable of uniting the different peoples with Hispanic, if not Iberian roots, into a single "civilizational" unit, allowing Spanish nationalism to claim a certain universality and imagine an idealized Spain as the leader of an intercontinental cultural space. Traditional Hispano-American elites echoed the myth of la Raza at the same time. For example, Argentine author Manuel Gálvez, who wrote the essay El solar de la raza (1913), invoked a return to Hispanic roots as an antidote to the loss of identity markers of young nations confronting profound changes.
The advent of steam power led to a boom in maritime trade and the second wave of globalization from the 1870s to 1930.5 In Latin America, this happened at the same time as socio-economic changes prompted mass immigration of non-Spanish-speaking populations and a conversion of their economies towards the export of raw materials and agricultural products to quickly expanding major powers. These changes fostered the emergence of a new current that turned away from the traditional anti-Hispanic attitudes of the nineteenth century. Immigration and the growth of the United States were seen as a risk of national dilution and/or cultural absorption. Many areas of the sub-continent reacted by emphasizing their Hispanic roots and rejecting the Anglo-American model, which was associated with exclusively material progress devoid of spirituality.
This trend, which coincided with the crisis of positivism and the rejection of theories on the Latin peoples' so-called inferiority, thrived throughout Latin America in the current of literary modernism. In the wake of turn-of-the-century authors like Nicaragua's Rubén Darío, Uruguay's José Enrique Rodó, who wrote the famous essay Ariel (1900), and Colombian Jose María Vargas Vila, the surge of nationalism during the round of independence centenaries starting in 1910 sowed the seeds for the emergence of a new generation of Hispanic writers who stood up against United States "imperialism" and promoted a new "pan-Hispanic" or "pan-Latin" ideal, whether it advocated a Latin American unionism inherited from Bolivar or openly associated Spain with its supranational project. They included Argentine Manuel Ugarte, who in the 1910s campaigned for Latin American unity across the continent, the Costa Rican socialist thinker Vicente Sáenz and authors who later lived in Spain such as Venezuela's Rufino Blanco Fombona and Mexico's Carlos Pereyra.
The intensification of transatlantic exchanges at a time when traveling became more frequent fostered the emergence of this Hispano-American intellectual space. A feedback loop arose based on ideas developed by Latin American Hispanophiles, including many writers who were sent to Madrid or Paris to occupy consular or diplomatic positions or now included Spain in their educational journeys to Europe. Turning the pessimistic vision blaming Spain's decline on the atavisms of the "Raza" upside-down, they emphasized the worth of the Hispanic character, based on spirituality, idealism, historical loyalty and detachment from material things. They claimed a moral superiority over Anglo-Saxon civilization, considering it materialist, utilitarian and synonymous with a new form of barbarism far different from the paradigm that had been saddled with throughout the nineteenth century.
At the same time, Americanists and Hispanophiles on both sides of the Atlantic gradually developed cultural policies promoting transatlantic cooperation and the emergence of a shared consciousness. For example, the Junta para Ampliación de Estudios, created in 1907, promoted sending Spanish scholars and lecturers across the Atlantic. emigrant communities relayed these efforts, such as the Institución Cultural Española de Buenos Aires, which took over the Menéndez Pelayo chair at the University of La Plata, where distinguished Spanish professors such as Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Vicente Gay, José Ortega y Gasset, Julio Rey Pastor, Eugenio D\'Ors and Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz were invited to teach. Academic cooperation fostered better mutual understanding and knowledge and led to the creation of Spanish language, history and civilization university departments and chairs throughout Latin America.
Spanish and Latin American governments promoted nationalism by instilling historical consciousness through education and public rituals. This was particularly true during the Bourbon Restoration, from 1874 onwards, and during the dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1930). Hispano-Americanism was a pillar of the nationalistic program that the regime's elites implemented to quell growing opposition to the oligarchy in power and the centralized model imposed from Madrid. In a context of historicist passion, the colonial past offered many opportunities to project the image of a national community united around a distinguished heritage and turned towards America. After 1892, many commemorations took place, such as the centenary of the Cortes de Càdiz (1912), in which American participation featured prominently, and the quadricentenary celebrating Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean (1913) and Juan Sebastián Elcano's first circumnavigation of the globe (1919-1922). This was also true, although more variably, in the Latin American republics, where Spain was often honored during centenaries and celebrations related to the colonial past commemorating, for example, the founding of cities such as Panamá Vieja or Havana (1919).
Anniversaries gave officials an opening to conduct a form of cultural diplomacy towards the Latin American republics. Alphonse xiii's Spain had already dispatched distinguished visitors as emissaries to independence centenary celebrations: the infante Isabel de Bourbon traveled to Argentina in 1910, general Polavieja to Mexico the same year and Count de la Viñaza to Peru in 1921. During these years, commemorations were an opportunity to unveil monuments to Hispano-American brotherhood and restore pride in the Hispanic imperial past on both sides of the Atlantic.
They were accompanied by an apologetic discourse tending to rehabilitate, if not glorify, Spanish colonization. Some historians took this nationalist and revisionist direction, committed, in both Spain and America, to an ardent campaign against the anti-Spanish "black legend," whose origin was attributed to the desire of Spain's rival nations to discredit its civilizational model and thereby undermine its ability to exert influence.6
Hispano-Americanism took a particular turn during the First World War, when the belligerent nations vied for Latin America's sympathies. During these years, the region faced a barrage of propaganda from France and Italy stressing their shared Latin roots, through the Comité France-Amérique, for example, while Washington wooed these countries with renewed promises of the pan-Americanism it had been claiming to support since 1889. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Washington and the allied nations stepped up the pressure until only six Hispano-American republics remained neutral, along with Spain. They included countries eager to demonstrate their independence from their powerful Northern neighbor's foreign policy, such as Mexico, which had borne the brunt of United States interventionism in 1914, Colombia, whose grievances over the secession of Panama were still unresolved, and Argentina, which was competing for a form of South American leadership with Brazil, a nation that entered the war on Washington's side.
Again, political symbolism accompanied geopolitical reconfigurations. It was in the context of the Great War that October 12, the anniversary of the "Discovery," was established as an official holiday to unite all the Ibero-American peoples around the cult of their shared Hispanic origins, and not just to celebrate Columbus Day, a symbol with pan-American value. In a show of defiance against the United States when it stepped up its efforts to pressure Argentina into declaring war on the Central Powers, in 1917, President Yrigoyen played the Hispanic card and declared October 12 a civic holiday in explicit homage to Spain. The annual commemoration had already been celebrated in Spain for several years and in 1917 received King Alphonse xiii endorsement. In June 1918, it became an official holiday in Spain under the name "Fiesta de la Raza," symbolizing the convergence and solidarity of the Hispanic countries around the values of peace and fraternity, marking their difference from the great powers engaged in a ruthless struggle for domination.7
In this context, Spain hoped to seize the opportunity the war presented to press its advantage on Latin American markets and increase its diplomatic influence.8 Although the trend was short-lived, Spanish exports to Latin America rose from 13.8% of the total in 1914 to 22.7% in 1920. A few steps were taken to sustain this edge, but they were marginal. In 1917, the first Spanish publishers' association was set up to preserve their hegemony on the Hispano-American publishing market, but they were soon competing with their counterparts in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. South America's large communities of Spanish immigrants were an asset Spain intended to leverage to promote trade, especially since they were organized into patriotic or regional associations (Basque, Asturian, Galician, etc.) that were particularly active in the republics. In 1923, the first National Spanish Congress of Overseas Trade was set up, which led to the creation of the National Overseas Council of Trade intended to federate Spanish chambers of commerce abroad, especially in Latin America. Other initiatives followed, such as the creation in 1928 of the Banco Exterior de España to promote investments abroad.
However, given the lack of public resources, Spanish officials focused most of their efforts on culture, where they thought Spain could exert the most influence. On the initiative of philologist Américo Castro, in 1921 the government created the Spanish Bureau of Cultural Relations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under the dictatorship it was replaced by the Council of Cultural Relations, which had wider freedom of action and a bigger budget.
In the 1920s, the state stepped up efforts to increase Spain's influence through promoting closer ties with Hispanic America. King Alphonse xiii was particularly involved in implementing this policy, even announcing his intention to visit Hispanic America one day as "Rey de la Raza"
In the late 1910s, the Americanist ideal was gradually co-opted, if not entirely taken over, by conservatives and Catholics and, under the dictatorship, by the regime's inner circle. New figures imposed their own interpretation of Hispano-Americanism and the relationship between Spain and the Latin American republics. Examples include the Catholic intellectual Blanca de los Ríos, heir to the right-wing ideas of Menéndez Pelayo, who published the magazine Raza Española (1919-1930) in Madrid, and the journalist Ramiro de Maeztu, appointed Spain's ambassador to Argentina in 1928, who exposed his own theory, after his return, in the magazine Acción Española (1931-1937).
Other figures who embodied this turning point were writer José María Pemán and diplomat José María de Yanguas Messía, who became minister of foreign affairs in 1926. From then on, manifestations of Spanish Americanism underpinned a strongly Castilian-centric discourse that promoted an authoritarian, even militaristic, idea of power steeped in colonial nostalgia. For example, the October 12 celebrations were strictly controlled and organized around martial civic processions with strong religious overtones. The ecclesiastical, military and government hierarchy stood at the forefront of the annual celebrations honoring the Raza alongside foreign diplomats, turning the national holiday into a demonstration of power completely lacking in popular enthusiasm.
The campaign to impress the Latin American countries and increase Spain's influence over them was effective but did not lead to a real convergence of interests, notably on the diplomatic level. For example, Spain's efforts to create a united Ibero-American front under its leadership at the League of Nations ended in failure. Madrid's repeated attempts to obtain a permanent seat on the council came up against the great powers' resistance and rifts between the Latin American countries, a stalemate that led Spain to withdraw from the Geneva institution between 1926 and 1928. However, the Hispano-Americanist campaign orchestrated by Miguel Primo de Rivera's regime did score some successes in terms of image, such as when the Spanish seaplane Plus Ultra flew across the Atlantic in 1926. Nicknamed the "Santa María de los aires," it echoed Columbus's achievement four centuries earlier, demonstrating Spain's renewed ability to project its energy beyond the limits of what was thought possible.
Media coverage of the flight and scenes of cheering crowds welcoming the aviators at each of their stops, especially their final destination, Buenos Aires, had an enormous impact on public opinion and promoted the Spanish-Americanist cause much better than many official speeches.
The same year, the regime set up a press agency called Plus Ultra that focused on "the countries of the Iberian trunk" and produced propaganda promoting Spain, its institutions and its economic interests. The policy to enhance Spain's influence and prestige climaxed with the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition in Seville.
Patterned after the major universal and colonial expositions that took place around the world, the event aimed to showcase Spain as the head of a family of sovereign nations united by their past and the interests of the Raza, a group of countries on the sidelines of the great game of world powers. The name chosen, instead of the originally planned "Hispano-American Exposition," reflected the desire to include Portugal and Brazil in Spain's charm offensive. The investment matched the country's ambitions: 15 republics participated and a monumental complex of over a hundred pavilions and galleries was built. However, the fair's configuration and very nature reflected Spain's backward-looking, paternalistic conception of the Hispano-American relationship. While the event was somewhat successful in terms of attendance, the results were limited, especially since its closing coincided with the collapse of the dictatorship and the proclamation of the Second Republic a few months later.
In the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Hispano-Americanism was deeply polarized between a liberal, progressive wing eager to promote scientific and cultural exchanges with Latin America and the values of multilateralism and pacifism dear to the Republican left, and rising rhetoric about the spiritual empire and nationalism forcefully espoused by the authoritarian and Catholic right. The economic woes brought on by the Great Depression, chronic instability and deep divisions that shook the Republic throughout the five years of its existence prevented a coherent, sustained Americanist policy from taking shape. The Republic was caught in the trap of an ideological battle used for propaganda purposes by opposing sides that ended up going to war with each other. The winning side used the myth of empire as a structural part of the Franco regime's propaganda, whether in its phalangist-inspired imperialist version or its national-Catholic version centered on the ideology of Hispanism.9
From the outset, there was a gap between the professed aims of Hispano-Americanism and the means to implement them. Despite the Spanish government's efforts, especially in the years 1926-1929, sparse funding and a slow response to backing the efforts and initiatives requested by diplomats or launched by civil society, whether business interests close to Catalan nationalism, scientific and academic circles or immigrant communities, kept the movement from amounting to anything significant. Out of symbolic compensation, but also because it was largely based on an unrealistic reading of geopolitical shifts, Hispano-Americanism evolved towards hollow, nostalgic phrases and sentimentality without achieving anything concrete. The Fiestas de la Raza, the height of institutional initiatives, were the best example. The lifeless, verbose rhetoric of official rituals and commemorations explain the lack of popular enthusiasm, despite the emergence during the same decades of a veritable Hispano-American space made up of human, cultural, economic and other exchanges and movements. In Latin America, Hispano-Americanism above all had an instrumental value, serving to offset the growing influence of the United States and legitimize the power of traditional elites and white criollas populations. In Spain, Hispano-Americanism had a surprisingly long life and was able to adapt to the different regimes that succeeded one another during the twentieth century. This current demonstrated its great flexibility and America's central place in Spanish culture and nationalism as a space of projection and an inexhaustible source of images, stories and myths.
The dictionary gave the following definition: "Doctrine that aims for the spiritual union of all the Hispano-American peoples."
Congreso Social y Económico Hispano-Americano reunido en Madrid el año 1900 (Madrid, 1902).
Rafael Altamira, Mi viaje a América (libro de documentos) (Madrid: G. López del Horno, 1911) and Adolfo González Posada, En América. Una campaña: relaciones científicas con América, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay, En la Plata, en Buenos Aires (Madrid: Libraria Francisco Beltrán, 1911).
Fernando Ortiz, La reconquista de América. Reflexiones sobre el panhispanismo (Paris: Paul Ollendorff, 1911).
According to this concept, the "first" wave of globalization was the age of maritime exploration and the process of colonization undertaken by Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Julián Juderías, La leyenda negra y la verdad histórica: Contribución al estudio del concepto de España en Europa, de las causas de este concepto y de la tolerancia religiosa y política en los países civilizados (Madrid: Tip. de la Rev. de Arqueólogos, Bibliotecarios y Museos, 1914).
José María González, El día de Colón y de la Paz (12 de octubre de 1492-12 de octubre de 1918), Oviedo, Imprenta La Cruz, 1933 .
Federico Rahola, Programa americanista: post-guerra, Barcelona, Casa de América, 1918, and Rafael Altamira, España y el programa americanista, Madrid, Editorial-América, 1917.
Ramiro de Maeztu, Defensa de la Hispanidad, Madrid, Gráf. Universal, 1934.