The words of Luis Fernando Camacho and Jeanine Añez, the self-proclaimed president of Bolivia, these days made my hair stand on end: the bible in their hands, the army “blessed by Jesus,” the defence of the Hispanic heritage and the Catholic Church against the pagan indigenous cults of the Pachamama…. And it makes my hair stand on end even more to see that the same ideas are repeated on this side of the Atlantic in the words of the Spanish extreme-right party: the empire, the Catholic Church, the war against everything that smacks of ecology…
Deep down, we know it’s the same as always, no matter how much they hide it behind the Bible. It is not Christian spirituality but the temptation of earthly power, to which the Catholic Church has so often succumbed. It’s not the fight against those superstitious people who worship nature, but the fact that they live, precisely, in the last places of the Planet rich in natural resources. And it is not the Hispanic culture, it is the new wave of extractive globalized imperialism: the greed of gold, silver, soy, lithium from America.
As an inhabitant of Castilla y León –the Spanish region that remained after the fall of the Castilian kingdom that lead the conquest of America– as a daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Spaniards, there is something that makes me indignant about all this: the fact that they are always using the archetypes of Hispanicity to justify their interests, their greed and their fraudulent business. And I say their interests, and not mine, because almost every time the Spanish empire is invoked, it is done to defend the interests of a few, very few.
The Spanish empire was a curious one, capable of exploiting almost as much its own peasants as the American Indians, so it is not strange that it has iron detractors among the Spaniards, although that scandalizes the right parties. And it is not strange that Castilian society, when it has timidly wished to awaken from the deep stagnation in which it has been plunged for centuries, has turned to the communal myth of the Comuneros, the 16th century peasant communities that rose up against the empire that so meagre benefits left to the regions from which the conquistadores came out.
That is why I would like to transmit to Bolivian and Native American people my support in their struggle and my firmest repudiation of the worst legacy that the Spanish conquest left in their nations: racism. Racism that made them enormously divided societies, where landowning oligarchies defended by paramilitaries are still alive, something which shows to what extent the feudalism of the empire is still alive.
But I would like to do it without recriminations or regrets, because I believe that, the criticism of the Spanish empire –as much in America as in Spain– has been often based on guilt, and that has only served to tie us to the eternal wheel of wounded arrogance. I don’t want to give up the culture in which I was born and I don’t think we should discard the Catholic heritage. We must recognize that the Spanish empire left us a cultural legacy as valid as any of those that human beings have created. But this is compatible with the reject of the racism that for centuries has cornered native American culture, spirituality and language. The native peoples of America, who are so dignifiedly defending themselves from their heritage of violence and classism, deserve a lot of respect.
In this war they are inventing between the empire and Pachamama, I would like to ask the Amerindian peoples to let me be among their ranks. I am not so naive as to ignore that I belong to that “first world” which is still hungry for soy, lithium and American oil, but I hope that they will accept my sincere attempt to need every day less oil from Yasuní, less meat produced from burning the Amazon, less soy and less lithium… the lithium so necessary for a world without oil, that I hope we can use more carefully, recycling and with fair trade.
And I am not saying this out of altruism, but because I believe that it is increasingly necessary that all people with conscience and love of life in this world take the side of the Pachamama, Madre Tierra … the Earth, whatever you want to call it. We need many more Pachamamas than empires these days, both on one side of the Atlantic and the other.