Hispanophobia (from Latin Hispanus, "Spaniard" and Greek φοβία (phobia), "fear") is a fear, distrust, aversion, or discrimination of Hispanic people, Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. Its opposite is Hispanophilia. As a historical phenomenon it is considered to have had three main stages, originating in 16th century Europe, reawakening during 19th century disputes over Spanish and Mexican territory such as the Spanish-American and Mexican-American Wars, and finally increasing in tandem with politically charged controversies such as bilingual education and illegal immigration to the United States.
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Early instances of hispanophobia arose as the influence of the Spanish Empire and Inquisition spread through late-medieval Europe. During this period hispanophobia materialized in folklore sometimes referred to as "the Black Legend":
- "The legend first arose amid the religious strife and imperial rivalries of 16th-century Europe. Northern Europeans, who loathed Catholic Spain and envied its American empire, published books and gory engravings that depicted Spanish colonization as uniquely barbarous: an orgy of greed, slaughter and papist depravity, the Inquisition writ large."1
La leyenda negra, as Spanish historians first named it, entailed a view of Spaniards as "unusually cruel, avaricious, treacherous, fanatical, superstitious, hot-blooded, corrupt, decadent, indolent, and authoritarian." As Spain and England colonized the Americas, "[t]he Black Legend informed Anglo Americans' judgments about the political, economic, religious, and social forces that had shaped the Spanish provinces from Florida to California, as well as throughout the hemisphere."2 These judgments were handed down from Europeans who saw the Spaniards as inferior to other European cultures.3
Thus in North America, hispanophobia preceded the United States' Declaration of Independence by almost two hundred years. Historians theorize that the English and the Dutch employed and encouraged it as part of their efforts to undermine the Spanish Empire; early New Englanders engaged in hispanophobic efforts to assimilate Spanish colonies:
- "[I]n North America a deep current of Hispanophobia pervades Anglo-Saxon culture. ... As early as the late seventeenth century, we find Puritan divines like Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewell studying Spanish--with a view to winning converts to their version of Protestantism. Sewell spoke of "bombing [sic] Santo Domingo, Havana, Puerto Rico, and Mexico itself" with the Spanish Bible, and Cotton Mather even wrote a book on Protestant doctrine in Spanish, published in Boston in 1699, intended for--as he might say--the darker regions of Spanish America."4
The Black legend gained strength again in the press in the 1933 due to the Cortes investigations of the Prime Minister of the time, Azana. Allegedly, Azana ordered his police to take no prisoners and to “shoot them in the belly” during the Spanish Civil War. American press reported on these incidents, fueling up the black legend view point that still continues today, some 500 years later.5
As the United States' foreign policy began to develop expansionist tendencies, citizens adapted the "Black Legend" in order to exploit it for political purposes. In so doing, they imparted elements of racism to hispanophobia. In the account given by Tony Horwitz, "[w]hen 19th-century jingoists revived this caricature to justify invading Spanish (and later, Mexican) territory, they added a new slur: the mixing of Spanish, African and Indian blood had created a degenerate race."6
"Another circumstance," according to historian David J. Weber, "that shaped the depth of Anglo Americans' Hispanophobia was the degree to which they saw Hispanics as an obstacle to their ambitions."2 As the U.S. grew into a republic, anti-Spanish sentiment exhibited a recrudescence. Spain was perceived as the antithesis of Separation of church and state and as a paragon of monarchy and colonialism; this apparently fundamental opposition to the United States' founding principles fueled hostility that would eventually culminate in the Spanish-American War of 1898.4 Hispanophobia is particularly evident in the historiography of the Texas Revolution:
- "In essence, the Texas rebellion had been little more than a struggle for political and economic power, but early Texas historians elevated the revolt against Mexico to a sublime collision of moral influences,' 'a moral struggle,' and a war for principles.'... Hispanophobia, with its particularly vitriolic anti-Mexican variant, also served as a convenient rationale to keep Mexicans 'in their place.'"2
Throughout the 20th century, an array of mostly political and economic forces have driven immigration from a multitude of Spanish-speaking countries—such as Cuba, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Mexico--to the relatively strong economy and stable political environment of the United States. As a result, according to some historians, Americans "now have something called a 'Hispanic,' which describes not someone born in a Spanish-speaking country, nor someone who speaks Spanish well or badly, nor even someone with a Hispanic surname, but someone who identifies himself as such."4 As key corollary to this development, it is toward this group, which is not precisely or rigorously defined, that U.S. hispanophobia is now predominantly oriented. Many forms of hispanophobia endemic to the Texas Revolution still flourish in the United States today.2
Sociologists cite the "Official English" or English-only movement, together with hispanophobic jokes and discourse, as a prominent example of modern-day hispanophobia.7 The "Official English movement" has been criticized because its mass appeal is perceived not as relating to any measurable benefit that would result from the eradication of bilingual education and other bilingual services, but from the idea that "challenges to the status of one's language typically engage deep-seated feelings about national identity and group worth."8 Proponents of this view claim that the English-only movement attracts public support primarily by functioning as a hispanophobic form of intimidation.
Mock Spanish is also a particular point of controversy:
- "'Mock Spanish' indirectly indexes one dimension of "White Public Space": the right of people racialized as "White" to use a language associated with "Color" without any attention to norms of correctness of grammar, orthography, or pronunciation. Finally, Mock Spanish exploits and continually reproduces negative stereotypes of Spanish speakers."9
- "Jokes...along with exaggerated imitations of a Spanish accent, as in, "Es no my yob," and "My ney José Jiménez"; racist labels such as spic, wetback, greaser, beaner, bandido; and public insults like J. Edgar Hoover’s admonition that one need not worry if Mexicans or Puerto Ricans came at you with a gun because they couldn’t shoot straight, but if they had a knife, watch out—are examples of the blatantly racist discourses that construct Latinos in the United States as stupid, dirty, lazy, sexually loose, amoral, and violent."10
Citing groups such as the Minuteman Project, sociologists have concluded that some anti-illegal-immigration arguments in the United States have been tainted with xenophobia and hispanophobia, many of them drawing on concepts of racial purity and eugenics. These groups' concern with illegal immigration, they assert, "lies not in immigration per se., which has declined in the last decade, but in the changing national origin of new immigrants, that is immigrants are now mainly Latin American or Asian, which is seen as a threat to the Anglo-Saxon tradition."11
In 2006, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton sent a letter of complaint to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, in response to the following comments made by radio host Brian James:
- "We'll call it 'Immigration Roulette,' What we'll do is randomly pick one night every week where we will kill whoever crosses the border. Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it's your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun."12
Calling the speech "dangerous and totally irresponsible for anyone, particularly a licensed body using public airways," Goddard and Charlton expressed concern that it would lead to violence in the state, where conflict over illegal immigration was growing increasingly heated.13 Brian James never apologized for his comments and claimed his comments were "satire." 1415
New Jersey internet radio host, white supremacist, and convicted felon Hal Turner who used to broadcast out of his house made similar remarks, a number of which the Anti-Defamation League has posted under the category of extremism. On April 1, 2006, Turner said:
- "These filthy, disease ridden, two-legged bags of human debris are too stupid to believe....Just think, America, if we bring enough of them here, they can do for America exactly what they did for Mexico! Turn our whole country into a crime-ridden, drug infested slum....These people are sub-human. I would love it if folks who do have such weapons, used them on the crowds on April 10 [at immigration rallies. I advocate machine gunning these invaders to death at their rallies!"16
- Illegal immigration to the United States
- Anti-Mexican sentiment
- Colombia in Popular Culture
- "Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend." Tony Horwitz. New York Times 9 July 2006
- "The Spanish Legacy in North America and the Historical Imagination." David J. Weber. The Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 1. (Feb., 1992), pp. 4-24.
- Amago, Samuel (2005). Film Criticism 30 (1): 41–63. PMID 505161210.
- "Beyond Bilingualism." Mark Falcoff, American Enterprise Institute
- Jackson, Gabriel (1965). The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 510–517. ISBN 9780691051543.
- "Immigration — and the Curse of the Black Legend." Tony Horwitz. New York Times 9 July 2006
- "The Hispanophobia of the Official English movement in the US." A.C. Zentella. International journal of the sociology of language 1997, no 127 (1 p.1/4), pp. 71-86
- "The 'Official English' Movement and the Symbolic Politics of Language in the United States." Jack Citrin, Beth Reingold, Evelyn Walters, Donald P. Green The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Sep., 1990), pp. 535-559
- "Mock Spanish, Cultural Competence, and Complex Inference." Jane H. Hill and Daniel M. Goldstein, Textus 2001
- AC Zentella. "'José, can you see?': Latino Responses to Racist Discourse." retrieved 4 July 2007
- " Biological categories and border controls: the revival of eugenics in anti-immigration rhetoric." International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Volume 18, Number 56, 1998 , pp. 35-63(29)
- "Officials: Radio host's call to kill border crossers dangerous." Associated Press ©2006.
- CNN: "Radio host dismisses his call to shoot illegal immigrants as 'satirical'" April 11, 2006.
- Think Progree: "Right-Wing Radio Host Advocates Murdering Border Crossers" April 10, 2006.
- [www.wnd.com/?pageId=35631"'Shoot Illegals' Comment Earns Host FCC Complaint,"] World Net Daily, April 8, 2006.
- Anti-Defamation League
- William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928," Journal of Social History, vol. 37, no. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 411-438. In JSTOR.
- Juan Francisco Maura, "La hispanofobia a través de algunos textos de la conquista de América: de la propaganda política a la frivolidad académica," Bulletin of Spanish Studies, vol. 83, no. 2 (2006), pp. 213-240.
- GalleryBlog on Latina/o Stereotypes that also works to document anti-Latina/o hysteria in U.S. mass culture. This blog serves as a constantly updated resource for Tex(t)-Mex, a University of Texas Press volume (2007)