The Spirit of Hispanism
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In the late nineteenth century, Spanish intellectuals and entrepreneurs became captivated with Hispanism, a movement of transatlantic rapprochement between Spain and Latin America. Not only was this movement envisioned as a form of cultural empire to symbolically compensate for Spain’s colonial decline but it was also imagined as an opportunity to materially regain the Latin American markets. Paradoxically, a central trope of Hispanist discourse was the antimaterialistic character of Hispanic culture, allegedly the legacy of the moral superiority of Spanish colonialism in comparison with the commercial drive of modern colonial projects. This study examines how Spanish authors, economists, and entrepreneurs of various ideological backgrounds strove to reconcile the construction of Hispanic cultural identity with discourses of political economy and commercial interests surrounding the movement. Drawing from an interdisciplinary archive of literary essays, economic treatises, and political discourses, The Spirit of Hispanism revisits Peninsular Hispanism to underscore how the interlacing of cultural and commercial interests fundamentally shaped the Hispanist movement.

The Spirit of Hispanism will appeal to scholars in Hispanic literary and cultural studies as well as historians and anthropologists who specialize in the history of Spain and Latin America.



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Date de parution 30 mars 2020
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EAN13 9780268106959
Langue English

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Commerce, Culture, and Identity across the Atlantic, 1875–1936
Copyright © 2020 University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Arbaiza, Diana, 1980- author.
Title: The spirit of Hispanism : commerce, culture, and identity across the Atlantic, 1875–1936 / Diana Arbaiza.
Description: Notre Dame, Indiana : University of Notre Dame Press, 2020. |
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019054581 (print) | LCCN 2019054582 (ebook) | ISBN 9780268106935 (hardback) | ISBN 9780268106966 (adobe pdf) | ISBN 9780268106959 (epub)
Subjects: LCSH: Pan-Hispanism—History. | Latin America—Relations—Spain. Spain—Relations—Latin America.
Classification: LCC F1416.S7 A725 2020 (print) | LCC F1416.S7 (ebook) | DDC 327.8046—dc23
LC record available at
LC ebook record available at
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
List of Illustrations
ONE . Hispanism as Vindication: Spain as Other in the Age of Commerce
TWO . The Emergence of Hispanic Idealism, 1892–1900
THREE . Complicated Harmonies: Economic and Cultural Initiatives in Progressive Hispanism
FOUR . Ramiro de Maeztu and the Search for a Hispanic Economic Ideology
FIVE . Commercial Hispanism: Marketing Spiritual Capital
Works Cited
Figure 1. Allegorical Float at the Centennial of 1892
Figure 2. Scenes from the Parade of Commerce and Industries in Madrid at the Centennial of 1892
Figure 3. Cartoon Parodying the Centennial Celebrations in Madrid
Figure 4. Cartoon of Columbus in an Advertisement
Figure 5. Allegorical Representations of Spain and Spanish America in El Centenario
Figure 6. Caricature of the United States in La Campana de Gracia
Figure 7. Design for a Proposed Monument to the “Discovery” for the Chicago Exhibition of 1893
Figure 8. Illustration for an Article on Rodó, Author of Ariel
Figure 9. Illustration of the Metaphor of Sisterhood “from Nation to Nation”
Figure 10. Cover designs for Mercurio
Figure 11. Front Cover of How Spain Is Loved (1920)
I would like to start by thanking my editor, Eli Bortz, for believing in this project, and the team at Notre Dame for making it possible. Throughout the long process of creating this book, many people have influenced my ideas, but I would like to give special credit to those who had the most direct impact. I am the only one responsible for any errors in this work, but the following people inspired the best aspects of this project.
Even though this book departed enormously from my doctoral dissertation, the intellectual foundation behind it is undoubtedly shaped by my professors at the University of Illinois: Elena Delgado, Joyce Tolliver, and Mariselle Meléndez. Special thanks to Michael Palencia-Roth, who inspired me to research cross-cultural exchanges, and to my advisor, Ericka Beckman, who guided me into new theoretical fields and venues of inquiry. I feel very grateful for her ongoing mentorship and for her valuable feedback on this project.
This book would not have been possible without the support of my colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at North Carolina State University. I thank Ruth Gross for her endeavors to facilitate my research and for the time and means made available for my archival work in Spain. Even more important was the stimulating and encouraging environment at NC State. I benefited enormously from the exchange with all my colleagues, but I would like to particularly mention Agustín Pastén and Patricia Morgado, as well as Shelley Garrigan, who read several chapters of the book and gave me the sharpest and most constructive criticism. I am profoundly indebted to Elvira Vilches and Jordi Marí for their brilliant scholarly inspiration and their generosity as friends. Our conversations on literature, economy, and national identity were fundamental to this book and their belief in the project one of my strongest motivations.
I was finalizing the manuscript when I decided to move back to Europe. I would like to thank my colleagues at the University of Antwerp for providing support and determination during the final stages, especially Rita De Maeseneer, who read and commented on the introduction. In the United States, I owe thanks to Ronald Briggs, and to Lisa Burner for her gracious and insightful suggestions about portions of the book.
During this process I have been fortunate to find a great source of comfort in my friends and families: my aunts and uncles in Spain and my family in Vermont have been incredibly supportive and demonstrated a stoic endurance to listen to my ramblings about Hispanism. The good cheer of my friends in Bilbao sustained me and provided needed distraction. I especially want to thank my parents, Victor Arbaiza and Lucía Tena, who patiently encouraged me in every step of this process and helped my partner and I to take care of our son while I did archival research.
My greatest debt and gratitude go to my husband, Sasha Newell, who was my strongest support intellectually, emotionally, and pragmatically. He read and discussed this book multiple times, and while his luminous thinking always drove me to improve my claims, his company soothed the pains of writing. He entertained our son in intricate board games so that I could work on this book, and he also knew when to remind me of the importance of play.
Finally, my son, Ibai, has been my true inspiration, the person who most motivated me and the one who gave me perspective. Este libro va dedicado a mis dos chicos.
In June 2017, Borja Cardelús, a writer and documentary filmmaker, announced in the newspaper ABC the imminent establishment of the Hispanic Civilization Foundation. Cardelús, who also had a brief career as member of José María Aznar’s government, explained in the article that the goal of the organization was to improve the national and international image of Spain. To do so, he declared, the foundation would emulate the “rich western nations” that had long cultivated their image through cultural media. Spain, Cardelús proposed, did not know how to “sell” itself, paralyzed by the Leyenda Negra—Black Legend—that attributed to Spain all kind of vices while concealing its achievements. Among these accomplishments he highlighted the ability to create a civilization:
en el mundo occidental solo hay dos, la anglosajona y la hispánica, y esta atesora grandes valores. No solo se compone de una lengua, una religión y una raza mestiza, sino de muchas otras cosas: música, literatura, arquitectura, unidad de costumbres, pasión vital, generosidad, solidaridad, comunicación. . . . Se trata de una cultura riquísima en valores, intermedia entre dos feroces extremos: el totalitarismo marxista y el capitalismo egoísta y excluyente. La Civilización Hispánica matiza ambos excesos, porque se halla impregnada de valores humanísticos cristianos. (2017)
[In the western world there are only two, the Anglo-Saxon and the Hispanic, and the latter accumulates great values. It is composed not only of a language, a religion, and a mixed race, but also by many other things: music, literature, architecture, unity in traditions, vital passion, generosity, solidarity, communication. It is an extremely wealthy culture in values and intermediate between two ferocious extremes: Marxist totalitarianism and the selfish and exclusive capitalism. The Hispanic civilization nuances both these excesses because it is imbued with Christian humanistic values.] 1
Co-promoted by Cardelús and the entrepreneur José Antonio Pérez-Nievas, the organization was officially established in January 2018 with a note of presentation to the press that followed the arguments of the mentioned article. The alarms soon rang. The director of the Instituto Cervantes, Juan Manuel Bonet, defended his institution against the foundation’s accusations of incompetence while the historian José Álvarez Junco warned about the resurgence of a Spanish nationalism “sin complejos” as a response to the Catalonian independence movement (Hermoso 2018).
Most of the foundation’s website remains under construction, leading one to wonder whether it will truly attain the ambitious project of developing a series of multimedia content to promote “Hispanic civilization.” Yet, regardless of the success of the foundation’s future efforts, its establishment is itself quite symptomatic of a surge of Spanish conservative nationalism. In 2013, Santiago Abascal, leader of the ultra-right party Vox and former president of the Fundación Denaes (Fundación Para la Defensa de la Nación Española), extolled the virtues of Spain’s civilizing work (2013), a discourse closely followed by the leader of the Partido Popular, Pablo Casado, during a recent electoral campaign (“Pablo Casado: La Hispanidad” 2018). Nuanced by contemporary rhetoric, this nationalism still reveals a haunting circularity in its attempts to strengthen Spain’s national unity and international status by drawing on an idealized imperial past and on the notion of a global Hispanic identity due to the colonial legacy. Reading the mission of this foundation, one cannot help but see parallels between this and the earlier discourses of Hispanism, the movement of rapprochement with Spanish America that flourished from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth century. The distinction that Cardelús established between Anglo-Saxon and Hispanic evokes Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo’s civilizatory dichotomy in the prologue to the Antología de poetas hispano-americanos , published in 1893. His list of “music, literature, architecture” brings to mind the vision of Rafael de Altamira in the early 1920s of shared Hispanic artistic expressions. The ultimate series of oppositions with which Cardelús defined this Hispanic identity—in contrast with Marxism but also “selfish” capitalism—are strikingly reminiscent of Ramiro de Maeztu’s conception of la Hispanidad, a derivation from late nineteenth-century conservative Hispanism that emerged in the late 1920s and amalgamated traditionalist, Catholic, and fascist values. This last reference by Cardelús to a particular economic worldview within Hispanic civilization has a long tradition in Hispanist rhetoric, and it is central to this book’s analysis of the Hispanist movement. Alongside appeals to the common language, culture, and values—and even religion and race in some cases—defenders of Hispanism argued that Hispanic nations shared a unique economic philosophy, a statement that seems to return once again in characterizations such as Cardelús’s.
This book considers Peninsular Hispanism as an overlooked site of Spanish thought on global capitalism and Spain’s marginal role within it. Also called Hispanoamericanismo, Pan-Hispanismo, or even Americanismo, 2 Peninsular Hispanism has been consistently called out as a nationalistic discourse of imperial nostalgia. This book draws on those readings but especially underscores its neoimperialistic character, exploring how, from the late nineteenth century, Hispanism was envisioned as a source of both symbolic and material regeneration: a cultural and economic reconquest. At a time when European powers were embroiled in an accelerated imperialistic race, Hispanism captivated multiple generations of Spaniards who considered the remaining relationship with Spanish America as a potential restitution for their colonial loss and diminished role in the world order. In reaction to the construction of the Spaniards as inept and unskilled for the economic activities of modern life, Hispanism developed the representation of the Hispanic community as a superior, antimaterialistic race, a characterization that would acquire a central importance in Spanish nationalism. This construction of “Hispanic idealism” not only rewrote the depiction of Spain as a commercial Other in Western modernity, it was also envisioned as an advertising device to reenter Spanish American markets, appealing to the solidarity of a Hispanic community that allegedly held a less utilitarian worldview. The historical period investigated in this book—stretching from the Restoration to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War—overlaps with the rise and decline of Hispanism as a project aiming to achieve the symbolic and material regeneration of Spain. As Hispanism was mobilized simultaneously as a compensatory response against capitalism and a strategic discourse to encourage commerce with former colonies, Hispanism became a site of active debate about how to reconcile moral and material interests in Spain. The Spirit of Hispanism sheds light on Spanish aspirations of shifting from a model of territorial domination to one of economic and cultural hegemony in Spanish America. At the same time it explores how Spanish intellectuals and entrepreneurs conceived the relationship between Spanish culture and modern commerce. The study of Hispanism from the vantage point of the interrelationship between economy and culture seeks to elucidate the development of the movement during the period of this study, but it also clarifies the incongruous and yet frequent juxtaposition in contemporary Spanish public culture of the notion of a particular Hispanic economic ethos with blatant calls to better sell “the brand Spain.”
Hispanism: Between Nationalism and Neoimperialism
Hispanism, the movement that sustained the position that Spain and Spanish America should engage in a more intimate association on account of their common bonds, flourished in the last decades of the nineteenth century along with many contemporary movements advocating a transnational identity—Pan-Latinism, Pan-Americanism, Pan-Slavism, Pan-Germanicism. Within this trend, Hispanism was the only movement that rearticulated a postcolonial relationship between a former metropole and its colonies. It participated in some of the rhetoric and political ideology of these movements calling for the establishment of alliances among ethnicities or cultures that superseded the concept of nations. Yet, in the nineteenth century, the articulation of Peninsular Hispanism was tightly connected with the development of Spanish nationalism. Indeed, while the success of Hispanism as a transnational ideology is somewhat ambiguous, the recycling of Hispanist discourse in Spanish nationalism is daunting.
Hispanism never materialized in an association of states like the British Commonwealth, nor did it develop into an international cultural organization like the Francophonie. The economic outcomes of Hispanism during the period covered in this book were much less substantial than what had been projected, and the measures that Hispanists continued to propose in the late 1920s to strengthen the relationship with Spanish America must have given their audience a dismal sense of déjà vu. After a few decades of Hispanist campaigns, even supporters of the movement confessed their desperation at the seeming stagnation of the rapprochement. Historians such as Álvarez Junco have therefore dismissed the movement as “hollow rhetoric without tangible results” (2013, 317), a description that seems to reproduce the most pessimistic presages of those Hispanists. Yet, Álvarez Junco obviates the close connection between Hispanism and Spanish nationalism in his otherwise excellent study on the formation of Spanish identity. In underscoring the crucial relationship between Hispanism and Spanish nationalism, my analysis engages with a series of works that have underscored Spanish colonialism’s central role in constituting Spanish modern identity. Spanish intellectuals involved in the Hispanist campaign were quite explicit about the role that Spanish America held in their imagination of the Spanish nation. As Rafael María de Labra wrote in 1912, “sin América no se comprende á España” (1912a, viii) [Without America, we cannot conceive Spain]. Born in Cuba, this liberal intellectual had, like many of his generation, a personal connection with the recent colonial past, but he spoke of an abstract that he considered crucial to understanding Spanish identity: the presence of Spanish America, which he recovered through the Hispanist movement.
In recent years, scholars of colonial history have warned about the simplistic shortcut of presenting political history as a transition from empire to nation-state or defining nation against empire. Multiple works have called for consideration of the interconnection of both in their formative discourses (Stoler and Cooper 1997, 22; Burbank and Cooper 2010, xi), and some studies have even shown that nation-state and administrative empire were in some cases integrated in the same sociopolitical system (Wilder 2005). While nation building and empire building are considered mutually formative constitutive projects in Great Britain and Holland, the case of Spain is a more complex one given that Spain was a declining colonial power during the nation-building period in the nineteenth century. Spain had lost a vast part of its empire in the early nineteenth century and would lose the remainder of it in 1898, though until the mid-twentieth century it still maintained a modest colonial hold in what today constitutes Morocco, Western Sahara, and Equatorial Guinea. The fact that Spain thus epitomized a minor colonial power did not entail, however, that the idea of empire was insignificant in Spanish culture and nation building. Susan Martin-Márquez has explored the impact of those remaining African colonies on definitions of Spanish national identity that translated into Spanish cultural production, while several scholars (A. Blanco 2012; Krauel 2013; Santos-Rivero 2005) have also noted that Spanish literary production at the turn of the century was unequivocally pervaded by an imperial consciousness regarding Latin America. On the other hand, multiple historians have argued that the lost empire in Latin America still exerted a powerful influence in the construction of Spanish nationalism. Already in 1980, Martin Blinkhorn suggested that the idea of the “Spanish Empire” was deployed as a foundational icon of modern Spanish identity that transcended the “Disaster of 1898,” an instrumentalization of the idea of empire that Sebastian Balfour (1997) traced up to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The role of the empire in Spanish nationalism was more recently examined in the volume compiled by Schmidt-Nowara and Nieto-Philips about the paradigms that dominated Spanish historiography about its colonial history in Latin America. In this collection, several essays point at the increasing relevance acquired by this past in nineteenth-century Spain, although it is perhaps Antonio Feros who most clearly articulated the implications of this obsession with the colonial period. For Feros, nineteenth-century historiography on Spanish colonialism in Latin America was not just a defensive reaction to the so-called Black Legend, but an imperial and colonial narrative appearing “as a central chapter in the process of constructing Spanish nationalism” (2005, 111).
In examining the most influential icons in the national culture of modern Spain, Balfour pointed at three events other than the so-called Discovery of America: the “Reconquest” of Spain in the Middle Ages, the Second of May uprising against the French, and the victories against rebellious Moroccans in nineteenth century (1997, 2). While these icons had a similar importance as organizing myths in the formation of Spanish national identity, several authors, including Balfour, have argued that Spanish nationalism took particular pride in the American colonization as a means to assert its imperial status during what Eric Hobsbawm called the “Age of Empire” (1875–1914) (1989, 2–3). This imperial past provided certain symbolic value to compensate for what had been lost, but as Schmidt-Nowara (2006) demonstrated, Spanish intellectuals also strove to instrumentalize this imperial past for the concrete purpose of maintaining their remaining possessions in America and Asia. According to Schmidt-Nowara, nineteenth-century Spanish historiography elaborated a master narrative about colonial history by which to justify continuous dominance in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The success of these efforts was relative since, as noted by Schmidt-Nowara as well as Kohichi Hagimoto (2013), intellectuals in these colonies contested the metropolitan imagination of history. Yet, the fact that Spanish colonial historiography had a questionable reception in the colonies does not diminish that, from Spain, it was consciously conceived as both an exercise in nation building and an effort to integrate the remaining colonies.
The obsessive rewriting of the imperial past in Latin America clearly indicates the interconnection of nationalism and imperialism in late nineteenth-century Spanish culture. Hispanism not only absorbed this historiographic discourse but also furthered the relevance of imperialism in national identity. In his thorough study on Hispanism, Isidro Sepúlveda Múñoz (2005) studied how the “imperialistic dreams” of this movement contributed to the development of Spanish nationalism through several decades. As he showed, the role of Spanish America in the formation of Spanish nationalism is clearly exposed when considering how Spanish intellectuals and politicians of diverse ideological backgrounds took shelter in Hispanism well into the twentieth century. The preoccupation with the idea of the Spanish Empire during the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera translated into the regime’s official sponsorship of the Hispanist project (Boyd 1997). Franco’s regime also tried to instrumentalize the persistent nostalgia for the Spanish Empire in America by appropriating the discourse of la Hispanidad, the most reactionary derivation of Hispanism, which Alistair Hennesey even qualified as an ideology of “surrogate imperialism” (2000). In his insightful study of the republican exiles in Mexico, Sebastiaan Faber (2002) pointed out that despite their progressive political views, these intellectuals still imagined Spanish America as the sole remaining field in which they might exert cultural hegemony. This diaspora endorsed a more progressive brand of Hispanismo, emphasizing equalitarian values of republicanism and social justice that contrasted with the Hispanist discourses of the Falange Española (Spanish Phalanx) that influenced the Mexican right (Pérez Monfort 1992). Nonetheless, Faber commented that their concept of Hispanism deleted the heterogeneity of the American nations and even the Iberian peninsula (2005, 89–90). As I understand it, Faber suggests that even if some particular Hispanism aimed at establishing a nonhierarchical relationship, such an initiative would be undermined by the very same idea of “the Hispanic world,” a spurious and essentially imperialistic concept that obliterates the multilingual and multicultural world encompassed by the category “Hispanic.” These studies finally demonstrate that Peninsular Hispanism, in all its various ideological and temporary articulations, was a manifestation of Spanish nationalism inextricably linked to the idea of empire that absorbed the cultural specificities of the former colonies as well as those of Iberian communities.
In reviewing this scholarly literature, I underscore the connection between imperialism and Spanish nationalism to sustain my presentation of Peninsular Hispanism as an ideology of neoimperialistic character. Because of the coincidence of Spanish decay with the imperialist expansion of European nations in the late nineteenth century, the Hispanist movement can be considered as a postcolonial ideology. With the prefix post I do not imply the superseding of an imperial consciousness, but rather that Hispanism emerged as a restitution for the loss of continental Spanish America and as an anticipated reparation for what was foreseen at the time as the imminent loss of the remaining colonies in America and Asia. Beyond the interpretation of Hispanism as a transparent articulation of the centrality of empire in Spanish national formation, I propose Hispanism as a movement that attempted to create a kind of economic and cultural neoimperialism (without aspirations of political domination). Hispanism originated as a symbolic substitute for the political power and material wealth that Spain did not possess, but its advocates also expected that their cultural bonds with Spanish America could dynamize Spanish economic life. The fact that most of the financial dreams Hispanism inspired did not come to fruition has led most scholars to focus on the movement’s dreams of cultural hegemony, without giving due consideration to material goals or the way the fantasies of cultural and economic reconquest shaped each other. I was inspired by Ángel Loureiro’s groundbreaking article emphasizing how revisions of Hispanism often diminished the commercial interests at stake in the movement. As he explained, successive generations of Peninsular intellectuals were “haunted by the specter of Latin America” (2003, 68) and aspired to symbolic authority. Furthermore, they also hoped that the Spanish cultural legacy could literally be translated into financial retribution: “According to the proponents of Hispanism, one consequence of the Spanish legacy in Latin America is the spiritual debt incurred by the colonized. Indeed, Latin America is seen by Spaniards at the end of the nineteenth century as symbolic and material compensation for Spain’s economic and political dejection” (2003, 69). Loureiro thus highlights some concrete ambitions of the movement that are overshadowed by the dominant conception of Hispanism as simply a movement of imperialistic nostalgia. Also frequently overlooked is what has been called the “commercial or practical Hispanism,” which when discussed at all is usually understood as a parallel, divergent phenomenon. While Hispanism has traditionally been conceived as an exclusively culturalist movement, I depict the entanglement of the cultural and economic strands of Hispanist thought, the dialectic, tensions, and interrelations of which constitute the crux of this book.
In presenting Hispanism as a form of neoimperialism, I suggest that this phenomenon attempted to create a supranational formation that went beyond a political or territorial bond and aspired to exert a new cultural and economic dominion over Spanish America against other competing powers. I am drawing upon a recent tendency in colonial studies to reconceptualize the definition of modern imperialism beyond the territorial model that has been considered the exemplar. As Ann Laura Stoler critiqued, colonial studies have tended to concentrate on Northern European empires such as the British, French, Dutch, or Belgian and subscribed “a myopic view of empire that sidelines a wide range of imperial forms as anomalous” (2006, 127). By contrast, scholars of U.S. interventions in Spanish America have not hesitated to call these by their imperial name. For Stoler, the United States is only one of several atypical cases of what she calls “imperial formations” (2006; Stoler, McGranahan, and Perdue 2007). These go beyond the idea of bordered and bounded polities to create a dynamic of rule through the production of exceptions and the redefinitions of categories of belonging. Hispanism was not quite the imperial formation that the United States became in Spanish America, since materially it never achieved such an unfortunate level of intervention as the United States. Yet, the expectations of many Hispanists and their discourses against the United States leave few doubts about their desire and vocation to become such. From the beginning, Peninsular Hispanists revealed clear economic incentives, a sense of entitlement to symbolic authority, and even aspirations to create commercial, educative, and legal pan-Hispanic leagues.
Lenin’s conception of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism exerted a strong influence on postcolonial studies that, up until the 1970s, privileged a political economic analysis of colonialism. Scholars then began arguing that colonial issues were excessively folded into the study of global capitalism and turned to more cultural readings of the phenomenon. However, this important correction, which provided space for examining cultural domination and the practices of racial and gender exclusion, prompted a distancing between questions of colonialism and of capitalism. While postcolonial studies have benefited from the post-Marxist acknowledgment of the partial autonomy of the cultural field from the economic sphere, Arif Dirlik has thoughtfully noted that within the difficulty of defining colonialism and its long history, what truly characterizes and anchors modern European colonialism is its bidirectional and formative relationship with capitalism: “Modern European colonialism is incomprehensible without reference to the capitalism that dynamized it, just as the formations of historical capitalism in Europe may not be understood without reference to colonialism” (2002, 441). The recognition of this relationship opens up the field for culturally informed analysis of the political economy of colonialism and how the political, the economic, and the cultural became mutually influenced in modern colonialism.

Modern capitalist colonialism provoked mixed evaluations in Spain, but for the most part the profitability of the enterprise was not questioned. During the second half of the nineteenth century the belief in the benefits of modern colonialism was quite extended—at least in comparison with more skeptical visions of it in the eighteenth century—and economic interests played an important part in its development. However, scholars have noted that there is not a strong case to argue that colonialism translated into greater wealth accumulation in Great Britain or France (Huttenback and Davis 1988; Marseille 1984). As Stoler and Cooper have put it, territorial colonialism might not have been as profitable as expected, while “the ‘imperialism of free trade’ may well have been the better bargain” (1997, 19). This idea evokes the warnings of the early classical economists about the challenges and costs of maintaining an empire, but it also brings us to more recent evolutions in the practice of capitalism. Globalization might appear as a way to conceive of the world that distinguishes our present from the world of colonialism and neocolonialism, but as Dirlik has pointed out, we might well consider it as a stage that has superseded colonialism in the development of capitalism (2002, 429–30).
In returning the debate to Hispanism, the presentation of imperialism as the ultimate stage of capitalism leads us to the particular situation of Spanish capitalism in the nineteenth century. Against the pessimistic interpretations with which Spanish economic history in the nineteenth century was traditionally conceived, historians such as David Ringrose (1998) and Gabriel Tortella (1981; 2000) have proved that the economic evolution in Spain was not so radically different from nor so much behind the rest of Europe. This rectification does not entail that Spain’s economic modernization was equal to that of the leading industrial countries, but it imbricates Spain within European capitalist development. This definitely brings to mind the debates in Spanish America and Spain about the complex inscription of these regions within the idea of modernity. Several scholars have brilliantly deconstructed the discourse of European modernity as an exclusionary model (Dussel 1995; Zea 1992; Mignolo 2000; Dainotto 2007), but Ernesto Laclau (1971) has particularly questioned the location of Latin America at the periphery of capitalist modernity, suggesting rather that it belongs at the center. I am bringing up Laclau’s idea of Latin America because I find it illuminating in considering Hispanism. As a declining imperial power immersed in the process of economic modernization, late nineteenth-century Spain might initially appear as the subaltern of capitalist modernity and certainly of modern colonialism. However, recent revisionism in economic history not only questions this supposed exclusion of Spain from capitalist modernity but also proposes the emergence of Hispanism as an unequivocal attempt to create a kind of commercial and cultural empire. While Hispanism might not have achieved successful material outcomes, the replacement of a territorial model of colonialism with one of a cultural and economic nature still foreshadowed a model of neocolonialism tightly connected to the development of capitalist modernity.
In presenting Hispanism as an attempt at cultural and economic reconquest, this book seeks to elucidate the integral interlacing of culture and commerce in Hispanism. It not only examines discourses that supported this interrelation, but also indicates how the cultural and economic sides influenced each other in a more primordial way. Identitarian discourses that invoked the bonds of history, language, and spirit were often dictated by the market interests of authors who found themselves in an increasingly professionalized world and who were painfully aware, like many entrepreneurs and economists, of the marginal role of Spain in the world economy. Hispanism served as a compensatory discourse for such a diminished role, but it was also envisioned for many as a project that could actually transform Spain’s material circumstances. The connections between the two sides emerged in moments of explicit support for commercial initiatives on the part of representatives typically categorized within the culturalist line, while the so-called practical Hispanists also exposed a significant culturalist component in the rhetorical frame they deployed to appeal to consumers. Both intellectuals and entrepreneurs resorted to theories of political economy, ranging from doux commerce to economic Krausism, to ennoble and legitimate a transatlantic trade that allegedly would establish the basis for arts to flourish and Hispanic solidarity to strengthen. A crucial concept throughout this book is the idea of a “spiritual capital” that Peninsular Hispanism’s proponents imagined they held over Spanish America. The term is obviously indebted to Pierre Bourdieu’s symbolic capital, but it is also directly borrowed from Hispanist texts that frequently referred to the tesoro espiritual [spiritual treasure] the Spanish still possessed in America. Peninsular Hispanism posited a “spiritual” affinity shared with Spanish America as a result of the cultural legacy of the Spanish colonization, and adherents considered that this spiritual capital conferred on them a prestige or proximity that increased the possibility of actually accruing material wealth. As the Spanish American rapprochement unfolded, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and politicians coincided in viewing Hispanism as a potential means to regenerate Spain symbolically but also materially.
My analysis follows several studies that analyzed the relationship between literature and economy since the development of the field of new economic criticism in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The early works of Jean-Joseph Goux (particularly 1990) and Marc Shell (1978; 1982) led the exploration of homologies between symbolic and monetary economies, a convergence particularly investigated by Jochen Hörisch (2000) and Mary Poovey (2008). As Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osteen (1999) have noted, the field has seen a proliferation of approaches, including those focused on the production of texts, their intratextual economies, or their external circulation. Within the field of Spanish American and Spanish studies, recent scholarship has uncovered the tight intersections between cultural production and political economy in several contexts of economic shifts. Ericka Beckman (2012) and Richard Rosa (2012) have noted that the debates on political economy influenced the articulation of civic discourses and the development of national literatures, but also that literature itself became a form of political economy in nineteenth-century Spanish America. In her study on early modern Spain, Elvira Vilches (2010) underscored the connections between economic treatises and a variety of literary genres in their response to the influx of American gold during the expansion of the Spanish Empire. Inspired by these works, this book unveils the impact of political economy on central narratives of Hispanism and examines the entanglement of economy and culture in this transatlantic rapprochement. I suggest that the cultural narratives of Hispanism were responding to both economic discourses and material conditions, even as the commercial initiatives of Hispanism were simultaneously stimulated and constrained by the culturalist frame of the movement. While illustrating this entanglement, my analysis also indicates the tensions growing between the cultural and commercial sides of Hispanism as the movement evolved.
In rescuing the often dismissed relationship between the commercial and cultural sides of Hispanism, this book presents Hispanism as an overlooked site of Spanish thought on global capitalism and the marginal role of Spain within it. Peninsular Hispanism not only aspired to subvert the hierarchies of global capitalism by rewriting its economic characterizations but also endeavored to forge an alliance of the periphery with its own former colonies in opposition to Northern European and U.S. discourse. In so doing, Hispanism became a site of active debate over how to reconcile moral and material interests in Spanish culture. Indeed, if this book is a story of the imbrication of the economic and cultural spheres in Hispanism, it is also a story of their ideological disentanglement. While the advocates of Hispanism in the early Restoration considered cultural and economic initiatives to be complementary and even interdependent, an increasing tension emerged between the two sides, and multiple interpretations appeared concerning how to harmonize commercial and cultural interests. Some Hispanists continued to defend the commercial and cultural campaign in Spanish America, borrowing from certain economic schools the notion of economy as a moral science and supporter of the arts. Others resisted the intermixing in Hispanism of cultural and economic interests, revealing conceptions of interest, commerce, and exchange that shed light on the particular position of Spain in the capitalist system. This reaction was partly informed by the same principles noted by Martha Woodmansee (1994, 85) around the “interest in disinterestedness” in late eighteenth-century Germany and by Pierre Bourdieu (1993) within the literary and artistic field in late nineteenth-century France: an apparent disavowal of an economic world viewed as mercenary. As in other national contexts during this period, Spanish intellectuals frequently emphasized the autonomy of the field of cultural production, and while they were interested in the market of Spanish symbolic goods—and generally of all kinds of goods—in Spanish America, they tended to draw a distinction between their “superior” Hispanist labor and that of the entrepreneurs. Yet, the tensions that emerged as the movement evolved also responded to the specific construction of Spanish nationalism and the Hispanic identity. According to Tom Nairn (1977), narratives against materialism are characteristic of peripheral countries that cannot sustain their national pride based on economic success. This was particularly acute in the case of Peninsular Hispanism, since the movement praised the idealistic qualities of Spanish colonialism and the Hispanic character as a distinctive sign.
To differentiate itself from rival ideologies such as Washington Pan-Americanism or France’s Pan-Latinism, Hispanism explicitly critiqued the materialistic character of the French or Anglo-Saxon in opposition to the supposed disinterest of Spain in recovering its “family ties” with Spanish America. Thus, if at the onset of the movement, intellectuals such as Labra and Juan Valera did not find any conflict in supporting both cultural and economic endeavors, several decades later, figures as dissimilar as Altamira and Maeztu would struggle to harmonize both. Hispanism had developed as a twofold cultural and commercial enterprise, but the paradoxical effort of censoring the capitalist motives of Anglo-Saxon nations while promoting their own material interests in Spanish America ultimately produced contradictions within the movement that undermined its success. The very cultural identities and values Hispanism presented as a source of transatlantic unity worked against the commercial interests many Hispanists saw as the linchpin of Spain’s future progress.
Rise and Fall of an Economic and Cultural Reconquest
Due to the complex fragmentation of Hispanism during the period covered by this book, as well as the multiple periodizations in which the movement has been analyzed, I provide in the following pages a brief explanation of the time line of this study as well as the various groups within the movement. The first two chapters follow a chronological order, while the last three chapters present some overlap because each examines a distinct approach to Hispanism by contemporary intellectuals and entrepreneurs.
The temporary frame of this book is determined by the period in which I consider Hispanists to have aspired and struggled to reconcile the cultural and economic goals of the movement: from the Hispanism that emerged within the Restoration (December 29, 1874) to the Spanish Civil War (1936), the conflict that forced thousands of Spaniards to seek exile in America while, in a sad irony, the winning side disseminated in Spain the ultra-Catholic and most reactionary derivation of Hispanism, la Hispanidad. In chapter 4 I study Maeztu’s 1934 work Defensa de la Hispanidad (2006) as part of an analysis of his thoughts on the relationship between Hispanic identity and capitalism throughout several decades. At the end of chapter 4 I examine the fascist undertones of Maeztu’s struggle to find an economic model for la Hispanidad in Defensa , but I do not extend my analysis to the later appropriation of Hispanist discourse by Francoism because the dynamics between economy and culture changed significantly during this regime. The idea of la Hispanidad was mobilized to exalt Catholic values and provide a historical genesis to the regime, but the economic interests, while persistent, did not thrive in the autarchic climate of early Francoism. Thus, while the derivation of la Hispanidad deserves to be further studied and critically revisited, it goes beyond the thematic scope of this book.
The book also departs from the importance ascribed to the events of 1898 and the common association of Hispanism with the aftermath of that colonial loss. Hispanism did strengthen after 1898, yet the rapprochement with Spanish America had long been underway, originating as a response to Spain’s imperial decline and the early loss of the mainland. In a pioneering study, Mark Van Aken (1959) studied a first phase of what he called Pan-Hispanism, during the period between 1833, the year of Ferdinand VII’s death, and 1866, the end of the Pacific War. According to Van Aken, behind this early movement one could detect the ever-present image of empire and the perception by the Spanish elites that the loss of continental Spanish America was only a temporary setback (1). Dreams of territorial reconquest might have persisted, but as Van Aken suggested, an overwhelming majority of influential Spaniards imagined a new type of relationship with Spanish America: “They fashioned a new image of empire to be based upon commerce and the ties of religion, language and customs” (29). The origin of this rapprochement was greatly due to the initiatives of Spanish entrepreneurs who had reestablished transatlantic connections without waiting for the government’s dilatory recognition of the Latin American republics (see Castel 1955). This process would be damaged when Leopoldo O’Donnell’s imperial campaign extended to Spanish America (1860–1866) with the war against Peru and Chile for the Chincha islands, the alliance with France during the Franco-Mexican War, and the annexation of Santo Domingo. Van Aken’s study concluded with this episode, and indeed it could be argued that the disastrous results of these conflicts for Spain constituted an inflection point that entailed the final renunciation to a military and political reconquest and confirmed the irreversibility of the independence of continental Spanish America. After the revolutionary years (1868–1874), during which internal politics distracted the attention from the transatlantic rapprochement, the Restoration (1874–1923) constituted a period of reconceptualized relations because the former experience had demonstrated that the reconquest of the lost colonies could only be of a cultural and economic nature.
The Restoration opened a long period of stability that, while characterized by the corruption of the turnismo and shaken by overseas wars and the growing social uprisings, also prompted an intense moment of economic modernization (Tortella 2000). As Spain became immersed in a process of economic development, the perception of Spanish America as natural market subsisted. The Spanish chrematistic imagination of the region increased with the turn to economic protectionism in Europe from the late 1870s, which made European markets less accessible for Spanish exports. As the Spanish Royal Academy initiated an intense campaign in the 1870s to establish corresponding academies in Spanish America (Lázaro Carreter 1996), entrepreneurs and economists clearly articulated the advantage of capitalizing these linguistic bonds to regain old markets in the Americas. In 1876 economist Santiago Diego Madrazo called on Spain to forget its wounded pride and reconsider the commercial opportunities still latent in the region if the appeal of the common language could be exploited: “Lo que importa hoy á España es mantener con ellas relaciones pacíficas y aprovechar la identidad de lengua para extender nuestro comercio y exportar nuestros productos” (1876, 552) [What matters to Spain today is to maintain peaceful relations with them and take advantage of our linguistic identity to expand our commerce and export our products].
Economic interests coincided with an explosion of cultural exchanges and initiatives that, as Carlos Rama (1982) noted, thrived during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. These were fueled by the attention to Latin America from the historiographic and linguistic fields. Although there had long been books and pamphlets vindicating the history of Spanish colonialism, these defenses crystallized into an encompassing narrative during the Restoration period. According to Feros, the political movement led by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo aspired to create a conservative regime and to recover what his party considered to be the true self of the nation. His party thus fomented a political climate that stimulated the appearance of many general histories of Spain that turned to the colonial past (2005, 113). The proximity of the fourth centennial of the “discovery” of America, as well as the ongoing colonial crisis that Spain was confronting in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines (1868–1898), encouraged historiographic works and political essays to pay particular attention to the “authentic” history of Spanish colonialism in the Americas.
The identification between nation and language grew particularly intense toward the end of the nineteenth century. Within Restoration politics, the consolidation of what José del Valle and Luis Gabriel Stheeman called the “monoglossic culture” not only laid the grounds for a clash of languages with the emergent Catalan, Basque, and Galician regionalist movements but also legitimated the idea that Spaniards and Spanish Americans still shared a cultural nationality. Thus, the “language battles” that arose between the Spanish and Spanish American intellectual and political classes manifested the power struggles associated with the elaboration of the postcolonial Hispanic community (Valle and Stheeman 2005, 9).
Economic aspirations over Spanish America were fueled by these historiographic and linguistic debates exalting the Spanish legacy in America and emphasizing the subsequent common character of its inhabitants. Not only economists and entrepreneurs, but also Spanish intellectuals displayed these ambitions, voicing their hopes that the Spanish American markets could revitalize Spain’s economy, particularly Spanish book commerce. Spanish authors of the Restoration, such as Menéndez Pelayo and Valera, frequently revealed their self-perception as cultural authorities over the Spanish American public as well as their desire to exert a symbolic influence over the region. Yet attaining such was not their only goal. Despite their apparent squeamishness about the commercialization of art, writers were extremely interested in the commodity value of their work and repeatedly clamored for the signing of treaties of intellectual property rights with Spanish American republics.
In the early stage of Hispanism studied by Van Aken (1833–1866), liberals and conservatives went above political considerations to back the movement for close ties with Spanish America. During the early years of the Restoration, Hispanism continued to transcend ideological barriers. It enthralled conservatives and moderate liberals alike and seduced figures coming from intellectual, political, and entrepreneurial circles who imagined that this movement could revive the country from its symbolic and material decay. Hispanism then brought together disparate ideological actors, a convergence that generated a myriad of interpretations of the bonds of the Hispanic community and the role of Spain within it. In one of the most complete works on Hispanism, historian Fredrick Pike admitted the complexity of defining the term and referred instead to the one common belief of its participants: “Although divided on innumerable matters of detail and even on many issues of fundamental significance, the champions of hispanismo . . . shared an unassailable faith in the existence of a transatlantic Hispanic family, community, or race” (1971, 1). The proponents and actors of Hispanism, he explained, believed that Spaniards had developed certain characteristics throughout their history and transplanted them to America during colonization, thus begetting a “Hispanic race.” Most authors understood race as Volksgeist , a concept popular in both nineteenth-century nation-states’ formation and transnational movements, and according to which the cultural, linguistic, or historic traits shared by a community of people endowed them with a unique “spirit” that distinguished them from other groups. Yet, this concept still coexisted with the racist ontology of the Spanish Empire, based, as Joseba Gabilondo has studied, on genealogy (blood purity and line of descent) rather than on the biological concept (skin color and physiognomy) deployed by French, British, and German imperialism (2009, 279). Indeed, during the late nineteenth century, Peninsular Hispanists often defined the Hispanic race as constituted by a common cultural “spirit,” but some still fiercely claimed that Spaniards had provided “their blood” to the Americans. 3
The traits that Hispanists mainly invoked as setting them apart from other nations and marking them as members of the “Hispanic race” were features such as language, culture, values, religion, and “spirit,” allowing for a meaningful variation in how authors conjured them or which bonds they privileged. Pike noted that between 1898 and 1936 supporters of Hispanism would become divided into two main currents: conservative and liberal. Going further, Sepúlveda Múñoz established some insightful divisions between the Hispanism of the early Restoration, the “progressive or liberal Hispanism” of the early twentieth century, and the reactionary la Hispanidad that culminated as part of the fascist ideology of Francoism.
As these authors have noted, an overview of Hispanism from the Restoration to the Spanish Civil War shows a tendency to atomization. I find that Duncan Bell’s metaphor for British liberalism as a kaleidoscope is quite appropriate to convey the interrelation within the variability of Hispanism: it “was splintered into a kaleidoscope of ideological positions, some of which overlapped considerably, while others pulled in different directions” (2016, 5). Scholarship on Hispanism moves indeed between two tensions, that of risking homogenizing Hispanist actors and that of obliterating the cross-fertilization that sometimes occurred among the various articulations of Hispanism. While acknowledging the great variation encompassed in Hispanism, I make use of Sepúlveda’s main categories as some of the most recognizable currents and also incorporate the “practical or commercial Hispanism.” I study the latter separately, but my goal is also to highlight its connections with other groups and to underscore how political economy as well as economic interests shaped each group. The interrelation is strikingly clear during the first two decades of the Restoration. This Hispanism encompassed conservative and moderate liberals who aspired to exert a kind of moral hegemony over Spain’s former colonies and who, following the campaign of Segismundo Moret y Prendergast to reactivate Spanish exterior politics and commerce, imagined that Hispanism could also stimulate transatlantic trade. The foundation of the Unión Ibero-Americana in 1885 exemplified this culturalist and commercial vocation of Hispanism during the early Restoration. The union differentiated itself from the former labor of the Royal Academy and the Sociedad Hispano-Americana through its explicit intention to stimulate not only cultural exchange but also a transatlantic commerce that was presented as a source of progress and prosperity for Spain and the Spanish American nations. 4 In an attempt to recover Spain’s international prestige and provide a unifying national narrative, these Hispanists engaged in a defense of the values brought with colonialism, vindicating the continuation of a Hispanic culture that ought to encourage more economic bonding. This Hispanism counted among its ranks intellectuals such as Menéndez Pelayo and Valera, economists such as Mariano Cancio Villaamil and Jesús Pando y Valle, and politicians of different affiliations such as Faustino Rodríguez San Pedro, 5 Francisco Romero Robledo, and Moret himself. Some Hispanists displayed secular and reformist values, but the Hispanism of this period was mostly imbued with a Catholic and bourgeois ideology. This Hispanism expanded throughout the first decades of the twentieth century, but as liberal Hispanists branched off, the remainder emphasized the Catholic and traditional values that became the trademark of what would be considered the current of conservative Hispanism. This Hispanism received institutional support during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and was promoted by José Antonio de Sangróniz, Santiago Magariño, José María de Pemán, and Maeztu, among others. 6
Liberals close to Regenerationist circles endorsed the current of so-called liberal or progressive Hispanism that branched off at the turn of the century. These Hispanists shared the Regenerationists’ concern for the situation of Spain and aspirations to modernization, but they considered the connection with Spanish America crucial to reinvigorating Spain from its moral and economic lethargy. Krausism constituted the main ideological basis of this Hispanism, which in the first decades of the twentieth century worked to launch a series of pedagogical initiatives and programs of university exchange across the Atlantic. Rafael María de Labra and José del Perojo were close to this circle, but it was mainly integrated by a later generation that included intellectuals such as Altamira, Adolfo Posada, and to some extent Federico de Onís, José Ortega y Gasset, and the economist Luis de Olariaga. While generally self-identified as undertaking a culturalist action, these liberal Hispanists communicated and sometimes collaborated with the commercial Hispanism from Catalonia and the Basque Country. This liberal Hispanism faltered toward the late 1920s, a decline that Sepúlveda attributes to two causes: first, the absorption of their program by Primo de Rivera’s Hispanist agenda, and second, that by the time the second republic was established in Spain, the shrinking of progressive liberalism in Spanish America hindered a transatlantic identification (2005, 151–53). I also suggest that the deterioration of this current was connected to the progressive weakening of the interrelationship between the cultural and economic sides that caused an exchange of accusations throughout the 1920s over Hispanism’s inefficacy. As progressive cultural Hispanists retreated to concentrate on nurturing the “essence” of the Hispanic culture, they lost some of its orientation and distinctiveness as a current at a time when the conservative Hispanist line was on the rise and appropriating the Spanish American rapprochement as la Hispanidad.
Parallel to the decay of liberal Hispanism in the late 1920s and early 1930s, conservative Hispanism moved toward Catholic orthodoxy and antiliberal values under the rubric of la Hispanidad. Promoted by Vizcarra, Isidro Gomá y Tomás, and intellectuals with liberal backgrounds, such as Maeztu or Manuel García Morente, la Hispanidad exalted the spiritual union of a Hispanic community whose identity was thought to have been shaped by the humanistic Catholicism of the Spanish tradition prior to the eighteenth century. According to the philosophy of la Hispanidad, with the Enlightenment, Spain and Spanish America had betrayed their true essence and therefore initiated its decline. With the amputation of these two centuries, la Hispanidad seemed to condemn itself to celebrate an invented tradition of the Hispanic race that placed them outside of modernity and that was especially employed to nourish a particular conception of Spanish national identity rather than to act as an operative movement to fortify cultural and commercial ties with Spanish America. Unlike previous Hispanists of both conservative and progressive backgrounds, the ideologists of la Hispanidad barely mentioned the possibility of strengthening commercial relations among the Spanish-speaking nations, and the economic side of their project became quite muted. However, la Hispanidad emerged within a context of clear economic resonance: as an alternative to capitalism or socialism, and as the ultimate reproduction of the tensions generated by Hispanism in the effort to reconcile the aspirations of cultural and commercial neoimperialism.

Hispanism was definitely thwarted by Spain’s lack of resources to undertake multiple ambitious plans, as well as by the scarcity of initiatives from a series of Spanish governments that readily offered lip service to the movement but were slow to come up with material support. Moreover, Hispanism was seriously hindered by ideological divisions between conservatives, liberals, and even socialists. Nonetheless, this book tries to highlight, without diminishing these other factors, that Hispanism was seriously debilitated by opposing conceptions of transatlantic trade and visions of how to integrate economic and cultural objectives. Some feared that commercial pursuits would endanger the self-presentation of Hispanism as seeking a disinterested spiritual union with Spanish America, while others believed that without commerce, Hispanism would become a cultural skeleton. I think that, ultimately, the polarization of some groups might have helped to obscure the organic relationship between culture and economy in this movement—a relationship that this book attempts to rescue.
Chapter Outline
Addressing the industrial backwardness of modern Spain, Tortella hypothesized that it was related, among other factors, to the “scarcity of entrepreneurial spirit” in Spanish society and the keen propensity of Spanish companies to seek state protection to shelter themselves from competition (2000, 206–7). The long tradition of this notion that Spaniards lacked entrepreneurial initiative constitutes a key theme in this book as I argue that the development of Hispanism was intrinsically connected to this representation. Chapter 1 examines how the depiction of the Spaniards as inept in economic activities, by both foreign and national authors, fueled a counterrepresentation in the late nineteenth century that ultimately led to the characterization of the Hispanic as an idealistic and altruistic race, opposed to Anglo-Saxon materialism. As Lily Litvak (1980) noted, Spencerian theories in the 1860s crystallized a dichotomy between Latin and Anglo-Saxon races that naturalized the Anglo-Saxon countries as industrious and enterprising while Latin countries were conceived as antimercantile. This was the last installment of a presentation of Spaniards as unskilled entrepreneurs that had been unfolding in what several scholars (Dainotto 2007; Iarocci 2006) have identified as the construction of Southern European irrationality in the creation of European modernity.
This chapter pays particular attention to the tremendous impact of eighteenth-century political economy and nineteenth-century sociology of religion on the consolidation of the image of Spain’s unsuitability for the age of commerce. British and French economic liberalism spread the idea that wealth accumulation had stunted the Spanish entrepreneurial spirit, a thesis that was not strongly refuted in Spain. On the contrary, the argument about the ill effects of American riches was repeated ad nauseam by late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish librecambistas who accepted the representation of Spain as a paradigm for the evils of mercantilism and hoped that the implementation of free-trade doctrines would produce the economic and social recovery of the nation. From the mid-nineteenth century onward, another set of discourses marginalized Spain from commercial modernity by affirming that religion influenced nations’ economic development and that Protestantism in particular stimulated the progress of capitalism. For conservative intellectuals who established a close identification between Catholicism and Spanish nationalism, this thesis posed a challenge on how to present the Spanish relationship to capitalism.
Chapter 1 analyzes how these depictions encouraged the development of defensive discourses around the Spanish colonial system and national identity. Since discourses on trade and capitalism were intrinsically entangled with colonial enterprises in this period of modern capitalist colonialism, the portrait of Spaniards as inept at commerce came hand in hand with a negative portrayal of their abilities as colonizers. I examine how by the 1870s, Spanish intellectuals embraced this identity as Other in the commercial era to present it as a virtue rather than a liability. To claim a space in the imperialist imagination that dominated late nineteenth-century Europe, Spanish intellectuals began to assert that the Spanish colonial system constituted a moral mode of colonialism, describing the past colonization of America as a superior civilizing mission that went beyond mere commercial interests. I suggest that this reconstruction of the Spanish colonial tradition decisively contributed to promoting a discourse of “Hispanic idealism” that unfolded throughout the 1890s.
Chapter 2 explores how this narrative of Hispanic idealism became a crucial claim of Peninsular Hispanism, emerging in the early 1890s as a response to those negative economic characterizations of the Spanish and strengthening in the early twentieth century after the Spanish–American War. By “Hispanic idealism” I refer to the concept that the Spanish and Spanish Americans shared an idealistic or “spiritual” worldview radically different from the materialistic ethos associated with the economically thriving societies in Northern Europe and the United States. For some of those who praised Hispanic idealism, this was derived from Catholic morality; for some, it evolved from the values of honor and chivalry of the Spanish Golden Age. Most, however, invoked it as an imprecise concept, the origin and, of course, materialization of which was barely explained. Despite the vagueness of this concept and the contradiction of its articulation alongside calls to reinforce commercial transatlantic ties, the captivating idea of Hispanic idealism became quite ingrained in Peninsular Hispanism. This discourse compensated for the region’s lack of material wealth and replaced the negative image that some Spanish Americans held of the Spanish inheritance as a burden on their economic development. Finally, it served as a virtuous identitarian trait in opposition to an Anglo-Saxon character increasingly defined by its low utilitarianism.
As a defensive narrative, sometimes even one of vindication, the construction of Hispanic idealism would intensify after 1898 in opposition to the United States, which came to epitomize materialism. The Spanish American contribution would be crucial in the development of this narrative as Peninsular Hispanism cannibalized a growing body of Spanish American works that spoke of idealism or spiritual elevation as one of the Hispanic identitarian signs. If in the 1890s Peninsular Hispanism had celebrated the Spanish American intellectuals who helped to formulate this idealistic Hispanic character, by the beginning of the new century the reappropriation of Spanish American works was key to the consolidation of this myth. As Alejandro Mejías-López (2009) observed, by the turn of the century Spanish American modernistas had undertaken an “inverted conquest” that reversed the direction of cultural influence. Certain Spanish intellectuals, especially conservative Hispanists, considered this a threat to the cultural hegemony they aspired to exert over Spanish America, but they utterly embraced those modernistas who, in sight of Washington’s Pan-Americanism, favored a Hispanist rapprochement and conferred their prestige on this identitarian myth. Thus, while Spanish Americans such as Rubén Darío and José Enrique Rodó referred to the idealistic character of the Spanish Americans in connection with their Latin heritage, Peninsular Hispanism deemphasized or ignored their Pan-Latinism to present those works as an acknowledgment of the superior qualities of a “Hispanic” race derived from the Spanish.
The Spanish Americans’ discourse on the elevated spirit of their nations was viewed by Peninsular Hispanists as a key legitimation of their enterprise of rapprochement, but it is also true that those works resonated in the Spanish context. While Ariel became a compelling narrative of cultural identity in Latin America because it provided a kind of compensatory discourse of aesthetics (J. Ramos 2001), Hispanic idealism became for Peninsular Hispanism a kind of compensatory discourse of morality. Yet, I suggest that the promotion of the concept of Hispanic idealism pushed Hispanism into a labyrinthine route. In a recent analysis of Ariel , Ericka Beckman commented that Rodó succeeded in Spanish America partly because he identified the “metaphorical money of aesthetics” as a “form of value” immune to the fluctuations and crisis of bankruptcy that afflicted Spanish America (2012, 152). The problem for Peninsular Hispanism was that its idealism was more connected with morality than aesthetics and for some Hispanists this implied that idealism appeared in opposition to commerce. While some Hispanists defended the interrelationship of morality and commerce, for those skeptical of the potential ethical character of commerce, idealism was a value that would stand against the degrading influence of capitalist market—and not just in the Arielist sense, as a steady value unaffected by market oscillations. Thus, as the narrative of Hispanic idealism strengthened, Hispanists were forced to legitimate this transatlantic commerce. Hispanist discourses became more entangled in disavowal or complicated justifications of commercial projects. The economic profitability of the commercial enterprise became more opaque or was depicted as transcending individual or national interests to create a front against the materialistic United States.
The sinuous paths that Hispanism entered in the first decades of the twentieth century to reconcile its economic and cultural imperatives are explored in the last three chapters of the book. Chapter 3 concentrates on the interrelation between cultural and economic initiatives in progressive Hispanism. I propose that this current of Hispanism envisioned a holistic integration of these goals, a combination made possible by the influence of economic Krausism, an approach to economics derived from the philosophical movement of the same name. This approach reviewed several tenets of classical liberalism and proclaimed that a principle of common good, not self-interest, should be the guiding force of economic activity. Some of the Krausist economists identified Hispanism as a movement of solidarity and general good that could stimulate Spanish economy, and for progressive Hispanists close to Krausism, the economic initiatives were legitimate and beneficial.
In this chapter I discuss figures such as the intellectual and politician Rafael María de Labra and the economist Luis de Olariaga, although I pay particular attention to Rafael Altamira, the most prominent advocate of this progressive Hispanism and one whose dialectical interest particularly reflected the aspirations and tensions of integrating cultural and economic initiatives in Hispanism. Throughout the first decades of his Hispanist work, Altamira showed support for such initiatives and even promoted the importance of cultural actions by claiming that they would lay the groundwork for economic ventures in Spanish America. Altamira’s supportive discourse on economic initiatives has not been the most recognized feature in his production, partly because his line of action was mostly circumscribed to university outreach and because some of his last works explicitly left aside the economic dimension of Hispanism. By bringing out Altamira’s nearly forgotten original vision of the interrelation of cultural and economic Hispanism and tracing his evolution toward a more purely culturalist promotion of Hispanic “essence,” this chapter reveals that as the Hispanist project unfolded, the expected harmonization of cultural and economic goals typical of progressive Hispanism became more challenging to sustain.
Chapter 4 analyzes the search for a Hispanic economic ideology in the writings of Ramiro de Maeztu, the most well-known figure of the movement of la Hispanidad. While Maeztu’s famous Defensa de la Hispanidad has been interpreted as a radical change from his previous production, I highlight an undercurrent in that work that extends from his earliest texts to his articulation of la Hispanidad: his frustrated efforts to provide an economic model specific to Spanish and Spanish American societies. Despite Maeztu’s political transformations—from socialism to economic liberalism, and from liberalism to Catholicism and Falangism—I argue that in each of these stages he maintained a recurrent interest in political economy and some persistent views on economy. This chapter begins with an examination of his paradoxical mixing of liberalism and socialism at the turn of the century. Then it explores the deep influence of the German Historical School of Economics on Maeztu in his attempts to present economy as a moral science and create a Hispanic conception of capitalism. To conclude, the chapter proposes that parallel to the “third way” in fascist political economy, la Hispanidad constituted for Maeztu an alternative between Marxism and liberal capitalism. Yet, the antimodernist and Catholic Hispanidad featured characteristics not only specific to the Spanish case but also particular to Maeztu’s struggles to provide an economic orientation for Spain and the “Hispanic nations.”
Chapter 5 examines the “commercial” branch of Hispanism that developed in Catalonia and Biscay, focusing on how they presented their project amid the debates on capitalism and Hispanic identity and the direction that Hispanism ought to follow. I suggest that within the Catalonian and Biscayan groups there was a growing recognition of a fracture developing among Hispanists over their diverging perceptions of the value of transatlantic commerce. In this chapter I first analyze their endeavors to advertise their mercantile actions as part of a noble and patriotic mission while integrating cultural initiatives. To advance trading ventures in Spanish America, they invoked beliefs of classical liberalism about how commerce contributed to the establishment of a current of sympathies among nations and how arts and sciences flourished in commercial societies. I then move to study their interests in book commerce, a market that had the potential to provide both great economic benefits and an inherent cultural value that would be socially recognized in Spain. While the promotion of book commerce was an easy sell to other Hispanists as well as the Spanish intellectual community in general, I also explore how the defense of Spanish emigration to Spanish America—for commercial Hispanists a crucial means of reaching the American markets—represented a more convoluted advocacy. With the book, a commodity but also an artistic good that spread Spanish culture, entrepreneurs could easily justify the elevation of their purposes, but their defense of emigration was confronted by many social actors that viewed the massive migratory flow to America as a drain on the nation. Thus, commercial Hispanists depicted emigrants not only as a force to consolidate Spanish culture in Spanish America, but also as agents of social transformation in Spain upon their return. This struggle to locate a national moral regeneration within a group whose mobility was motivated by economic concerns reveals a rhetorical tension that exemplifies the challenges this Hispanism faced.
Hispanism as Vindication
Spain as Other in the Age of Commerce
In preparing for the 1892 Centennial of the “discovery” of America, a major landmark of Hispanist rapprochement, the Organizing Board, as well as the Spanish press, disclosed discomfort about the modest dimensions of the celebrations. They especially feared the comparison to the luxurious display of the World’s Columbian Exposition planned for the following year in the United States. A great concern, Juan Valera admitted, was that Spain’s relative poverty called attention to the generalized assumption that Spaniards were not as gifted as other nations at producing wealth:
nos inclinamos á reconocer la constante incapacidad para el arreglo de la hacienda de que adolecemos hace siglos, aunque en el día aflija más, porque tiene la gente menos fe y paciencia, y porque la necesidad del dinero es mayor para todo. Y sube de punto la aflicción, si contemplando la ingente fuerza creadora de riqueza que desenvuelven otros pueblos, hallamos mezquina é inhábil en nosotros la virtud que la crea. (1892b, 9)
[We are inclined to admit the constant incapacity for managing riches, which we have suffered for centuries, although now the affliction worsens, since people have less faith and patience and because the need for money is greater for everything. And the distress increases when we observe the enormous creative force for wealth that other nations display, and find the virtue that generates this wealth trifling and incapable in us.]
Valera’s words illustrate the pessimism with which national economy was generally perceived. Economic historians (Prados de la Escosura 1988; Ringrose 1998; Tortella 2000) have noted that despite typically bleak portrayals, the Spanish economy actually experienced considerable growth in the second half of the nineteenth century. Economic growth might not have been apparent because the state still faced several financial weaknesses, such as the relative backwardness of its banking system, its enormous volume of debt (Maluquer de Motes 2002), and its long-delayed industrialization (Nadal 1975). Nonetheless, Spain had made enormous efforts to overcome the negative commercial balance of previous decades. After the loss of continental Spanish America, Spain suffered a drastic restructuring of its external trade, transitioning from a role as a metropolis and intermediary between Europe and its colonies to one as a developing country on the European periphery. Yet, as Tortella has put it, the demise of the lucrative monopoly contributed to ending “the distortions which the metropolitan role had entailed” (2000, 139) and ultimately energized the Spanish economy to find new markets and regain the old ones. By the time of the Restoration, Spain had achieved foreign trade rates comparable to those of England and France (136) and the reduction of the national debt in the 1880s was facilitating industrial development (Maluquer de Motes 2002, 259). However, the Spanish economy now faced the challenge of economic protectionism, which had been spreading through Europe from the late 1870s and was decreasing the number of markets accessible to Spanish exports.
These radical changes, as well as the new trials confronted by the Spanish economy, help to explain why the nation’s financial state was viewed so gloomily. Valera’s statement also revealed the internalization of a widespread representation of Spanish character as unskilled at economic activities. Popular in Spain and Europe, this image was also quite prevalent in Spanish America, where, to the dismay of Peninsular and Spanish American Hispanism, Spanish heritage was frequently conceived as a hindrance to material progress. As the Argentinean author and diplomat Vicente Gaspar Quesada commented in 1892, the disparity in economic development between Spanish America and the United States was commonly explained because of the origin of their colonizers:
Se pretende, y el vulgo lo acepta como verdad indiscutible, que el asombroso progreso de los Estados Unidos de Norte-América y el comparativamente lento y trabajoso desarrollo de las naciones hispanas, tiene por origen y causa eficiente la superioridad de la raza y de las instituciones coloniales que estableció la Gran Bretaña. (395)
[It is said, and the masses accept it as an indisputable truth, that the origin and central cause of the astonishing progress of the United States of North America and by comparison, the slow and strenuous development of the Hispanic nations, lies in the superiority of the race and the colonial institutions that Great Britain established.]
As a Hispanist who favored a growing relationship with Spain, Quesada defended Spanish colonialism and its legacy, thus disputing claims about the Spaniards’ economic ineptitude in fundamental texts of Argentinean culture by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento or Juan Bautista Alberdi. 1 This idea was repeated in countless works across nineteenth-century Spanish America and continued into the twentieth century. In his classic work from 1944 about the formation of Spanish American culture, Mariano Picón Salas even affirmed that the Spanish ethos had encouraged in Spanish America an “undeveloped economic sense and a disdain for the pragmatic and utilitarian currents rising in northern Europe” (1962, 34).
To some extent, depictions of the Spanish character as inadequate for chrematistic affairs still continue in recent times. As the threat of needing a financial rescue from the European Union materialized in 2012, Spain’s capacity to deal with economic crisis became highly questioned, both in Europe and in Spain itself. While Spain was labeled as the S of the PIGS group during the European crisis, it was not uncommon to hear in Spanish media and social discourse that the Spanish were not as productive as their European counterparts or that they lack entrepreneurial spirit (see Mathieson 2012; Olivares 2013). As Claudio Véliz noted, the contrast in wealth between the English- and Spanish-speaking nations has continued to propagate problematic depictions of the national character of these countries. Numerous scholars have investigated the causes of this divergence, but for Véliz many of these explanations are politically charged, as they search for culprits or transform “shortcomings into virtues and assets into liabilities” (1994, 1). 2 The topic quickly turns political as it affects the fashioning of national identities and compares the efficacy of disparate sociopolitical and economic models. I do not intend to elucidate the reasons for this difference, a subject beyond the scope of this book, but I suggest that some of the crucial pronouncements of Hispanist discourse—the altruistic nature of its colonial enterprise and the idealistic character of the Hispanic—arose in great part as an attempt to reverse negative economic characterizations of the Spanish. Or, borrowing Véliz’s words, I propose that key discourses in Hispanism emerged through an effort to present Spain’s relative poverty as the result of virtue, the moral superiority of spiritual asceticism.
This chapter examines the main claims that Hispanists faced concerning the alleged ineptitude of the Spanish for modern commercial life and colonialism to provide the context that prompted the economic narrative of Hispanism. Racist theories provoked a debate about the alleged inferiority of the Latin races that reached its prime at the end of the nineteenth century. However, the notion that Spain was a nation unfit for trade had been consolidated long before that, as was the belief that Spain had wasted its colonies and continued to reign ineptly in the remaining ones. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European intellectuals produced a variety of explanations for the underdevelopment of Spain, a case considered particularly striking given the wealth of the Spanish American colonies.
After providing a brief overview of the origins of the concept, this chapter concentrates on two main theories, from the fields of political economy and sociology of religion, that strongly influenced Hispanist counternarratives. Sometimes Spanish intellectuals reproduced these theories to justify their own proposals for national regeneration, although many denied these charges outright. Among the latter group, some began to respond that if Spanish culture was not economically driven, it should not be appraised as a deficiency, but rather as a laudatory quality in an era of growing materialism. From the eighteenth century onward, debates on trade had been intrinsically connected to discussions of the advantages and risks of pursuing colonialist ventures, and with the consolidation of a modern capitalist form of colonialism in the nineteenth century, they returned to the forefront. I close this chapter with an exploration of the appearance in the late 1870s of an acclamatory narrative of Spanish colonialism that would decisively shape Hispanist discourse. I argue that the assertions that the Spanish colonial system was guided by civilizing and altruistic values originated as an attempt to rewrite the perception of Spain as Other in the age of commerce, and that this counterrepresentation fostered the depiction of the Hispanic as an antimaterialist race.
Indolent and Inept: The Portrait of Spain in Western Modernity
In 1904 Rafael de Altamira complained about the popularity of racial explanations for the poverty of Spain:
Entre esas teorías, la más socorrida y fácil es la de una incapacidad de raza para la vida económica. Es una de tantas anticipaciones de psicología colectiva, que la pereza de investigar y la chismografía internacional, siempre dispuesta a creer lo malo del vecino, han acreditado a los ojos del vulgo. (2014, 613–14)
[Among these theories, the easiest and most handy is the one about the race’s incapacity for economic life. It is one of so many premonitions of collective psychology confirmed by a mass opinion that, drawn from lazy enquiry and international gossip, is always willing to believe the worst of their neighbor.]
The idea of this dichotomy between Latin and Anglo-Saxon races was sparked in the early nineteenth century with Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation (1807–1808) (Gabilondo 2009, 801) but consolidated in the second half of the nineteenth century with the development of Spencerian and biological theories. As Lily Litvak noted, these theories presented “Latins” as a race in decline and Anglo-Saxon nations as industrious and enterprising (1980, 12–24), a characterization that Peninsular Hispanism would strenuously combat. 3 Nonetheless, by the time these racist theories appeared, Spain’s economic performance had already been explained through a variety of frequently overlapping arguments blaming the climate, economic policies, and ultimately religion as sources of the problem.
The portrait of the Spaniards’ incapacity for economic success had a long history that some scholars even connect to the Leyenda Negra 4 of the early modern period. According to DeGuzmán, the political prominence of Spain made it the target of multiple economic and religious rivals—especially England and the Netherlands, but also France, Italy, and Germany—who disseminated representations of the Spaniards as essentially intolerant, tyrannical, and cruel (2005, 4). The Leyenda Negra impinged on Spain’s economic reputation, since the concept of the market could barely be expected to thrive in such an environment of backwardness and despotism (Grice-Hutchinson 1993, 126). Yet, while the Leyenda Negra might have laid the foundations, it was not until the eighteenth century that this representation coalesced as Enlightenment intellectuals attempted to rationalize Spanish economic decay. Also at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, Kant and Hegel articulated a concept of progress and world history that located Spain and Spanish America on the fringes of Western modernity (Zea 1992; Dussel 1995; Mignolo 2000). In his study of Spanish romantic writing, Michael Iarocci noted that this symbolic expulsion from modernity has fundamentally shaped Spanish cultural production: “This symbolic amputation of Spain from ‘modernity,’ ‘Europe,’ and the ‘West’ was arguably among the most profound historical determinants in defining modern Spanish culture. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine another European country in which the crisis of (non)modernity has played as central a role in the cultural history of the nation as it did in the case of modern Spain” (2006, 8). The avalanche of scholarly debates in the last decade over the complex inscription of Spain—as well as Latin America—within the idea of modernity (Alonso 1998; Ramos 2001; Delgado, Mendelson, and Vázquez 2007) confirms the enduring and determining impact of this exclusion on the national cultures of these regions. Indeed, the position of Spain on the periphery of modernity was not static, since, as Iarocci observed, the characterization extended through time with different, sometimes overlapping frameworks presenting Spain as a subaltern of Western modernity (2006, xv–xvi).
One of the first Spanish modern historians, the Jesuit Juan Francisco Masdeu, became a pioneering voice in denouncing Spain’s exclusion, even though his works were stridently nationalistic. Masdeu especially refuted the claims of Spanish irrationality and indolence, and in his Historia crítica de España y la cultura española (1783–1805), he fiercely protested that Spain’s enemies in the late eighteenth century had initiated the image of Spaniards as unskilled for commerce:
ensoberbecidos los Holandeses, los Ingleses, los Franceses, los Italianos y los Alemanes creyeron tener un derecho de llamar en sus escritos á la España nación por carácter perezosa, ociosa y negligente: nación de hombres descuidados en el cultivo de las tierras, sin aplicación á las artes, sin genio para el comercio, y simples administradores de negociantes extrangeros. (1783, 169)
[Full with pride, in their writings the Dutch, the English, the French, the Italians, and the Germans believed themselves to have the right to call Spain a nation of lazy, idle, and negligent character: a nation of men who neglected the cultivation of the land, without interests in the arts, without skill in commerce, and mere administrators of foreign merchants.]
Masdeu particularly singled out the French encyclopédistes and Montesquieu’s climatological theory, the latter a deterministic model of climate affecting energy and aptitude that included an explanation for the failed Spanish relationship to commerce. Climatological discourse dated back to classical Greece, but as Roberto M. Dainotto has observed, Montesquieu transferred the Aristotelian East/West axis into a worldview self-contained in Europe that rescinded the Orient as Other to re-create an internal antithesis in Southern Europe (2007, 56–64). In De l’esprit des lois , first published in 1748, Montesquieu endowed this climatological discourse with a modern conception of civilization and barbarism connected to economic productivity, and thus were Spaniards not only described as prone to irrational and violent behavior but also rendered without commercial instinct because of their warm climate (2011, 22, 296).
De l’esprit des lois was published at a time when French and British political economists discussed the doux commerce thesis, debating whether commercial reciprocity could prevent wars or, on the contrary, international market competition would become as ruthless as war (Hont 2005, 5–6). Montesquieu portrayed Spain as paralyzed in a previous stage, as a nation barely ready to engage in the politics of the doux commerce . According to the logic of climatology, a country of warm climate was inclined to violence and, by extension, literal warfare; for Montesquieu, Spanish colonial history proved that Spaniards had lost sight of commerce in their thirst for conquest in America. Like many other Enlightenment intellectuals, Montesquieu advocated that European nations concentrate on continental trade, claiming that colonialism presented strenuous difficulties that blurred the ultimate goal of trade into one of conquest. 5 Nonetheless, Montesquieu specified that some nations possessed the ability to make colonialism viable, but he denied Spain the degree of refinement required for trade, the only true purpose of colonialism (2011, 367). Spain was left outside of this commercial modernity along with the rest of Southern Europe, but given Spain’s past political prominence, the depiction of the Spanish petty trade was coated with the added feeling of degeneration: Spain appeared as an anachronistic nation that had not yet realized that national aggrandizement was a matter of trade and not warfare.
The 1770 comparative study of colonization and trade in the Americas by French author Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, 6 L’Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes , continued Montesquieu’s climatological theory, crediting climate in making Spaniards ignorant of the “true principles of commerce” and predisposed to warfare (1798, 3:90). Climatological theory was partially endorsed by Raynal, Jean le Rond d’Alembert, and Denis Diderot, but it also stirred several critiques in French and British Enlightenment circles, with economists such as Anne Robert Jacques Turgot and David Hume arguing that political, economic, and social factors were more decisive in shaping a nation’s collective character than those of air and climate.

Although Montesquieu’s climatological theory was progressively discredited in Europe, the image he had drawn of Spain’s incompetence persisted within intellectual circles. This received notion of Spanish character now required a new explanation, and as the next sections explore, a variety of new theories would be advanced. Indeed, long after climatological theory was disesteemed, Montesquieu’s work represented a symbolic wound that continued to generate reactions in Spain throughout the nineteenth century. Historians such as Modesto Lafuente, Santiago Gómez, and Fernando Patxot y Ferrer glorified the Spanish collective in a series of laudes Hispanie that linked the national character to a geographic environment described in Arcadian terms (Álvarez Junco 2001, 202–6). Even later, at the turn of the century, Hispanists such as Valera and Altamira still felt obliged to address Montesquieu’s representation of the Spaniards. 7 I suggest that Montesquieu’s statements endured in part because he mixed his climatological claims with a brief argument about the impact of riches on social psychology. British political economists would delve into this theory, raising an argument that acquired great resonance within Spain itself.
Poverty out of Wealth: The Persuasive Discourse of Political Economy
Despite the decline of climatological theory, Enlightenment circles in Europe and especially agrarian economists in the eighteenth century considered the environment and natural resources significant in the material development of nations. Thus, while Hume rejected climatological theory, he put forward the theory that natural affluence brought indolence and poverty (Macfarlane 2001, 87–88). Hume not only applied this theory to the tropics but also, in Of Commerce (published 1752), presented Spain, Italy, and France as examples of the paradox of poverty born out of wealth (20), suggesting that the superior soil and benign climate of Southern Europe neither stimulated labor nor spurred invention, industry, or commerce. This theory resonated with British political economy up to the mid-nineteenth century and also influenced Spanish economists such as Manuel Colmeiro y Penido, who in 1863 complained that the Spanish peasants, overconfident in the fertility of their land, had transmitted their lack of ambition to other guilds. As a result, he claimed, the feverish activity of the wealthy and industrialized nations of Europe did not stir the blood of the Spaniards (42).
At the same time that Spanish indolence was explained as a result of its natural wealth, portraits of Spain as a barren land circulated in European discourse, reaching the exact same conclusion. Among others, the History of Civilization in England (first published 1862) by Henry Thomas Buckle provided a famous and controversial depiction of Spain as a land of such heat, aridity, and dryness that labor was rendered almost impossible. In an article from 1868, Valera lamented that the image of an uncultivable, “African” desert where commerce or agriculture could barely flourish had extended to Spain itself and paradoxically coexisted with the escapist renditions of the laudes Hispanie . He called for a rejection of both representations and objected to the idea that Spaniards “didn’t serve for industry” and were “radically lazy,” arguing that such statements would condemn them to “perpetual inferiority” (1958, 750). Intellectuals such as Menéndez Pelayo repeated critiques against Buckle, and even Altamira still warned in 1917 that it was worrisome that Buckle’s inaccurate analysis persisted both abroad and in Spain itself:
los pueblos no esperan para formar criterio de sí mismos á que la ciencia les dé una contestación definitiva, sino que lo forman de un modo precientífico con los elementos que están á su alcance, y con él viven. . . . Un ejemplo de esto lo hallaremos en la enorme influencia que los juicios de Buckle acerca de la historia de España han ejercido durante mucho tiempo, en propios y extraños. (1917, 161–62)
[Nations do not wait to build a criteria for themselves until science gives them a definite answer, but they build it in a prescientific manner with the elements that are within their reach and they live with it. . . . We find an example of this in the enormous influence that Buckle’s judgments on the history of Spain have for a long time exercised on nationals and foreigners alike.]
Among the foreign authors accused of biased interpretations of Spain and its colonization of America, Altamira mentioned Buckle and also Adam Smith, a complex figure in Spanish public culture (1924, 64): Smith was praised as the father of the new political economy, but also criticized—even by his first translator into Spanish—for his depiction of Spanish rule in America as despotic and violent. 8 Despite this criticism, Smith’s concrete diagnosis of Spain’s financial state was not generally challenged, even though it negatively evaluated the economic behavior of the Spanish nationals.
By the late eighteenth century, from the nascent school of classical liberalism emerged an interpretation that, parallel to Hume’s theory about natural wealth indulging indolence, appointed Spain’s mercantilist economy as the source not only of its poverty, but also of the lazy, conformist character of its inhabitants. Following the French Physiocratic school, British political economists such as Adam Smith, Josiah Tucker, George Whatley, and Henry Home, Lord Kames, attacked a mercantilist system that they identified with Spain. These authors decried government interference and bullionism, the accumulation of gold and silver. According to them, Spain’s mercantilist policies had seriously damaged Spanish industry and trade, and the surplus of precious metals had stunted the nation’s enterprising initiative. This thesis exerted a tremendous influence in Spain, where, from the late eighteenth century to the nineteenth century, political economists defended librecambistas’ measures and cried over the evils of past mercantilist politics. In the early modern period, Spain produced a large corpus of mercantilist theory, but, as Elvira Vilches has examined, the influx of precious metals from America also triggered intense cultural anxieties about the perception that society was falling into unproductivity and conspicuous consumption (2010, 323). These discourses contributed to the association of this economic system with Spain even though contemporary researchers have questioned whether mercantilist measures were that successfully implemented. According to Regina Grafe, while Spain became the example of everything that could go wrong with mercantilism during the “free trade era,” the thinkers of the mercantilist age considered no other place in Europe to have failed at enforcing mercantilist policies as conspicuously as Spain, a polycentric state with a strong political participation from the municipal and regional institutions (2014, 257). Fabián Estapé has also remarked that even in Spain free-trade apologists adduced insufficient and unsound data to criticize the mercantilist past and plead for the implementation of economic liberalism (1990, 112). Regardless of the accuracy of the identification of the Spanish economy as mercantilist—a debate that continues today—the portrait of Spain by British political economists seemed to hold preconceived notions of Spain as a bellicose nation too unrefined for the age of commerce.
In the highly influential An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (first published in 1776), Smith reaffirmed the idea of Spain’s ineptitude for commerce through a critique of Spanish mercantilism that emphasized the irrational and despotic nature of continuous Spanish governments that had exerted “absurd and foolish” regulations of commerce (1843, 221) and “sanguinary laws” preventing the exportation of metal (209). This description of the backward and tyrannical Spain not only evoked Montesquieu’s climatological conclusions but also built upon the representation of Spain undertaken by John Locke and other English precursors of the British Enlightenment. As Eva Botella-Ordinas (2010) has noted, from the late seventeenth century British authors supported England’s territorial aspirations in America by praising British rational productivity, comparing it to a Spanish administration that condemned its colonial possessions to waste. A century later, Smith raised his doubts about the profitability of the colonial enterprise (1843, 274) and yet still ranked nations according to their ability to make their colonies productive. Following Locke, Smith described the English colonies as more propitious to the improvement of land and by far the best colonial regime in the Americas (234). In hierarchizing colonial powers, Smith maintained that the French colonies were not as efficient as the English, but at least the French exhibited a “superiority of conduct” in contrast to the “arbitrary and violent” management of the Spanish and Portuguese (232–41).
Smith also critiqued the blind bullionist politics of the Spaniards, establishing a relationship between metal accumulation, unproductivity, and the end of manufacturing in Spain and Portugal (251). He followed the thesis of his mentor, Henry Home, Lord Kames, who in 1774 analyzed the case of Spain and concluded that manufacturing could never flourish in a country with abundant mines of gold and silver (1:80–85). For Kames, Spain and Portugal provided “instructive political lessons” on how metal accumulation encouraged a habit of idleness that would be quite difficult to eliminate: “Vices generated by opulence are not soon eradicated. And though other vices should at last vanish with the temptations that promoted them, indolence and pusillanimity will remain forever, unless by some powerful cause the opposite virtues be introduced” (1774, 1:452).
Another leading British economists of the time, Reverend Josiah Tucker, shared Lord Kames’s fatalistic evaluation when referring to Spain. For Tucker, Spain served as the counterexample, a warning to his compatriots that opulence obtained through the colonies and not from the labor of trade and industry eroded work ethic and killed inventiveness. Tucker conceded that this could have happened to the British, rejoicing in their failure to conquer Spanish territories in the Caribbean during the War of Jenkins’ Ear. In a deterministic tone, he proclaimed that Spaniards could hardly break free from their now-ingrained defect and source of misfortunes: their “pride elated with imaginary wealth, and abject poverty without resource” (1774, 26).
Foreign authors insisted on this thesis up to the very end of the Spanish rule in continental Spanish America. Between 1820 and 1822 the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham addressed to the Spaniards a series of letters, collected in Rid Yourselves of Ultramaria , about the pernicious effects of colonialism on Spanish commerce and constitutional democracy. 9 Most Spanish intellectuals rejected the claims about the despotic rule of Spaniards in America raised by many classical economists, and during his exile in London in 1823, the former minister of finance José Canga Argüelles even accused England of urging Spain to recognize the independence of the American colonies for the advantage of the British “hawkers” (Sydney Smith 1999, 320). Yet, despite the negative portraits drawn by these political arguments, the works of British economists enjoyed considerable success in Spain, where the librecambistas of the late eighteenth century had found a harmony between some British postulates and their own beliefs.
Some of the first advocates of classical liberalism in Spain, Enlightenment intellectuals such as Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes and Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, not only critiqued mercantilist practices—in some instances they even preceded Smith—but also participated in the discourse about Spanish indolence. Ruth MacKay has argued that these reformers created distorted ideas about the conception of work and social class in early modern Spain, spreading the idea that Spaniards disdained manual work and found trade a humiliating occupation (2006, 120–21). MacKay noted that neither of these activities had been considered so degrading, nor had Spanish noblemen differed much from their European counterparts; however, Spanish intellectuals exaggerated this depiction in order to legitimate their economic and social reforms (165–81).
Throughout a great part of the nineteenth century, the free-trade doctrine first advocated by these enlightened intellectuals attracted several generations of Spanish economists. Despite their differences about how to implement this economic philosophy, Canga Argüelles, Álvaro Flórez Estrada, José Joaquín de Mora, Marqués del Valle Santoro (1840), and to some extent Eudald Jaumeandreu shared an optimistic view of the transformative power of the new political economy, a hope well illustrated by the enthusiastic statement of Flórez Estrada in 1846, “El hombre que dé a España el libre comercio habrá hecho mayor beneficio a su patria que Colón enseñando el camino de América” (cited in Estapé 1990, 60) [The man who gives Spain free trade will have done a greater service to his country than Columbus showing the path to America]. Flórez Estrada’s words also revealed the growing belief among librecambistas that the American colonies had impoverished Spain. While political economists and royal officials of the mid-eighteenth century such as José del Campillo underscored the crucial importance of the Indies and American trade for the internal and international recovery of Spain, most nineteenth-century economic manuals appraised in retrospect that colonization had constituted an economic drain on Spain. Despite their differences, these manuals generally agreed that the enterprise had entailed enormous expenses and that mercantilist politics had been both misguided and damaging to the Spanish national character. The fatal consequences of bullionism repeatedly appeared in these manuals, revealing some fear about the urgency with which Spain needed to develop the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit required in modern life. As Juan Bravo Murillo, minister of commerce and finance during the reign of Isabella II, commented, “[con el dinero de las Américas] nos hicimos menos trabajadores, menos industriosos de lo que éramos

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