Hernán Cortés Sat Down & CriedSunday, October 27, 2019
|Árbol de la Noche Triste,Tacuba México|
In this century we live in absurd times. Supposing I write here that I am insulted that Queen Victoria, who was singly responsible for genocide in India and Africa, had the temerity to name our province British Columbia. Columbia derives from Christopher Columbus who practiced genocide and brought disease to what he thought was China and others thought was a new world. He paraded his “Indians” back in Spain and introduced tobacco a much worse habit than what inspired Bach to write his Coffee Cantata BWV211.
I propose that we change the name of our province.
You might think me mad because I am taking political correctness and the re-writing of history to some level of absurdity. As I wrote above, we live in absurd times.
October 12th came and went here in Vancouver. I had a hard time reading in papers and in social media comments on the event that happened in 1492. Because I was raised in Buenos Aires I can write that Columbus sailed for his China (and by 1950 the New World) from the Spanish port of Palos (near the present fino sherry port of San Lúcar de Barrameda) in three caravels, la Santa María, La Pinta and La Niña.
Until recently you could find a large statue of Columbus in every Latin American city. October the 12th is called El Día de la Raza.
Americans living in California might identify that expression “la Raza” as a self definition by Americans of Mexican origin. It is a proud self definition.
I remember that by the time Mexico hosted the 1968 Olympics they were calling themselves “la raza cobre” or copper coloured race. By that year there was no longer this deprecation about not being white. This is something that my Argentine compatriots might adopt as I believe that racism is the greatest ill of my country and the reason for all the political upheavals there.
Because the Spaniards intermarried with local indigenous populations this gave rise to the mestizo population.
But if you stop and consider that the Latin American Columbus Day is El Día de la Raza you might understand that in spite of all that went wrong a right has been eked out. It is a celebration of a new “race”, one that mixes the Western whites with the indigenous natives.
A place to reflect this is at El Árbol de La Noche Triste. This is a cypress that was flourishing when Cortés invaded Tenochtitlan. His hordes weighed down by gold and silver were close to being massacred on 30 June 1520 in a district called then and now Tacuba. It was here where that tree was growing. The legend says that Cortés sat down by the tree and cried. This was the sorrowful night of Mexican history taught to this day.
We know that in the end Cortés was successful and the beginning of the end of the Aztec empire was at hand.
The first time I went to see the tree I could discern some growth. By the time I was there in the late 70s is was a shell of a tree.
I sat down and immediately I was hit by three memories of my youth when I was 16 in Mexico City. I was taken by my mother to Chapultepec Castle. There I saw these very tiny green/blue silk slippers that were owned by Carlota (Emperor Maximilian’s wife). That she survived after he was shot in 1867 in Querétaro to die well into the 20th century in 1927, is amazing. Not far from the slippers I would stare at Cortes’s armour. It was tiny. This man, this size did all that? Further on in the sala, behind a glass window was a beautiful jade chess set. The Spaniards where light green, the Aztecs were dark green. When I returned in 1987 the armour and the chess set were gone. In the communications office they told me that what had seen was impossible as those artifacts had never existed. And thus history is cleaned up.
There are rumours that the modern Egyptians plan to sue for reparations the Hittites that invaded their ancestors the Ancient Egyptians. Bring that on.
What is interesting with all the shenanigans of taking down the statues of Confederate generals and the like in the US, is that I have never ever seen in all the years that I lived in Mexico a single statue of Hernán Cortés.