Death in the Afternoon

Letter From Spain

In the 16th century, Spain was the wonder of Europe, with her vast empire in Latin America and the Philippines and her wealthy possessions in the southern Netherlands and Italy.  She came close to defeating and ruling England and Holland and, for a time, annexed Portugal with her colonial empire in Africa, Asia, and Brazil.  Spain was a country united by a fierce Catholicism that had been developed over the centuries in which the Iberian peninsula had been reclaimed from its Muslim invaders and occupiers.  The Spaniards were a proud people who made Spanish a world language and peopled the world with their descendants.

The following centuries were ones of political and economic decline.  Occupation by Napoleon’s savage and rapacious armies (so well portrayed by Goya), unilateral declarations of independence by the Latin American colonies, and humiliating defeat in the Spanish-American War destroyed Spanish power.  A failure to achieve economic development and alleviate poverty led to the disastrous and destructive Spanish Civil War (1936-39).  Anarchists destroyed churches and murdered priests, monks, and nuns.  Communists took their orders from the Soviet Union.  Hitler and Mussolini provided military support for General Franco, who was able to establish a brutal dictatorship.  Even in the early 1930’s, he had encouraged his Moorish troops to commit atrocities against strikers...

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