Cartels and conquistadors -- who are worse?
Dear Mexican: Much has been said about the terrible things happening to the United States and its citizens at the hands of Mexican drug cartels. But what's the difference between the modern-day cartels and the Big Four of the period between 1492 and 1775? I refer you to the kings of England, France, Portugal and Spain who invaded the Americas. The invaders didn't bring cocaine, pot or meth but they brought various diseases that led to the deaths of many thousands of native people. And, of course, they brought their heavyweight weapon: religion. Today, many people and our economy are hurt by today's cartels, and I'm not defending them in any way, but it strikes me the cartels of today are pikers compared with their predecessors.
Dear Wab: The natives were muy religious, but otherwise, your analysis doesn't go far enough. You forgot to mention how, like the cartels, the conquistadors fought each other for trade routes, killing each other and innocents in the process. How they demanded tribute from villagers and terrorized them with public displays of brutality. How the conquistadors built empires that enriched only themselves and created serfs out of those whom they didn't bribe into submission. The only real difference between the conquistadors and drug cartels is that the former did it in the name of Christ — and even the narcos aren't that pendejo.
Does it make any sense to you that, in some cities in Mexico, there are statues of the Spanish conquistadors?
—Lies my Maestro Told Me
Dear Wab: Of course it does. Because although the conquistadors raped and murdered countless indigenous folks, they represent order and progress to Mexico's elite, the very people who have the money to erect statues and are more than proud to claim direct ancestry from the barbarians. Witness the furor that happened last year when the city of Merida in the Yucatan erected a statue to its founder, the conquistador Francisco de Montejo. Even though Montejo laid waste to the Mayas back in the 16th century, and even though the descendants of the vanquished protested loudly, the city's elites erected the statue. And the same controversy happens whenever someone commemorates Juan de Oñate, the conquistador who swung his sword through New Mexico, much to the delight of the Hispanos who claim no Injun blood in their veins. But it's not just an elite-Mexican thing to side with the cruel — just look at the Southern love for the Confederacy.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.