Were the Conquistadors the Original Cartels?
DEAR MEXICAN: This is the second rant I've felt I had to send to you. I don't know if readers are allowed "seconds," but here it goes: Much has been said about the terrible things happening to the United States and its citizens thanks to the 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 during that period. The invaders didn't bring cocaine, pot or meth, but they brought various diseases that, if I read history correctly, led to the death of many thousands of native peoples. And, of course, they brought their heavyweight weapon, the one I believe Lenin called the opiate of the masses: 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 they are pikers compared to their predecessors, who killed an untold number of native peoples and stole a continent.
DEAR WAB: Sloppy seconds are always welcome here, cabrón! It was Marx who dropped the line about religion, not Lenin (he wrote of religion that it's "a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man"), and 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 over trade routes, killing one another and innocents in the process. How they demanded tribute from villagers and terrorized them with public displays of brutality to keep them in line. 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 to pull that card.
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DEAR MEXICAN: Does it make any sense to you that, in some cities in Mexico, there are statues of the Spanish conquistadors? After all, these were the same people who believed they were superior to the Mexicans so they had to force their ways on them, not to mention the slaughtering of thousands of Mexicans, too.
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DEAR WAB: Of course, it does. While 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 to the barbarians. Witness the furor last year, when the city of Merida in the Yucatan erected a statue of its founder, the conquistador Francisco de Montejo. Even though Montejo laid waste to the Mayans in the 16th Century, and even though the descendants of the vanquished protested loudly, the city's elite 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 Hispanics who claim no Injun blood in their veins and to the horror of everyone else. But it's not just an elite-Mexican thing to side with the cruel—just look at the southern love for the Confederacy.
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