Does Quixote Drink Coca-Cola? Americanism, Anti-Americanism, and Americanization in Twentieth-Century Spain

AHA Session 140
Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 4
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Chicago Ballroom A (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Jessica Davidson, James Madison University
The Audience

Session Abstract

While the questions regarding the Americanization of Europe have been well explored in Germany and France, and to some extent in England, Austria, and Italy, very little research has been done on the subject with regards to Spain.  Despite the presence of numerous American military bases in Spain for more than 30 years and Spaniards’ obvious love for blue jeans, Marlboro cigarettes, and American movies, Spain has been left out of the many debates surrounding Americanization.  The main purpose of this panel is to insert the case of Spain into these debates.  By doing so, the four papers of this panel make three important contributions to the discussion of Americanization and to the history of Europe in the twentieth century.

First, the panel highlights the overlapping – and often contradictory – political, cultural, and economic connections between the United States and Spain in the twentieth century.  Second, by focusing specifically on the often overlooked country of Spain, the four contributions offer a better understanding of the processes of Americanization in Europe as a whole after 1945.  Specifically, they show that European countries have not all embraced (or rejected) American culture in the same way, to the same degree, and for the same reasons.  Finally, the panel offers a fresh perspective on the highly debated historiographical question of whether Spain’s development in the twentieth century has been fundamentally the same or different from the rest of Europe.  Or, in other words, was Francisco Franco ultimately correct when he proclaimed: “Spain is different!”

Each paper addresses the connections between the United States and Spain from a different methodological or thematic perspective.  The first paper surveys Spanish perceptions of the United States throughout the twentieth century, and tries to gauge the impact of specific American images on the country’s successive political regimes.  The second paper demonstrates Spain’s complicated relationship with American culture specifically during the early Franco regime by showing the surprising ease with which Spanish theatre directors could alternately attack and embrace American popular culture to serve both political and economic ends.  Building off the recent work of Victoria de Grazia (Irresistible Empire, 2005), the third paper then shows how the coming of mass retail Americanized Spanish consumer culture produced changes in Spanish lifestyles that eroded Franco’s ideological hold on his people, and eventually contributed toward Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy after 1975.  Finally, the fourth paper examines Spaniards’ love-hate relationship with the United States after the death of Franco in 1975, and considers the effect of this on creating new democratic identities in the 1980s. 

This panel was specifically designed to include professional, geographical, institutional, and gender diversity.  The panel includes one senior full professor, three assistant professors, and one graduate student.  In addition, one of the members is a foreign scholar from Spain, and another is from the discipline of Literary Studies.  Three panelists come from public colleges or universities, and two come from private institutions.  Finally, including the panel Chair, there are two women and three men on the panel.


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