“Nuestros Españoles”: Hispanic Identity in the Habsburg Historical Imagination

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 3:30 PM
Mercury Ballroom (New York Hilton)
Katherine Elliot van Liere, Calvin College
The image of the pre-Roman “Spaniard” or “Iberian” as the quintessential bearer of Hispanic identity, which endures in contemporary Spanish culture, has roots in classical literature, but underwent its most distinctive transformations in the Habsburg imperial age.  As J.A. Maravall pointed out long ago, the twin concepts of Hispania and the homo hispanus predated the medieval Spanish Christian kingdoms.  Classical Roman writers depicted valiant hispani comparable to Tacitus’s ancient Germani.  The homo hispanus went underground in the Middle Ages – not, as with Tacitus, because classical manuscripts vanished from view, but because medieval Christian chroniclers embraced a providentialist vision of Christian Spain.  They elevated the Gothic kings over their Hispanic subjects, and generally disregarded the earlier chapters of Iberian history.  Fifteenth and sixteenth-century writers resurrected the classical image of the hispanus, under the influence of Italian humanism but with a distinctly anti-Italian twist.  Their early Renaissance hispani were the heroic resisters of Roman occupation.  At the end of the fifteenth century, the chronicler Florián de Ocampo, drawing on the forged commentaries of Annius of Viterbo, sketched a more complex image of the pre-Roman Hispani or españoles as good but simple folk who were exploited, but also civilized, by a long series of foreign conquests.  Ocampo’s hispani (whom he fondly called “our Spaniards”) were thus not only the prototype of modern Castilians or Aragonese, but also precursors to the Amerindians who were being subjugated by the Spanish in his own day.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation