By Hugo J. Byrne
Americans are by no means perfect, and my wife and I can vouch for that. You see, out of our seven children (three hers, four mine), six were born in this country. We also have a total of seven grandchildren (again, four mine and three hers), all American by birth, the oldest age 21 and the youngest 8 months old.
Because of that not so small detail, coupled by our 40 plus years each of working, building, living and observing this unique society -from the vintage point of someone born and reaching adulthood abroad- we are confident at having a certain authority on the subject matter.
The subject matter as the title suggests, is the anti-American sentiment so prevalent today among Moslem countries and certain Latin American and European elites, the latter most pointedly in France and Spain. These attitudes are abhorrent and offensive to all Americans, but especially to mainstream Americans by choice. Anti-Americanism has resurfaced with gusto worldwide, in the wake of our justified strong national reaction to the criminal events of September 11 of 2001.
Some grudges against our nation are deeply rooted in history, and those of Spain can be traced over one hundred years back. Evidence of that historical, seminal antipathy can be read on an essay authored by Spanish journalist Juan Manuel de Prada and published by Madrid's influential ABC on Jan. 28 2002.
In that most unfair -if typical- tirade, Prada equates the battle of Manila Bay with Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. "That is a justifiable reason for our lasting hate of the Yankees", writes Prada. The Cuban struggle for independence -over 13 years of bloodletting and suffering, with over 300,000 deaths out of a population under 2,000,000 at the time- is dismissed by Prada as "our business overseas."
Don Juan Manuel chose to ignore the fact that all people engaged in the action at Manila -victors as well as vanquished- were military men doing exactly what they were supposed to do. That alone would set wide apart Manila from the Twin Towers, where as it always is with terrorism, all victims were innocent. Furthermore, both the attack at the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor had something in common, which was absent in the Philippines of 1898.
When on the 20th of April President McKinley signed into law the joint congressional resolution for intervention in Cuba, hostilities between U.S. and the Kingdom of Spain became a fact. Not only was Admiral Montojo, commander of the Spanish fleet in the Philippines aware of that, but he knew the blockade of Cuba had taken place on Friday April 22. On April 28, Montojo also received a telegram from the Spanish Consul in Hong Kong informing on Commodore Dewey's movements: "The enemy's squadron sailed at 2 pm from Mirs Bay, and according to reliable accounts they are sailing for Subic to destroy our squadron and then will go to Manila." Dewey arrived in Philippines on May 1st and in short order sunk the Spanish squadron and blockaded the port.
Totally oblivious of history, Prada in his article characterized the Spanish fleet in Philippines as "off-guard." That is an absurd fabrication and both Prada and ABC are aware of it. Prada also resurrects the old fable of the American Navy's sinking the "Maine" at the cost of 266 of its own officers and sailors, in order to justify the war with Spain. In his anti-American irrational frenzy, Prada parallels the jingoism of the Hearst papers which demanded revenge against Spain for "blowing up our battleship."
The cause of the explosion in Havana harbor has never been scientifically explained with certainty. The investigation led by Admiral Rickover in 1976 places the blame for the explosion on the ignition of bituminous coal -not an uncommon accident in warships by 1898- making the source of the event both internal and accidental. The examination performed by commission of The National Geographic Society in 1998, done with the help of state of the art computer modeling, indicates a fifty-fifty percent possibility of inside or outside origin for the blast. Historically, there is no evidence of foul play by anyone, and bringing up again the "self-sinking" fable is preposterous.
We fail to understand how a respected newspaper like ABC accepted as fit to print such a superficial piece, not only filled with inaccuracies, but also devoid of good taste. For Prada is not just making hash of history, his work is obscene with profanity and anti-American silliness.
No doubt, this is the same irrational anti-Yankee bad blood that encouraged Franco to maintain diplomatic and economic ties with Castro, not only against the best interest of both Spanish and Cuban people, but also ignoring Castro's unfair and hysterical insults against Spain, not to mention the legitimate grievances of many Spanish subjects, utterly and forcibly dispossessed by the communist tyrant of their hard earned properties in Cuba.
Ironically Prada's work aims to expose the anti-American left-wing bias, which he castigates as unfounded and devoid of real justification, as compared to his historical "legitimate" anti-gringo grievances. In the process he lightly touches on one very objective note by denouncing as hypocritical the hysterical protestations about the treatment of the AlQueda's detainees in Guantanamo, comparing it with the real usual mistreatment of any dissent by Castro's totalitarian regime. Castro is not mentioned by name, but the just reference to his misdeeds is widely evident.
Prada ends this absurd and incongruent article by stating his belief that Spaniards should disguise their anti-American feelings temporarily, until the fake "antiamericanos" are history (?). Then, they could expose and remind everybody "The felonies of a Nation (that is) at times so admirable and at times so execrable."
We Cuban-Americans are justifiable proud of our Spanish culture and heritage, our Cuban ancestry and our American nationality. Prada's article is a caricature of all three.