The decline of the Spanish race

Another sentimental tango from from Tio de la Tiza and the Bebabouched Moors demonstrates a firmly-rooted belief in 1891 Cadiz in the Decadence of the Nation, even before the disaster of 1898 and its long aftermath exacerbated the gulf between a diligently managed press and wild popular fears:

Una inocente niña llorando estaba
y con acento triste
de esta manera se lamentaba.

Cuando querrá cansarse
mi negra suerte
para vivir así
prefiero la muerte.

Hace ya tiempo
que sin quejarme vengo sufriendo
el hambre me ahoga,
yo me estoy muriendo.

Mis protectores
no tratan más que de aniquilarme
todos me desprecian,
y quieren robarme.

Un anciano venerable
que conmigo la escuchaba
con sentimiento decía
mientras la niña lloraba.

Sabe usted lo que estoy pensando,
que esa niña de mis entrañas
se parece si no me engaño
a una nación que se llama España.

Many Americans had taken this for granted since in the words of George C Furber (The twelve months volunteer; or, journal of a private, in the Tennessee regiment of cavalry, in the campaign, in Mexico, 1846-7)

Another flag unrolled its folds from the lofty turrets, and the North American descendants of the English, banished the enervated descendants of the Spanish race, and trod in triumph the “Halls of the Montezumas.”

HG Wells wrote around the same time:

No generalisations about race are too extravagant for the inflamed credulity of the present time. No attempt is ever made to distinguish differences in inherent quality–the true racial differences–from artificial differences due to culture. No lesson seems ever to be drawn from history of the fluctuating incidence of the civilising process first upon this race and then upon that. The politically ascendant peoples of the present phase are understood to be the superior races, including such types as the Sussex farm labourer, the Bowery tough, the London hooligan, and the Paris apache; the races not at present prospering politically, such as the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Spanish, the Moors, the Chinese, the Hindoos, the Peruvians, and all uncivilised people are represented as the inferior races, unfit to associate with the former on terms of equality, unfit to intermarry with them on any terms, unfit for any decisive voice in human affairs. (A new Utopia, 1905)

Unfortunately Kipling sang louder, and those who did hear Wells tended to misinterpret or misuse him.

Les Apaches have been somewhat forgotten. Is La maison Philibert the novel? It’s certainly filthy enough, but les Triplettes de [Apache den] Belleville already occupy a different world. C has my copy of Amor se escribe sin hache, but I believe Jardiel Poncela had both the American and the Parisian Apaches die of alcohol and ridicule. Manuel López Cañamaque wrote carnival material for Los Apaches Parisienses, but that’s all I know.

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  1. George Orwell mentions the Apaches in Down and Out in Paris and London (quotes via Amazon’s Search Inside):

    ‘One day there turned up at the hotel a young Italian who called himself a compositor. He was rather an ambiguous person, for he wore side whiskers, which are the mark either of an apache or an intellectual, and nobody was quite certain in which class to put him.’


    ‘Downstairs, in the murky kitchen, three ambiguous-looking youths in smartish blue suits were sitting on a bench apart, ignored by the other lodgers. I suppose they were “nancy boys.” They looked the same type as the apache boys one sees in Paris, except that they wore no side-whiskers.’

    I read the book as a 14-year-old without access to Wikipedia, and had no idea what the word meant then; I suppose I conflated it with the nancy boys for a long time. Thanks for filling me in!

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