The New York Times’ new project titled 1619 purports to reformulate American history through a series of articles and outreach programs that explore the way slavery has shaped practically all aspects of modern American society. Four hundred years ago this August, the first slave ship arrived in the United States.
Speaking on this subject with my colleagues, we ended up discussing the different ways countries have of viewing history. The subject of Spain’s Law of Historical Memory came up and, suddenly, one of my colleagues said about The New York Times project, “at least you all did not take 400 years, like we did.”
It was a commonplace conversation at the end of a class, but in the car on my way home, I continued to mull over the fact that, after sixteen years of living in the United States, I have a more or less clear idea about the history of slavery in this country and about the context surrounding the removal of many public monuments related to the subject, but I am not aware of having a clear idea about the history of slavery in my country of origin…
And then I hit on the illuminating article by Xavi Domingo about The Unknown History of Slavery in Spain. The piece offers an overview of the historical figures who became rich in the slave trade and who continue to have monuments in the squares. And then, thanks to Xenealoxia.org and RTVE, Spain’s public television and radio corporation, I jumped to one of the most saddening chapters of our history: in 1854, the Compañía Patriótico Mercantil, or Patriotic Trading Company, belonging to Ourense’s native son Urbano Feijóo y Sotomayor, transported to Cuba 1,744 Galicians as slaves.
Perhaps we have spent more years forgetting our atrocities than the Yankees?