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Friday, October 12, 2012

Columbus Day, Spanish Style

The Pinta replica in Philadelphia.
Around these parts, Spain is admired as a country and an amazing history. So, I'm going to take Columbus Day (today) as the culmination of Hispanic Heritage Month. Columbus was sailing for Spain and wrote in Spanish, and it was the Spanish empire on which the sun never set, a century or two before Britain earned that accolade.

Here is a loose translation of the chapter called "In Praise of Spain" from Alfonso X's Estoria de Espanna. "Spain" here is sort of a vague term referring to all of the Iberian Peninsula and the additional territories described.

God honored each land and province in the world, and gave each his gift, but among all the lands, it was Spain in the West that He honored most, for he stocked her with all those things men usually crave. Ever since the Goths went through all the lands from one end to the other, trying them out with battles and wars and conquering many places in the provinces of Asia and Europe (as we mentioned), trying out many living spaces in each place and choosing the most beneficial place amongst them all, they found that Spain was the best of all. They prized her well above all the others, because amongst all the lands of the world, Spain has a higher degree of abundance and goodness than any other land.

It is also closed all around: from one side the Pyrenees go all the way to the sea, and the Ocean Sea is on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. In Spain is also Gothic Gaul, which is the province of Narbonne all together with the cities of Rodez, Albi and Béziers, which belonged to this province in the time of the Goths. Also in Africa it had a province with control over ten cities which was called Tingitana, which was under the sovereignty of the Goths like all these others.

So this Spain we're talking about is like God's Paradise, which is watered with five principal rivers, which are the Ebro, Duero, Tagus, Guadalquivir, and Guadiana. And each of these has between them and the others great mountains and lands, and the valleys and plains are great and wide, and because of the goodness of the land and the humidity of the rivers, they bring forth many fruits and are abundant. The greater part of Spain is irrigated with rivers and fountains, and wells are never lacking in places where they're needed. Spain is abundant in grain fields, delightful with fruits, pleasureful with fish, delicious with milk and all the things made with it, full of deer and game, covered with livestock, healthy with horses, profitable with mules, secure and supplied with castles, fortunate with good wines, comfortable with an abundance of bread, rich in metals: lead, pewter, quicksilver, iron, bronze, silver, and gold; precious stones, all manner of marble, sea salt and salt marshes and salt rocks and many other ores: azure, red ochre, clay, aluminum, and many others that are found in other lands; spirited with silk and everything made with it, sweet with honey and sugar, illuminated with wax, satisfied with oil, fortunate with saffron. Spain is above all others ingenious, daring and vigorous in battle, light with work, loyal to one's lord, avid in study, palatine with words, perfect with all good things. There is no other land in the world that is like her in abundance, and none equals her in fortresses, and there are few in the world as large as she is. Spain is advanced before the others in greatness and valued more than others for loyalty. Oh, Spain! There is no tongue or genius that can tell all your goodness!

Happy Most Controversial Day of the Year!