Wednesday, November 22, 2006


The Kingdom of Spain eagerly set about colonizing large portions of North, Central and South America , throughout the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century, and obtained a colossal financial benefit from this endeavor, that transformed the small European country into the superpower of that era. The first Spaniards to arrive in the Americas were given the honorary title of "Conquistadores" (Conquerors) whose mission was to claim whatever territory they came across in the name of the Spanish Crown, by any means including violence. In turn, the Spanish monarchy allowed the Conquistadores to possess a certain area of land and gave them the right to rule over the American natives.
At the height of their power, the Spaniards had settled from California in the North to Patagonia in the south, except for Brazil, that had been shared with their cousins, the Portuguese. The Spaniards mixed with the American natives and formed a new race called the Creoles, that would in turn become the rulers of the new republics formed after independence from Spain. It is estimated that during the colonial era some 2 million Spaniards and other Europeans arrived in the Americas, mostly unemployed individuals, pardoned criminals and adventurers. Other major waves of European immigrants arrived in South America during most of the 19th century after independence from Spain and Portugal when the newly independent republics demanded a qualified and skilled labor force. During the twentieth century, the wars and economic crisis in Europe forced millions of Spaniards, Italians , Germans and other nationalities to immigrate to South America. One of the countries that received huge numbers of Europeans was Argentina, mainly Spaniards and Italians, forming an explosive racial mixture that together with an extremely wealthy economy caused the Argentineans to acquire a superiority complex. Many Argentineans considered themselves as "Italians that spoke Spanish" and their arrogant personality and prosperity caused them to be hated and envied by the other South Americans. Due to the famine and unemployment that hit Europe after World War 1 and World War II, Argentina became the main supplier of foodstuffs to Europe, specially Spain and Italy, whose economies were on the floor. Argentina even donated millions of tons of meat and corn to feed the starving masses in those countries. Argentina's economy continued booming until the decade of the 70s, but then, as in the rest of the continent, political and economic turmoil struck the proud birthplace of Evita Peron. To make a long story short, an economic crisis along with the psychological impact of the defeat in the Falklands War brought Argentineans back to reality and forced hundreds of thousands of them to return to their "homelands", Spain and Italy, whose economies were now in expansion. The Spanish government has 3 million individuals registered with dual Spanish-Argentinean nationalities, that at present do not need entry visas into Spain. However, many of these people travel to Spain allegedly as tourists but with the intention of staying there to work, and this influx has caused a strong demand on housing and medical services, not to mention pressure on the labor market. Thousands of Italo-Argentineans gather every day outside the Italian embassy in Buenos Aires in order to apply for passports or entry visas, but due to their numbers, the embassy has stated that many applicants will have to wait for as long as two years to obtain the documents. The Spanish government has confirmed that there are 800,000 legal South American residents, mostly from Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, but the numbers of illegal immigrants could add up to much more. This situation has caused the Spanish immigration authorities to consider demanding entry visas to Argentineans and Bolivians, as it has already done with Colombians, Ecuadorians and Peruvians. So many Ecuadorians have arrived in Spain that they have occupied whole towns, causing violent clashes with the locals, that have resent the presence of these modern day "invaders". Recently a common catchphrase among Spaniards has been "Beware of the Argentineans, they will trick you, the Colombians will kill you and the Chileans will rob you". Chileans do not need an entry visa into Spain, but gangs of local criminals known as "Cogoteros" have made use of this opportunity to travel to Spain to commit their crimes where they can "earn" more. The "Cogoteros" have become so notorious with their bank robberies, shoplifting, pickpocketing and burglaries that they have forced the Spanish police to set up a special branch to combat their activities.
Is history backfiring on the Spaniards ? Did the "Conquistadores" ever imagine that their colonizing venture began five centuries ago would bring these results ? As the old saying goes "Sow winds and you will reap a storm"

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