HomeSpecialThe Prodigious Continent | Luis Britto Garcia

The Prodigious Continent | Luis Britto Garcia

Why invade America? The answers are obvious, but not satisfactory. New trade route with the East, after the fall of Constantinople? Any itinerary was straightforward, compared to the risky three-month sailing or a year's circumnavigation of unknown oceans. European desire to conquer territories? They had Africa right there, after a day's sailing to the South of the Mediterranean. Need for slaves? Precisely from Africa they had to be imported to America when mistreatment or plagues wiped out most of the Native Americans. Excessive riches? The first expeditions only looted moderate amounts of gold from Hispaniola, and pearls from Cubagua. The true cause of the invasion of America is the Prodigy.

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The stories of the Prodigy begin with the first contact. When Christopher Columbus arrives on Tierra Firme, he declares that he has rediscovered the headquarters of the Earthly Paradise. For this reason, it names Venezuela “Land of Grace”. According to the Admiral, the planet is not round, but pear-shaped, its highest region being the closest to the heavens. From it flow the four rivers of Paradise, one of which would be the Orinoco. In the rainy season, a cross of stars crosses the southern sky, similar to the one that Dante said would be seen from the antipodes.

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The chroniclers of the New World were not slow to increase the harvest of wonders. One certifies that the Tutanuchas have large ears, and that they sleep sheltering in them. Another village feeds on smelling flowers, and when smelling bad aromas, they die. Later, the true pirate Sir Walter Ralegh attests that in our Guiana there is a kingdom of warrior women, the Amazons, and another of men without heads, with mouths and eyes on their chests, the Ewaipanoma, and another of men with a single leg. In the Delta, one of its crew is eaten by a sea monster, most likely an alligator. Powerful trees sprout from the waters, and in them live a happy people, the Tivitivitas. The Caribs teach him a new vice, that of tobacco, which will ensure the delight and doom of millions. Everywhere, writes the visitor, there are very certain signs of gold.

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Well, what most attracts the attention of the invaders is the gold. In the New World are located all the prodigies that are missing in the Old: the Fountain of Eternal Youth, El Dorado. Prodigious legends are woven about it, mobilizing fleets and armies. It is a Chimera that decides the planetary destiny. Guillermo Céspedes del Castillo estimates that between 1531 and 1660 155.000 kilos of American gold and 16.986.0000 kilos of silver arrive in Seville. If contraband is added, perhaps 18.300.000 kilos of silver arrived in Europe during the XNUMXth century (Céspedes del Castillo, Guillermo: Hispanic America (1492-1898); Barcelona, ​​editorial Labor SA. 1985, p. 140). The conquests of Mexico and Peru flood Spain with cataracts of precious metals that assure it two centuries of hegemony, depress its economic development and, transferred to the rest of Europe in exchange for luxuries and superfluities, ensure the start of capitalism and European hegemony until the beginning. of the last century. Portugal, France, England, Holland, Denmark, Sweden join the sack of America. It is a colossal scramble that unleashes wars and whose prize is planetary domination. With its victimization, the Prodigious Continent unwittingly decides the fate of the globe.

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The colossal robbery, the total amount of which has yet to be calculated, makes it possible to overlook the other American prodigy: that of its inhabitants. When the invaders arrive, the New World is more populated than Europe. Tenochtitlan had more citizens than Madrid. In the Caribbean and the Amazon, the intruders find inhabitants who seem to have lived before the original sin, in communes without division of social classes or property other than that of the essential instruments for survival. In Mexico and the Andean mountain range they meet stratified empires, but also founded on communal property and group solidarity. All are successful civilizations, adapted to the environment, which provide their members with a high degree of happiness and develop complex cultures. Moctezuma had a library in which there were gold images of all the things of his Empire. But the policy of the invaders is extermination. The immolation of America is the largest genocide in history. Over sixty million original inhabitants die as a result of the Conquest. The invaders lacked the technical means to perpetrate such a colossal holocaust: part of it is due to the deprivations caused by vassalage and the diseases they introduced, against which the Americans lacked immune defense. Cortés conquers the Aztec capital by walking on a carpet of warriors who died of smallpox. The depopulation is so radical that the invaders must import slaves from Africa.

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Just as the gold taken from these lands animates the monster of capitalism, the buried humanities raise the postponed debate on social organization. The loot enables kings to hire mercenary armies and supplant outdated feudal structures with those of the Modern State. But the memory of the slain returns as a vast question on the conscience of the murderers. Bartolomé de las Casas denounces in fiery treaties the Destruction of the Indies. Saint Thomas More affirms that the traveler Rafael Hitloday has found in the New World the Utopia, egalitarian and with community property like that of our native peoples. Francis Bacon locates in our hemisphere The New Atlantis, in which scientific research according to its Novus Organum  develop prodigious machines, telescopes, airplanes, submarines. Montaigne studies in his magisterial Tests the so-called Question of the Savages, and reverses the prejudices accumulated on it. A whole transmutation of thought originates from the Prodigious Continent, and I won't say more, because Vladimir Acosta's book develops so many themes in depth and truth that they are hardly alluded to here.