The Author’s Corner with Richard Kagan

the spanish crazeRichard Kagan is Academy Professor and Arthur O. Lovejoy Professor Emeritus of History at Johns Hopkins University. This interview is based on his new book, The Spanish Craze: America’s Fascination with the Hispanic World, 1779-1939 (University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write The Spanish Craze?

RK: My interest in US attitudes towards Spain, and more broadly, Hispanic culture in general, dates to the early 1990s, and what I felt was the failure of the AHR, in keeping with the celebration of its centenary, to address the trajectory of US scholarship on Spain. The journal had commissioned articles on US historical scholarship on France, Italy, and other European countries, but not Spain. That lacuna led initially to my “Prescott’s Paradigm: American Historical Writing and the Decline of Spain,” published in the AHR in 1996, and later to other essays and articles on such related issues as the changing image of Spain in the US along the history of collecting of both Spanish and Spanish Colonial art. By 2009, after having explored the history of Spanish-themed architecture in the US, I decided a book that addressed these topics along with the often stormy political relationship between Spain and the US, the history of Spanish language instruction in the country, Spanish-themed movies, music, as well as literature demanded comprehensive treatment as well. The Spanish Craze is the result.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The Spanish Craze?

RK: Key to the book is “forgive and forget,” an idea which surfaced in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898, a conflict that ended an imperial rivalry that lasted for a well over a century. With Spain no longer to threat US interests, Americans, starting with Theodore Roosevelt, demonstrated a new fascination with Spanish culture–art, architecture, language, music and more –, essentially embracing much of that culture as their own.

JF: Why should we read The Spanish Craze?

RK: I believe that it enriches our understanding the composite character of American culture. It also brings new attention to what Walt Whitman once termed “ The Spanish Element in our Nationality.”

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

RK: For most of my career, I have been a historian of Spain and its overseas empire. American history is a relatively new subject for me, and I still have much to learn. However, I have long been interested in the complex links between Spain, Spanish America, and the US. The Spanish Craze explores some of these links, but there is more, much more, to be done on the subject.

JF: What is your next project?

RK: A biography of Henry Charles Lea, the 19th Century Philadelphia publisher-cum-historian and author of the first comprehensive history of the Spanish Inquisition. Lea’s papers are mainly located in Philadelphia, which, following my retirement from Johns Hopkins in 2013, is where I now live.

JF: Thanks, Richard!

Why Did So Many Hispanics in Florida Pull the Lever for DeSantis Instead of Gillum?

Governors race

The pundits seemed baffled by the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race between Rep. Rick DeSantis (R) and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (D).  Here is a taste of an article at the Atlanta Black Star:

Initial Election Day results showed that a significant chunk of Latino men and women voted in favor of DeSantis, who once cautioned Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum as their next governor. According to the numbers, 46 percent of Hispanic men voted for the GOP candidate while 38 percent of women did the same.

Social media critics couldn’t help but notice the trend, and were left scratching their heads over how Latinos could vote for someone who’s backed President Donald Trump‘s tough stance on immigration.

“At some point we need to have a frank and non-judgmental conversation about these Hispanic numbers,” Twitter user @chukroxx opined. “I don’t understand them … And, emotionally, it mid-key stings. What’s happening here y’all?”

“I’m truly just tryna comprehend,” he continued. What about the republican platform is so inviting? Especially considering their immigration stances? Why wasn’t the racism Desantis off putting?”

Radio host Ebro Darden offered this explanation: “Some Latinos are white and even racist against Black & Brown. Many are evangelicals … just cause someone makes seasoned food and is stereotyped by the oppressor as murderous and criminal does not mean they don’t wanna be just like their oppressor.”

Other Twitter users chimed with their own ideas, pointing out some Latino’s allegiance to America prompts them to vote red.

I don’t know much about the Latino electorate in Florida, but I wonder if they voted for DeSantis because he is pro-life on abortion.  Many Latinos are evangelicals who take traditional positions on social and cultural issues.  Perhaps they placed their moral commitments over identity politics.  Just a thought.  Perhaps someone who knows more about this subject might be able to offer some insight.

It seems like the same argument could be made in other gubernatorial races as well.

Are Latino Court Evangelicals Doing Enough for Immigrants?

immigrants

Over at Religion & Politics, Arlene Sanchez Walsh and Lloyd Barba call Latino evangelical and Pentecostal churches to do more for immigrants “living under the regime of daily ICE raids.”  Here is a taste:

Evangelicals and Pentecostals, by and large, have been unmoored from any deep theological tradition of social teaching regarding immigration, never having developed a systematic response to state injustices. When set in the balance against the weighty record of Catholic and mainline Protestant public social and civil advocacy, indeed the writing on the wall spells out that evangelicals and Pentecostals are found wanting. This absence of advocacy has thus far not been ameliorated by para-church organizations, such as the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, whose leader Samuel Rodriguez has been self-appointed to advocate on behalf of Latino evangelicals. In fact, Latino evangelical leaders in high places of political power—such as the once-rising State Senator Steve Montenegro, a champion of Arizona’s SB 1070, (whose bid for 8th congressional district was supported by the state’s convicted and now presidentially pardoned former sheriff, Joe Arpaio)—show that Latino evangelical politicians can, do, and will vote against the basic-human interests of those sitting in their very pews.

But perhaps, in some cases, our decoding of that writing is misguided by our interpretive code of what responses ought to look like. That Latino Pentecostal and evangelical churches have long been home to a large number of undocumented immigrants is no secret. Could an intimate setting of worship and social bonding be bereft of any political engagement?

Read the entire piece here.

“The born-again/evangelical population in this country is highest among blacks…”

latin evangelicals

According to a recent Gallup survey, the born-again/evangelical population in this country is highest among blacks, “who are overall the most religious racial and ethnic group in the United States.”  Gallup reports that 61% of blacks identify as “evangelical” or “born-again.”  38% of “non-Hispanic whites” claim the labels and 44% of Hispanics identify with the labels.

There is a lot more to unpack in this study.  Read it here.

In Search of a Good Primer or Synthesis on 20th Century African American Evangelicalism and/or Hispanic Evangelicalism

I am trying to finish up an essay on twentieth-century evangelical political engagement and need to say more about African American and Hispanic American evangelicalism in the 20th century (or in any more specific era in the 20th century).  What are the best books on the subject, keeping in mind that I want to learn more about evangelicalism and not liberal or mainline Protestant African American religion?

Blacks, Hispanics, and the Return of Jesus

Charles Blow started yesterday’s column with a couple of paragraphs that really caught my attention:

Which political party’s members are most likely to believe that Jesus will definitely return to earth before midcentury? The Republicans, right? Wrong. The Democrats.

This was revealed by a report issued last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

According to Blow, and he seems to be right, this trend can easily be explained by the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are very religious. They also vote Democrat.

Blow concludes:

On the one hand, unlike John Kerry before him, Barack Obama made a strong play for the religious vote on his march to the White House. It worked so well that it’s likely to continue, if not intensify, among Democratic candidates. On the other hand, the religious left is not the religious right. The left isn’t as organized or assertive. For the most part, it seems to have made its peace with the mishmash of morality under the Democratic umbrella, rallying instead around some core Democratic tenets: protection of, and equality for, the disenfranchised and providing greater opportunity and assistance for the poor.

The unanswerable questions are whether these highly religious, socially conservative Democrats will remain loyal to a liberal agenda as they become the majority of the party and their financial and social standing improves. Or whether Republicans will finally make headway in recruiting them. The future only knows.

Then again, the world as we know it may not have much of a future if, as these Democrats believe, a deity will soon descend from the sky.