Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Visit to Peru

Cruising around the Internet looking for Nativity figures (for my other blog, Spanish Nativity), I came across something that I thought might be of interest.

The Monty Python "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" joke makes light of the Leyenda Negra that, paradoxically, encouraged by the British, portrays Spain as sunk in the terrors of the Inquisition. Acknowledging that the Inquisition may not have been the best way of handling the problems of the time and that the process was certainly used by political powers, it was no more brutal than the practices of civil law in those centuries and in fact actually had more checks and balances than ordinary civil law and was sometimes even more moderate in its punishments, treating actions as sins rather than criminal acts.

The Inquisition also went to the Spanish colonies. Here most of the persons processed by the Inquisition were Europeans or criollos, because the indigenous peoples and people of non-European descent (such as African slaves) were considered not knowledgeable enough about the Faith to be heretics. The Inquisition maintained a court in Lima, Peru, which was a very important center of law and learning in Colonial days. Now, the Peruvian government sponsors a museum devoted to the Inquisition, not only in Peru, but in other Latin American countries and, of course, in the mother country, Spain. The Museum, named the Museo de la Inquisición y del Congreso, also has a section dedicated to the Peruvian Congress and Peruvian political history.

The virtual museum is fascinating, and not only provides detailed documentary information, but interesting visuals. My favorite was the chart we see here, which shows some of the many different people who participated in a trial. The process was based on civil law proceedings of the time, and also on ecclsiastical courts. On the website, if you cursor over these figures, you will see their names - everything from the Inquisidor to the Portero - and their duties. As a Spanish translator specializing in legal matters, I was particularly interested to see that many of these figures are still with us, including the all-important Notario.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stanley Payne and Spain’s Unique Story

The last couple of weeks have been full of completely unimportant but time-consuming duties, so I’ve been neglecting Towers of Avila. But during this time, I did start a bit of reading that I thought might be of interest.

At Barajas Airport, on my return trip from Spain last December, I bought a copy of a truly excellent history of Spain, España - Una Historia Única, by Stanley Payne, the well known American historian of Spain. In Spanish, a person like this is called an hispanista, that is, a scholar of things Spanish.

Espana - Una Historia Unica

Stanley Payne is probably the most objective of the historians writing on Spain today. Most other English- language hispanistas feel the urge to begin their work by swearing allegiance to Abraham Lincoln Brigade (that group of sadly misled and exploited Communist sympathizers drawn from 1930’s left-wing American intellectuals and unionists). Payne, however, is interested in the actual history of how things came to be and why. Hugh Thomas is also good and strives for objectivity.

I’ve just started España - Una Historia Única , which of course was originally written in English. I like to read things in translation just to see how well other translators do their job! It seems like an excellent book, and it starts with a very interesting chapter on Payne’s development as an hispanista.