7.7.11

Don't know much about history...

The past few days I've been thinking a lot about history, and America. In part it was due to the July 4th weekend, and in part it was because of a book I just read.

During the weekend I watched TCM's showing of 1776 (not as often as Cam watched it). To my mind, the show-stopping number is the incomparable John Cullum singing "Molassas to Rum to Slaves":

(for contrasting views on the film, check out the A/V Club and ALOTTMA)


Anyway, here we are, 235 years from that moment (no, I don't think Edward Rutledge actually sang about the issue, but he did raise it) and we're still a conflicted nation about racism and slavery. Yet Portugal was the "creator", if you will, of the American slave trade, supplying slaves to the Spanish and British colonies in North America.  That's not excusing the continuation of the trade, mind you, just a historical reference.  What I'm wondering is, is Portugal as conflicted as we are? What guilt do they feel - or do they not feel any?

As I'm mulling this, I read Conquistadora, set in Puerto Rico and featuring - you guessed it - slaves.  It's clear that they were brought to the islands by Portugese slave traders, and through the course of novel we learn something about the different places they were from and where the ended up.  This is set during the time in which PR was a Spanish colony and again, I ask: how does Spain handle its slave legacy?  The same holds for the islands, and the fact that some slaves bought their freedom and then bought slaves (same thing happened here).

Is America the only country still this conflicted, or are we just not hearing about it elsewhere?

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