This year marks the 400th Anniversary of Don Juan de Oñate's exile from New Mexico and the New World. That may seem like a minor footnote in history, and for many people, it is. Oñate is not well known outside of Texas and New Mexico, but for many people here, especially Hispanos and Pueblo Indians, his record of conquest, chaos and cruelty cannot be forgotten. Though 400 years have passed since he was sent back to Spain for those very crimes and failings, his legacy lives on as an undercurrent in New Mexican society -- which may have something to do with the levels of police and public cruelty we are experiencing today.
Oñate's advent north of the Rio Grande was a disaster for the indigenous inhabitants whom he seemed to take immense pleasure in slaughtering and crippling, thieving from, lying to, and otherwise disrupting as he and his colonists made their way through the Puebloan communities proclaiming the Mercy of Christ and the suzerainty of Felipe Rey de Castile, Leon, y Aragon, and then killing them, crippling them, raping their women, enslaving the survivors and looting their pueblos.
Those were the days. Complaints were made, and in due time, Oñate would be recalled from New Mexico, trial would be held, and ultimately Oñate would be returned to Spain where he lived out his remaining years as a minor functionary to the King.
This Blood Summer of Chaos and Disruption seems to be an echo of those times we thought we'd gotten past. Perhaps we haven't. At least in those days, appeal could be made to the King when the sub-rulers he set over his domains got out of control. Some record could be made and at least an attempt at justice and redress could be made. Now there's no one to intervene and seemingly nothing to be done.
Will there be no end to the madness of our rulers? As the world -- at least a goodly portion of it -- spirals ever further into the pits of perdition, one must ask: what must be done, and by whom, to halt the madness, bring dignity and peace to the multitudes, end the suffering of the innocent, repair and renew the global environment, and do those other things so necessary to survival and sanity?
Among the many tomes in our library of the obscure and forgotten, we have a number of books written in glum apprehension between the wars (that is between WWI and WWII) that either predict a New War Just Around the Corner or which posit means and methods to avoid one. The enemy is posited to be Germany and Japan, just as they would be in the end. There are a few anti-communist/anti-Russian volunes, but mostly the concern is over the aggression of Germany and Japan in Europe and Asia and the lesser but still worrisome aggression of Italy in Africa. As much as the capitalist class loathed and despised the nascent Soviet Union, they did not see it as an expansionist and aggressive threat. That would come at the end of World War II when, having defeated the totalitarian expansionist German Nazis and Japanese Empire, attention was turned to the prostrate, ruined Soviet Union as the New Threat. There always has to be an existential threat, doesn't there?
Europe and Japan would be rebuilt along Anglo-American capitalist lines (with a bit of Socialism thrown in to calm the restive masses for a while) and the Soviet Union would be ham-strung and boxed and allowed to play in Eastern Europe so that no one in the West need concern themselves with that region for the time being.
Red China was the New Dragon in the East. It was, of course, the offspring of Red Russia. Dealing with that unanticipated result of the Japanese defeat in WWII would take up most of the energy of the Western powers -- ultimately leading to military stalemate in Korea and military disaster and defeat in Vietnam.
There's little doubt that the totalitarian governing systems that expanded during the period between the wars were ruled by liars, thieves and murderers, as all large scale governing systems seem to be, including the vaunted Democracies. The totalitarians were just more overt about it, let's say, so it was obvious. There was no lack of liars, thieves and murderers in ruling positions within the "democratic" Imperial nations. The case could be made -- and some made it -- that for all their fine words about self-determination and democracy and whatnot, the Imperial West (particularly Imperial Britain, but no less so France and Belgium... and the United States) were monstrous in their colonial enterprises. Liars, thieves and murderers only begins to describe what what unleashed on the uncivilized peoples of the world by those powers.
Ridding the world of the "uncivilized" peoples (sub-humans, actually) was something of an idealized goal. It could be accomplished by extermination when necessary -- viz: the various conquests and exterminations of the Native Peoples of the Americas -- or by conversion and/or assimilation. But the point was to make over all of the "uncivilized" peoples into some version of "civilized" and subservient or to make them be gone.
This was the Western European colonial enterprise in a nutshell.
And here we are again.
All of the current blood-lettings and slaughter-fests under way this summer appear to be some version of the colonial wars of yore, conquests for the purposes of subjugation, extermination, control and extraction of resources, and destruction of so-called primitive cultures which threaten the brutal and cruel cultures of the West and the powers they wish to assert over everyone on earth.
Here we go again.
None of these neo-colonial wars seem to be going well, but they do go on a very long time just the same. The victims pile up in ever-growing stacks of bodies, streets run with blood, cities are laid waste. There is a repeating cycle of disruption and destruction, revolt and suppression, and with each cycle, the cruelties become normalized.
New Mexicans may have been able to get rid of Oñate when time was, but getting rid of him did not get rid of his legacy, and even the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 -- viciously revenged in the de Vargas Reconquista of 1692-95 in which thousands of Indians were slaughtered -- did not fully restore what now had passed.
The cycle of violence and destruction we're in today will no doubt pass, and perhaps some of those responsible will be judged and a sense of justice restored, but what used to be cannot be restored -- and perhaps it shouldn't be.
May we nevertheless learn to be better.