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A Walking Paradox


Each day, reading the papers, I come to a type of history.

 

Newspapers teach me by what they say and by what they don’t.

 

History is a walking paradox. Contradiction moves its legs. Perhaps for this, its silence says more than its words and often its words reveal, by lying, the truth.

 

Soon, my book will be published called Mirrors. It is something like a universal history, and forgive me the impudence. “I can resist everything except temptation,” said Oscar Wilde, and I confess I that I have succumbed to the temptation of relating some episodes of the human adventure in the world, from the viewpoint of those of who have not left behind their photographs.

 

To say it anyway, it deals with not very well-known facts.

 

Here I sum up a few, a few small facts, no more.

 

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When evicted from Paradise, Adam and Eve moved to Africa, not to Paris.

 

Some time later, when their children had already set out in the world, writing was invented. In Iraq, not in Texas.

 

Algebra also was invented in Iraq. The founder: Mohammed al-Khawarizmi, 1,200 years ago, and the words algorithm and digit derive from his name.

 

Names usually do not coincide with what is named. In the British Museum, as a case, the Parthenon sculptures are called “Elgin marbles”, but are marbles of Fidias. The English called it Elgin after he sold it to the museum.

 

The three innovations that made possible the European Renaissance, compass, gunpowder and printing, had been invented by the Chinese, who had also invented almost everything that Europe reinvented.

 

The Hindus had known before everybody that the Earth was round the Mayas had created the most exact calendar of all times.

 

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In 1493, the Vatican gifted America to Spain and gave away black Africa to Portugal, “so that the barbaric nations are reduced to the Catholic faith”. America then had fifteen times more inhabitants than Spain and black Africa hundred times more than Portugal.

 

Just as the Pope had ordered, the barbaric nations were reduced. Very reduced.

 

***

Water made Tenochtitlan, the centre of the Aztec empire. Hernan Cortes demolished the city, stone by stones, and with the rubble plugged the canal through which 200,000 canoes sailed. This was the first water war in America. Now Tenochtitlan is called Mexico DF (District Federal). Where once water ran, now run cars. 

 

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Argentina’s tallest monument has been erected in homage to General Roca, who in the Nineteenth Century exterminated the Indians of Patagonia.

 

Uruguay’s longest avenue carries the name of General Rivera, who in the Nineteenth Century exterminated the last Charruas Indians.

 

***

John Locke, the philosopher of liberty, was a shareholder of the Royal Africa Company, which bought and sold slaves.

 

Meanwhile born in the Eighteenth Century, the first of the Bourbons, Philip V, inaugurated his crown by signing a contract with his cousin, the King of France, for the Company of Guinea to sell blacks in America. Each monarch gathered 25 per cent of the profits.

 

Names of some of the slave ships: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesus, Hope, Equality, Friendship.

 

Two of the founding fathers of the United States have vanished in the fog of official history. Nobody remembers Robert Carter nor Gouverner Morris. Amnesia is a reward for their action. Carter was the only high figure of independence to free his slaves. Morris, who drafted the Constitution, opposed the clause which established that a slave was equivalent to three-fifths of an individual.

 

The Birth of a Nation, the first Hollywood super-production, was premiered in 1915, at the White House. President Woodrow Wilson gave it a standing ovation. He was the author of the texts in the film, a racist hymn in praise of the Klu Klux Klan.

 

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In the year 1783, the King of Spain decreed that manual labour was not dishonourable, the so-called “vile occupations”, which till then implied loss of nobility.

 

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In the name of liberty, equality and fraternity, the French Revolution proclaimed in 1793 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Then, the militant revolutionary Olympe de Gouges proposed the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Woman Citizen. Guillotine cut short her head.

 

Fifty years later, another revolutionary government, during the First Paris Commune, proclaimed universal suffrage. At the same time, it denied the right of vote to woman by unanimity short of one: 899 votes against, one in favour.

 

***

The Christian empress, Theodora, never said to be a revolutionary, not even by way of style. But five hundred years ago, the Byzantine empire was, thanks to her, the first place in the world where abortion and divorce were women’s rights.

 

***

Abridged and translated from Spanish by Supriyo Chatterjee.

Published in La Jornada on January 3, 2008

More extracts and other reports on Latin America at http://nuestrosricos.blogspot.com/

 

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