My friend Alex once told me about taking command as a lieutenant in the Special Forces. In the beginning, the hulking Greenies didn’t want to take orders from a Latino less than five and a half feet tall. But because life is a movie, he gradually won their trust, and one night, they cornered him with questions.
‘Sir, where you from exactly?’
‘Queens. But I’m Colombian.’
‘Colombian.’ They thought about this for a while. ‘So, you’re like a descendent of the conquistadors? That’s why they put you in SF?’
‘No. No Spanish blood. 100% Indio.’
This was troubling. How could they take orders from a descendent of losers? Finally, the same guy offered a solution.
‘Hey, sir, maybe you descended from the Inca kings. Montezuma!’
Today I saw two oil paintings, which showed St. James beatifically watching the conquistadors crush infidels beneath their horses’ hooves in the name of God and gold: Moors of Southern Spain in the first, indigenous Mexicans in the second. I don’t envy the Mexicans their baroque cathedrals and extraordinary goldwork and I’m glad Ireland had no gold to tempt the Spanish. We did not, as a people, particularly enjoy the extended visit of the British, but it’s clear we could have done a lot worse.