The Spanish Craze is the compelling story of the centuries-long
U.S. fascination with the history, literature, art, culture, and
architecture of Spain. Richard L. Kagan offers a stunningly
revisionist understanding of the origins of hispanidad in America,
tracing its origins from the early republic to the New Deal. As
Spanish power and influence waned in the Atlantic World by the
eighteenth century, her rivals created the "Black Legend," which
promoted an image of Spain as a dead and lost civilization rife
with innate cruelty and cultural and religious backwardness. The
Black Legend and its ambivalences influenced Americans throughout
the nineteenth century, reaching a high pitch in the
Spanish-American War of 1898. However, the Black Legend retreated
soon thereafter, and Spanish culture and heritage became attractive
to Americans for its perceived authenticity and antimodernism.
Although the Spanish craze infected regions where the Spanish New
World presence was most felt-California, the American Southwest,
Texas, and Florida-there were also early, quite serious flare-ups
of the craze in Chicago, New York, and New England. Kagan revisits
early interest in Hispanism among elites such as the Boston book
dealer Obadiah Rich, a specialist in the early history of the
Americas, and the writers Washington Irving and Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow. He also considers later enthusiasts such as Angeleno
Charles Lummis and the many writers, artists, and architects of the
modern Spanish Colonial Revival in the United States in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Spain's political and
cultural elites understood that the promotion of Spanish culture in
the United States and the Western Hemisphere in general would help
overcome imperial defeats while uniting Spaniards and those of
Spanish descent into a singular raza whose shared characteristics
and interests transcended national boundaries. With elegant prose
and verve, The Spanish Craze spans centuries and provides a
captivating glimpse into distinct facets of Hispanism in monuments,
buildings, and private homes; the visual, performing, and cinematic
arts; and the literature, travel journals, and letters of its
enthusiasts in the United States.
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