San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New book looks at Latin Americans' attitudes toward Spain

MADRID – A new book said Latin Americans now have the best image of Spain they´ve had in 500 years, although feelings toward the so-called “mother country” are not the same in all countries. Colombians and Dominicans are the most Hispanophilic while Guatemalans and Bolivians are the least.

The book, “La Nueva Imagen de España en America Latina ” (The New Image of Spain in Latin America), written by Javier Noya and published by the Elcano Royal Institute, sums up the opinion of Latin Americans from surveys published by this institute from 2003 to 2007.

The study of these polls shows that this is likely the first time in 500 years that Latin Americans´ hold an image of Spain in which “the positive side far outweighs the negative.”

Noya said those negative attitudes towards Spain in the past were based on memories of the conquest of the Americas, the exercise of power in a “cruel and greedy” way, the independence movements at the beginning of the 19th century and the commemoration in 1992 of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus´ discovery of America.

Things have changed now, the analyst said, and seven out of every 10 Latin Americans have a good opinion of Spain, compared with 12 percent who say they have a bad opinion.

From a global point of view, the best image of Spain is found in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Uruguay, followed by Peru, Ecuador and Chile.

At the other extreme are Guatemala and Bolivia, two countries with large indigenous populations, while somewhat less negative are Paraguay, Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina. Mexico marks the midway point between the two groups.

The overall opinion is that Spanish influence historically has been positive for 61 percent of respondents, above all for Venezuelans, Mexicans and Central Americans, while for 22 percent it has been negative, particularly for Peruvians and Bolivians.

In terms of migration, Mexicans are those who most highly praise the treatment they get in Spain, while Ecuadorians and Bolivians tend to have the most pessimistic feelings on that score.

The countries most interested in Spanish culture are again Colombia and Central American nations, while Chile and Argentina are the least.

Noya lamented that Spain´s image has become so “polarized” and that, in general terms, leftist Latin Americans as well as indigenous populations are less and less pro-Spanish.

One of the factors that Noya believes has contributed to improving Spain´s image is King Juan Carlos, seen as the most respected among Latin leaders (5.8 percent), followed by Brazilian President Luiz In á cio Lula da Silva (5.7 percent), and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (5.5 percent).

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