Petition asks Hispanic society to disown racist comments by Madrid leader



More than 100 people have signed a petition calling on the Hispanic Society of America (HSA) to disown the controversial remarks made by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, conservative president of the Community of Madrid, during a visit to its Manhattan headquarters two weeks.

While closed to the public for renovation, the HSA Museum opened its doors to Díaz Ayuso for an interview with the the Wall Street newspaper while in New York City as part of a trip to the United States in September. After the interview, during a visit to the Sorolla Vision of Spain Gallery with a dozen representatives of the HSA, Díaz Ayuso criticized the anti-colonial movements that center the indigenous experience of the Spanish conquest as “revisionist, dangerous and pernicious. “, Asserting that there is a”dangerous current of communism through indigenism this constitutes an attack on Spain.

Responding to Hyperallergic’s initial request for comment, HSA Director and CEO Guillaume Kientz said the institution “is not affiliated with Isabel Díaz Ayuso” and his views “do not represent or endorse in any case the opinions shared by the museum and its mission “.

In a petition to the HSA board of directors yesterdayNew York-based art historian María J. Feliciano and Cornell University Spanish professor Simone Pinet say they are “appalled” that the organization has embraced the far-right politician.

“We are even more disappointed in how the HSA has failed to clearly, unequivocally and shamelessly disavow its offensive handling of history and racist rhetoric,” write Feliciano and Pinet.

“It is not enough that the Hispanic Society has privately asserted that it was not made aware of the remarks, or that the Society is supporting other projects or others of value to the Hispanic community,” they add later in the petition. “It is because as an institution you have not yet issued a statement to distance yourself and effectively reject these remarks made in your building and, apparently, at your invitation.”

The authors cite the track record of Díaz Ayuso and his administration of denying indigenous experiences and perspectives “in the name of Spanish culture.” Regional Minister of Culture Marta Rivera de la Cruz recently censored the words “racism” and “restitution” wall texts for an exhibition of works by Peruvian artist Sandra Gamarra at Sala Alcalá 31 in Madrid. The exhibition, a critical examination of Spain’s role in Latin America and the lasting impacts of colonialism, was also excluded from Hispanity 2021, a festival organized by the Community of Madrid.

“The [HSA] has gone to great lengths to serve his community through outreach and programming, ”Feliciano said in an interview with Hyperallergic. “Next comes Ms. Díaz Ayuso with a speech that subsumes the national experience of her neighbors in a simple story of submission and derivation of a complex colonial project. Miss Díaz Ayuso’s speech on “Hispanidad” also has painful associations with its deployment by the fascist government of Francisco Franco as the spearhead of its cultural program. “

Elected in May this year, Díaz Ayuso doubled his support for the Right People’s Party, founded by Franco regime politicians. She aroused the wrath of left-wing voters for her indulgent approach to the pandemic and discriminatory rhetoric. In a speech At the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, last month, the conservative leader said Spain had brought “civilization” to the Americas and called for the defense of “Hispanicity.”

“Díaz Ayuso’s insensitivity to the plight of Native Americans in his equation of ‘inequality’ and ‘communism’ needs no explanation but calls for serious and categorical rejection,” Feliciano told Hyperallergic.

“Numerous [of] the objects in the Hispanic collection bear witness to indigenous originality, resistance and resilience in the face of the enormous cultural changes that have brought us here today, ”she continued. “Institutional silence beyond a cursory salute to Indigenous Peoples Day on social media is incongruous with its mission. “

Feliciano and Pinet argue that the presence of the HSA in Washington Heights, where 70% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, as well as its critical role as a research institution, requires a formal refutation of Díaz Ayuso’s statements. Feliciano adds that the company shares its Audubon campus with Boricua College, an educational institution founded to serve the Puerto Rican community in the 1970s and has become invaluable to the neighborhood’s Spanish-speaking immigrant residents.

“I think one of the implicit roles of the HSA is to channel the diversity of New York’s Hispanic history, disseminating accurate and thoughtful information about the histories of those communities and cultures that its collections represent – contemporary, indigenous. , Caribbean, Colonial, American, Medieval, Spanish, Early Modern, ”Pinet told Hyperallergic.

She was disappointed by the gentle response from the HSA to Díaz Ayuso’s remarks, which she sees as a failure to speak up for the communities, cultures and collections that the institution represents.

“This silence made me think that the HSA is siding with the frightening version of the story of Mrs. Díaz Ayuso, with an idea of ​​Hispanism that I find unrecognizable,” added Pinet. “What does this say about NYC and how does it recognize and promote its Hispanic communities? What does he say about how Hispanic communities can feel represented in New York art institutions and archives? “

Both Feliciano and Pinet said the HSA has played a huge role in their academic life, with its collections and staff providing a source of academic resources and inspiration.

“I want to see a place that I love and admire as much as the Hispanic Society flourish and prosper in our city,” Feliciano said. “Hispanic is not a relic of a bygone era – that seemingly distant 19th century of thieving barons and tours of European antique shops. It is a living and breathing part of the cultural map of a city which conceals treasures – artistic, documentary, bibliographical, musicological – of immense importance for the history of Iberian and Latin American societies.

The Hispanic Society has yet to respond to Hyperallergic’s most recent request for comment.

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