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Los ricos también insultan

10 July 2011

The matriarch of the clan, having managed to marry into an ambitious family, and strategic violence successfully built up the family business into a huge and profitable enterprise.  Of the two daughters, the elder, who is heir to the family marries the hot stud … who turns out to be something of a cad.  The stud, with the connivance of his father-in-law (who wants control of the family fortune himself) decide elder daughter is a bit too neurotic to run the business, so the stud and dad fight for control, as the younger daughter marries the nice non-entity who stands to inherit a rival firm.  Then dies.

On the rebound, the younger daughter ends up marrying the nice non-entity’s brother.  Although it seems to be working out, and younger daughter soon has a daughter of her own, it looks like the non-entity’s brother, like the hot stud, also has a wandering eye.  Though some very tricky legal manouvering, he manages to not just divorce the younger daughter, but to disinherit their own daughter.

Now it gets even kinkier.  Caddish stud and neurotic first daughter have a son, who inherits the business and has a son of his own.  Meanwhile, disinherited daughter of the second daughter, as the rival family enterprise is growing rapidly, has been jerked around as her father works his way through a string of babes… and turning his business over to his son… who isn’t at all the man his dad was, and besides, isn’t at all healthy.  So, disinherited daughter of the second daughter… has to be called in, and the business is put into her hands.  Which she tries to merge with the original family enterprise, marrying her cousin, son of the stud.

Which pisses off the rival company board, but there’s not much they can do about it, although …. there is another daughter by the brother of the nice non-entitity that everyone seems to have forgotten about (oh… she’s been around, doing her own plotting, too).  Who, after getting control of the rival company sets out to get her revenge on her brother-in-law, grandson of the stud and the neurotic elder daughter.  She goes so far as to pay thugs to steal from the brother-in-law’s business, so he sends out his boys to mess her up, but they screw it up, and…

… that’s why we English-language writers diss the Mexicans!

In trying to work on a book I’m tentatively calling “Mexico Reflected in a Jaundiced Eye” — about the 400 or so years of  English-language writers who came, who saw, who dissed.

I wonder if even those who were “colonials” or the heirs to the colonials (like William S. Burroughs and Jack Keroauc) aren’t also the heirs of the language itself, and if the language isn’t more a prisoner of history than we think.

Spain, and the Spanish language itself, is in many ways, what it is, and Mexico is what it is, due to that larger-than-life devious matriarch, Isabella of Castille.  She

Isabella -- "it's good to be queen, better to be king"

wasn’t raised to take over the family business, i.e. the Kingdom of Castille and Leon,  but, when her step-brother died in 1474, Isabella — just like your run of the mill telenovela matriarch — wasn’t above violence and chincanery when it came to gaining control of the concern.  With troops from her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon (a not particularly important kingdom as those things go, more a client state of France than anything else),  put down rival claimants to her right to rule as King of Castille (and she did style herself “King”).

Considering she’d been raised to do girly-girl princess things, mastering the foreign languages medieval kings were expected to know (Latin and French, for starters) and learning the law would have

Mr. Isabella

been enough, but good telenovela matriarchs have to be ruthless and ambitious, something Isabella discovered she had a real taste for.  Ferdinand had been groomed as a military leader, and was probably better than some, but Isabella — who had to learn to wield a sword, and the fine arts of village pillaging and head-chopping in her twenties — was said to be the better general… and an even better quartermaster.  How she fit into her suit of armor when she was pregnant has always been a mystery, but somehow she did.

At any rate, Isabella made Castille into the pre-eminent Iberian power, finally in 1492 capturing the last Moorish kingdom, Granada. Having made Castille the

Merger and Aquisition: Surrender of Granada 1492

Walmart of Iberian kingdoms, Isabella decided to consolidate her holdings.  Although Aragon, remained a separate country (and legally could not be ruled by a woman), it was more or less a subsidiary enterprise, with Ferdinand as CEO and COO in Castille, while Isabella worked on crushing any possible competition to Castillian rule, and — like WalMart or Starbucks — standardizing the operation company-wide.

Tossing out the Jews, and restricting the rights of the Moors was easy enough, but Isabella faced an unexpected problem that same year, when Christopher Colombus bumbled into a whole new market opportunity.  Castille, Inc. was getting very rich off Pillagers-R-Us, aka, the Conquest of the Americas, the business of which would be conducted in Castillian.  Along with everything else going on in 1492, Isabella decided her hilly-billy dialect of the Arabic and German influenced Latin spoken around Madrid was the language of her dominion.

Despite maternity armor, and probably better pre-natal care than most people at the time, the infant mortality rate in the fifteenth century was pretty appalling.  Only two of her daughters survived her, Juana and Catarina.

Yeah, he looks like a dork but this is what passed for a stud in 1500. Philip and Juana

Juana, having been married off to Philip the Handsome of Burgundy (another of those small kingdoms eventually to be the merged into a conglomerate, in this case, France). the caddish stud who wrested control of Castille, Inc. away from Juana (mostly by convincing everyone she was nuts… which seems to have been true).  Philip basically changed the name of the expanded enterprise to Spain, and father a child, Carlos, before his horn-dog ways caught up with him, and he died at the age of 28 mostly of exhaustion.  Carlos I of Spain, who was also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, never would spend much time in Iberia (he didn’t like it much), but would have a son of his own, Philip II.

Catalina (Catherine of Aragon)

Although the new world was an extremely profitable acquisition, Isabella was always looking out for possible merger opportunities.  Remember, Isabella was a whiz when it came to military logistics, and recognized that with her new world possessions, she needed to beef up her naval operations.  She’d married off her eldest daughter, Maria, to the King of Portugal, but Maria died young, along with her son (who would have become king of  Castille and Portugal), but — good manager that she way — Isabella had a back-up daughter, having married off Caterina to Prince Arthur, heir to the up and coming naval power, England.  This was business.  Arthur and Catarina were both still in diapers when they became engaged.  The two weren’t married until they were 15, but Arthur was in very poor health and while they did manage to have a honeymoon of sorts, the kid died.  On to Plan C… Catarina (known in England as Catherine of Aragon) .. not providing an heir to a joint Anglo-Castillian throne… married Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, right after he became King Henry VIII of England.

… stay tuned for the next episode of

Los ricos también insultan

“Along comes Mary…  the  blonde (naturally) femme-fatale”… and the return of Philip II”

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 July 2011 3:14 pm

    Kudos Richard! You’re right to look for inspiration where you did today. Contemporary writers don’t stand a chance of coming up with any characters more sordid or kinky (make that: astute and corporate) than the 15th – 17th C. European monarchy… especially those ‘old queens’… Look too at Ma. Teresa of Austria – now there was Queen B equal to them all. You briefly mention my namesake Joanna de Castile… would suggest that she was one of the ‘extra queens’ who was born and destroyed before she could inherit the hive. I can’t wait for the next installment – maybe to be called ‘Los Ricos También Tumban’

    • 10 July 2011 5:12 pm

      Poor Juana la Loca gets overlooked, though she had by far the best nick-name of any of the Iberian monarchs, beating out Pedro the Cruel, Carlos the Bewitched and Pepe the Drunk. Of course, I doubt any of these monarchs were called by these names to their faces.

  2. jennifer rose permalink
    10 July 2011 7:04 pm

    Read C. W. Gortner’s “The Last Queen.”

  3. 10 July 2011 9:53 pm

    Yes Jennifer… a wonderful book.

  4. Juanita Cortez permalink
    11 July 2011 7:25 pm

    This might be of interest:

    Gringos in Mexico: An Anthology [Paperback]
    Stephen Crane (Author), William Cullen Bryant (Author), Charles Flandrau (Author), John Reed (Author), Jack London (Author), Katherine Anne Porter (Author), William Spratling (Author), Edner Ferber (Author), Jack Kerouac (Author),

    Edward Simmen (Editor)

    • 11 July 2011 11:34 pm

      My carefully crafted reply somehow was sacrificed to Internetzacopetl. So, here’s Reply 2.0

      I recommend both Gringos in Mexico and Gilbert Joseph (ed) The Mexico Reader — both excellent… and thanks for the opportunity to give them a plug.

      My rambling draft of an essay on Twisted Tale of the Trastámaras and Tudors is more a starting point on what I hope is not-too-dull look at the “official” writers, who were propagandists for the English-speaking (and I need a better word for that) point of view… one that would be reflected in more general literature.

      These are mostly obscure writers, like 17th century monk turned Puritan divine, Thomas Gage, diplomats Henry George Ward and Joel Poinsett, diplomatic spouses Fanny Erskine Calderon de la Barca and Edith Couts O’Shaugnessy, Rosa King (not really a diplomat or a reporter, but well connected as a foreign business woman), Graham Green (as a reporter, more than a novelist), and… what might seem to be an exception to the rule, William S. Burroughs.

      Burroughs was writing for an elite, but an artistic elite, not a political or financial one. If you read his letters and other writings from Mexico (meant for a very specialized audience), it is clear to me he really didn’t like Mexicans, and had very little to do with them. As an “outlaw”, he had a stake in pushing the same “official” image of Mexico and the Hispanic world that English-speakers had been selling since the 6th century dynastic feuds– in which the Spanish-speaking world is devious, violent, promiscuous and corrupt. Indulging in the forbidden has always had its attractions, and Burroughs has had a tremendous influence on English-speaking attitudes towards Mexico, even if he isn’t all that much read (and most of his work is frankly unreadable).

      Of course, what makes all this so much fun to write about is that the Spanish speakers see the English as prudish, hypocritical, self-centered, greedy, rude, cold-blooded, etc.

      I’m a slow writer, and my thinking may change. I ended up writing four different drafts, from four different perspectives (and literally had to print the pages out, cut them up and scotch-tape paragraphs back together… then write another draft of a final draft) when I wrote about the Mexican Revolution, so I wouldn’t be surprised if whatever I end up with bears no resemblance to what I just said here.

  5. adriana permalink
    4 February 2013 7:08 pm

    Mister Richard, this is the third time that I read this and still is hilarious, today I was remembering it while I was drawing some doodles and I had an itch to make this into a comic as a practice project. So I would sincerely request your permission to use this article as a base to make a comic about the official start of greatest rivalry (and a little bit stupid, but I am entitled into that opinion) that has been seen in history that is still raging today.

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  1. A couple of old queens dis each other « The Mex Files

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