Anti-Spanish sentiment or Hispanophobia (from Latin Hispanus, "Spanish" and Greek φοβία (phobia), "fear") is a fear, distrust of, aversion to, hatred of, or discrimination against Hispanic people in general or more specifically against Latino people, Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. Its opposite is Hispanophilia. This historical phenomenon has had three main stages, originating in 16th-century Europe, reawakening during 19th-century disputes over Spanish and Mexican territory such as the Spanish–American and Mexican–American Wars, and finally in tandem with politically charged controversies such as bilingual education and illegal immigration to the United States. Within the complex of identity politics in Spain, Catalan, Basque, and Galician nationalism has also been identified with hispanophobic views and discourse.


The Black Legend

Early instances of Hispanophobia arose as the influence of the Spanish Empire and the Inquisition spread through late-medieval Europe. During this period Hispanophobia materialized in folklore which is sometimes referred to as the Black Legend:

The legend first arose amid the religious strife and imperial rivalries of 16th-century Europe. Northern Europeans, who loathed Catholic Spain and envied its American empire, published books and gory engravings which depicted Spanish colonization as uniquely barbarous: an orgy of greed, slaughter and papist depravity, the Inquisition writ large.[1]

La leyenda negra, as Spanish historians first named it, entailed a view of Spaniards as "unusually cruel, avaricious, treacherous, fanatical, superstitious, hot-blooded, corrupt, decadent, indolent, and authoritarian". As Spain and England colonized the Americas, "[t]he Black Legend informed Anglo Americans' judgments about the political, economic, religious, and social forces that had shaped the Spanish provinces from Florida to California, as well as throughout the hemisphere".[2] These judgments were handed down from Europeans who saw the Spaniards as inferior to other European cultures.[3]

Thus in North America, Hispanophobia preceded the United States' Declaration of Independence by almost two hundred years. Historians theorize that the English and the Dutch employed and encouraged it as part of their efforts to undermine the Spanish Empire; early New Englanders engaged in Hispanophobic efforts to assimilate Spanish colonies:

[I]n North America a deep current of Hispanophobia pervades Anglo-Saxon culture. ... As early as the late seventeenth century, we find Puritan divines like Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewell studying Spanish—with a view to winning converts to their version of Protestantism. Sewell spoke of "bombing [sic] Santo Domingo, Havana, Puerto Rico, and Mexico itself" with the Spanish Bible, and Cotton Mather even wrote a book on Protestant doctrine in Spanish, published in Boston in 1699, intended for—as he might say—the darker regions of Spanish America.[4][better source needed]

In the United States

Segregation signs were common through the first half of the 20th century in the Southwestern United States

In the United States during the early 20th century, Anglo-Americans used eugenics as a basis for their hispanophobia. With support from the eugenicist, C.M. Goethe, hispanophobia became a political issue.[5] "Another circumstance," according to historian David J. Weber, "that shaped the depth of Anglo Americans' hispanophobia was the degree to which they saw Hispanics as an obstacle to their ambitions".[2] As the U.S. grew into a republic, anti-Spanish sentiment exhibited a recrudescence. Spain was perceived as both the antithesis of the separation of church and state and a paragon of monarchy and colonialism; this apparently fundamental opposition to the United States' founding principles fueled hostility that would eventually culminate in the Spanish–American War of 1898.[4] Hispanophobia is particularly evident in the historiography of the Texas Revolution:

In essence, the Texas rebellion had been little more than a struggle for political and economic power, but early Texas historians elevated the revolt against Mexico to a 'sublime collision of moral influences', a 'moral struggle,' and 'a war for principles'. ... Hispanophobia, with its particularly vitriolic anti-Mexican variant, also served as a convenient rationale to keep Mexicans 'in their place.'[2]

Throughout the 20th century, an array of mostly political and economic forces drove immigration from a multitude of Spanish-speaking countries—such as Cuba, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico—to the relatively strong economy and stable political environment of the United States. As a result, according to some historians, Americans "now have something called a 'Hispanic,' which describes not someone born in a Spanish-speaking country, nor someone who speaks Spanish well or badly, nor even someone with a Hispanic surname, but someone who identifies himself as such".[4] As a key corollary to this development, it is toward this group, which is not precisely or rigorously defined, that U.S. hispanophobia is now predominantly oriented. Many forms of hispanophobia endemic to the Texas Revolution still flourish in the United States today.[2]