What are all the Spanish imperial flags in Peru (and elsewhere)?

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Since June, Peruvians have witnessed an unusual spectacle in the streets of Lima. Groups of people have been seen carrying a flag with a little-known symbol called the Cross of Burgundy – it made its first appearance in post-election rallies against alleged electoral fraud by current President Pedro Castillo and his party, Perú Libre . More recently, on October 12, which is both the “Día de la Hispanidad” in Spain and the Day of Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue in Peru, the Peruvian Patriotic Society (Sociedad Patriota del Perú) carried the flag in front of the statue of Christopher Columbus in the historic center of Lima. The group claimed to protect the statue of protesters from the legacy of colonialism and the violence perpetrated during the Spanish conquest against indigenous populations.

The Burgundy Cross – a symbol that pays homage to the Spanish monarchy and the “civilizational crusade” it led in its former colonies – is not a common image in Peruvian society or politics. Its sudden appearance raised many eyebrows, especially as the legacy of colonization has recently been questioned and criticized in many Latin American countries in recent years, including Peru. In 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador caused a stir by sending letters to King Felipe VI of Spain and Pope Francis asking them to apologize for the atrocities committed against indigenous peoples during the conquest of the Americas. And when taking the oath in July, Pedro Castillo promised to “break with colonial symbols” and criticized Spain’s exploitation of Peru’s mineral resources during the colonial period – in front of Spain’s King Felipe VI , who had attended the ceremony.

The sudden appearance of this symbol is indicative of a change within Peru’s right-wing parties: they adopt a nationalist discourse that emphasizes the country’s Spanish heritage, Catholicism and ties to the Iberian Peninsula. The leader of the conservative Fuerza Popular party, Keiko Fujimori, recently participated in Viva 21, an event organized by the Spanish far-right party Vox with the aim of “enriching Spanish culture”. Fujimori called the event a “symbol of Hispanic unity against 21st century socialism” and said she shared their defense of life and family. Three congressmen from Avanza País, the party of conservative economist Hernando de Soto, signed the Carta de Madrid, a Vox-sponsored document that claims to unite the “Iberosphere” against the global communist threat. Another group of parliamentarians from Renovación Popular (led by Rafael López Aliaga) also met with representatives of Vox in Lima in September.

This particular flavor of nationalism has had little influence in recent Peruvian history. In the 1970s, for example, General Velasco’s authoritarian regime – albeit strongly nationalist – highlighted the Inca past and the nation’s indigenous roots. The neoliberal economic policies implemented in the 1990s weakened many social movements, including political parties, eroding their ability to build any kind of strong identity platform. The only decisive belief within the main Peruvian parties has been a consensus that foreign investment, free trade and open markets are the only acceptable recipe for growth and progress. An anti-communist speech was to be expected only after the election of the left wing Castillo. More unexpected – and revealing of a process of radicalization – is the movement of the Peruvian right beyond a defense of its economic model, framing its opposition to Castillo now as a more existential struggle for freedom and national identity. .

The apparent rise of nationalism in Peru is not an isolated phenomenon in Latin America and is more easily understood as part of a wave of far-right sentiment in the region. Proponents of this tendency argue that they repel the threats of communism and indigenism. Many political figures, including Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro; former Colombian presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe; and Chilean politician José Antonio Kast, took part in events organized by Vox, an undoubtedly racist, nativist and xenophobic party that is currently striving to unite the most conservative sectors of Latin America in an offensive against the “Globalism” and the left.

Faced with the Castillo presidency, the Peruvian right has decided to join this cultural movement. Conservative groups may be hoping to win new voters with this new strategy, emulating Vox, who in a few years has grown from a fringe group in Spanish politics to being the third party in the Spanish parliament. Although their views are considered reprehensible by many, they have clearly resonated with part of the Spanish population, and it is likely that Peruvian right-wing parties will hope for similar success. Whether or not Keiko Fujimori and other politicians truly believe in Spain’s cultural heritage is not as important as their belief that saying so is a winning strategy – a strategy they will likely continue to pursue. Their decision to do so will continue to erode the foundations of the already fragile Peruvian democracy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Moncada, a columnist and contributor to Americas Quarterly, is a journalist and political analyst based in Lima. Follow her @AMoncada_C

Key words: Colonization, nationalism, Peruvian politics, right-wing politics

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The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its editors.


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