From Wealth to Ruination
So…my friends. How many of you out there believe in Poetic
Justice? A little imp perhaps…flitting about…keeping the
scales always in balance. You know…steal from John and make
him poor, and sooner or later the great avenger will get you
where it hurts most.
We’re talking about the theft of gold and silver folks. Back to
the 1500’s. Spain sends out her invaders. To the Americas lads.
South America. The land of El Dorado. Pillage. Steal. What do the
Incas know? What do the Aztecs know? To Colombia! To Venezuela!
To Peru! To Ecuador! They’re only Indians. Primitives. Go
Pizzaro. Go Cortez. All of you… make your motherland proud.
Make her rich. Rich…you hear? Gold and Silver and Silver and
Gold. Bring it all here and fill our Spanish coffers.
Which they did. They raped the Americas and brought home more
gold than Spain ever hoped to see. The country prospered. Spain’s
new found wealth brought about a renaissance. The arts
flourished. Art and Literature are not outgrowths of poverty, for
you ideal-minded. Art is born of wealth. Cervantes came out of
this era. And El Greco. And Velasquez. And Vega. Oh…how Spain
crowed. Prosperity was in the air. And decadence was in the air
Domestic prices rose. Everyone wanted to get in the act. How
much for that loaf of bread, senor? One million pesos, amigo. But
yesterday it was only ten pesos. A shrug. One had to be
philosophical. There was plenty of money around. What was a
million pesos…more or less? Bah. There’s plenty more where that
But time worked with the imp. And Spain found herself paying out
enormous volumes of gold to other nations for their goods. Where
Spain was once the envy of Europe for her wealth…she was
suddenly, rapidly approaching the brinks of bankruptcy.
Commodity prices rose. The crown was permanently in debt to the
great banking houses of Germany. Not a few banking firms went
bust as the King began suspending payments. By the latter part of
the 17th century, Spain had, for all practical purposes, no
exports to speak of. Between 1557 and 1680, Spain defaulted seven
times and a seemingly never ending sequence of royal bankruptcies
promoted rioting in the land. Oh…let me tell you…that imp was
Privateers became bolder. Pirates preyed on Spanish ships. They
made incursions into coastal towns, and stripped the
countrysides bare. The reign of the Spanish Empire was over. The
conquistadors which once terrorized the Americas were gone.
Poverty reigned where there was once more gold and silver than
one could imagine existed. Poetic justice, amigos? Who knows. Not
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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