Historian and guest speaker Thomas Ch†vez said that the American Revolution was actually a world war and Spain was at its forefront.
Ch†vez, the executive director for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, spoke Wednesday during the General Library’s “Open Doors: Regional Scholars and Writers Series” in Zimmerman Library’s Willard Reading Room.
Ch†vez focused his presentation on his newest book, Spain and the Independence of the United States: an Intrinsic Gift, saying that the United States would not know independence the way it now does without the financial and military support of Spain.
He said that countries from around the world were involved in the colonies’ struggle for independence from British rule and that battles were fought not only in North America, but also Europe, South America, the Philippines, the Bahamas and even India.
Ch†vez added that when he gave a similar presentation in Maine, the audience stared at him as if he was spouting ludicrous ideas.
Audience members wanted to argue with him, but he warned them, “Don’t argue with me, I am a historian and I have footnotes.”
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Ch†vez said that he found quotes from George Washington that said the same thing — without Spain’s help, the Revolutionary War would have been lost. Ch†vez said he also had quotes from France’s minister of state saying the same.
He said that contrary to popular belief, it was Spain, not France that actually contributed the most to the colonists’ fight for independence.
“Spain contributed more money than any other country for our war,” Ch†vez said.
He added that a good percentage of the money Spain donated was collected from Mexico and what would later become New Mexico. Ch†vez said that Spain passed a law in Mexico stating that every Spanish citizen must pay two pesos for the war effort and every “mixed-blood and Indian” must pay one.
“Every pueblo in New Mexico gave money to pay for our independence,” Ch†vez said.
More than a dozen Spanish regiments, he said, also fought in the Revolutionary War, including Latin Americans, South Americans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans.
Ch†vez added that when Washington and his troops were caught in the north with no pay and unable to get down to where British Gen. Charles Cornwallis was trapped in Yorktown, the Spanish were the ones who collected the funds to pay Washington’s troops.
“The battle of Yorktown was paid with money from Havana,” he said.
The battle is considered by many historians as the climax of the Revolutionary War.
“In this day and age when we purport to be who we are and don’t remember who we are, maybe we need to go back and read it,” Chavez said.