Colonial Ties

I thought it was interesting that Jeb Bush recommended Margaret Thatcher be on the $10 bill when asked which women should be honored on US currency.  Umm…that’s awkward, given that the US fought a war of independence to be free of Britain.

Apparently, historical amnesia is common throughout North America.  September 15th is when Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain, or according to almost half the population, just celebrates (forgetting the whole Spain part of the picture).  In a recent survey, only half of the polled population knew that Mexico got its independence from Spain.  13% actually thought the colonial master had been the US!

Here’s some other depressing tidbits:

a. Despite the fact that the Mexican President gives his yearly “grito”, where he loudly proclaims the heroes of Mexican independence, when asked about the identity of these heroes, only 26% of the polled could name Miguel Hidalgo, who started the independence movement, 12% didn’t know what to respond, and 25% named figures from different eras of Mexican history.

b. Poor Hidalgo is probably spinning in his grave when he learned that 25% of the polled thought Mexico would be better off today if it was still a colony of Spain.  And Spain still has an unemployment rate of over 22%!

h/t to Alejandro Villagomez, a friend and former colleague (@favillagomez)

The Long Shadow of Spanish Colonialism

William Maloney has a new paper with Felipe Valencia Caicedo called “Engineers, Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas.”  I’ve been a fan of Maloney’s work since I read “Missed Opportunities: Innovation and Resource Based Growth in Latin America” in Economía in 2002.  (Wait, didn’t I show something similar in 1997?  Maybe the “fan” feeling doesn’t run both directions!)

Here’s the abstract of the new working paper:

Using newly collected national and sub-national data, and historical case studies, this paper argues that differences in innovative capacity, captured by the density of engineers at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution, are important to explaining present income differences, and, in particular, the poor performance of Latin America relative to North America. This remains the case after controlling for literacy, other higher order human capital, such as lawyers, as well as demand side elements that might be confounded with engineering. The analysis then finds that agglomeration, certain geographical fundamentals, and extractive institutions such as slavery affect innovative capacity. However, a large effect associated with being a Spanish colony remains suggesting important inherited factors.




Talk to the hand, Spanish edition

The Guardian recently published an interesting and amusing article entitled “Spanish government questioned over claims of divine help in economic crisis.”

The brouhaha began when Interior minister, Jorge Fernández Diaz said publicly that “Saint Teresa was ‘making important intercessions’ for Spain ‘during these tough times.'”  According to the article, Saint Teresa is one of the country’s “most popular holy figures.” [Strangest line of the article: “Saint Teresa was a favourite of General Franco, who kept her hand by his bed until his death.” Seriously?  If so, eww]

A left-wing Basque party wrote a letter to the government demanding answers.  I imagine the questions are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek (or at least rhetorical) and I enjoyed them a lot.  Here are some of my favorites:

“In what ways does the minister of the interior think Saint Teresa of Avila is interceding on behalf of Spain? Does the government believe there are other divine and supernatural interventions affecting the current state of Spain? If so, who are they?”

In reference to a comment made last year by employment minister, Fátima Báñez, who “praised the Virgin of El Rocío for helping Spain recover”:  “What role has the Virgin of El Rocío played in helping Spain exit the crisis?”

El País columnist Román Orozco agreed, writing that the government wants to ignore the “stark reality” of what was going on in Spain and instead, “pass on responsibility to virgins and saints, leaving in the lurch the millions of Spaniards who are the real martyrs of their never-ending austerity measures.”

Maceo! Take me to the bridge.

If you are going to wait until now to get your first drawbridge, you definitely should make it something special.

So kudos to Chile for having their’s installed upside down! Or is it backward?

The Spanish firm who built the thing insists that it’s no big deal. What I think they mean is that it is good enough for Chile!

I crack up picturing them pushing the raise the drawbridge button only to have the moving parts descend into the water and crush the ship trying to get through.

hat tip to Greg Weeks