The authors of “Why Nations Fail” used as a metaphor of why Spanish nations south of us failed the twin cities straddling the Rio Grande, Nogales, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. They were similar in race, geography, climate, disease, and IQ, yet Sonora was poor, corrupt and crime-ridden. Why did Spanish colonization fail? [1]

The authors of “Why Nations Fail” used as a metaphor of why Spanish nations south of us failed the twin cities straddling the Rio Grande, Nogales, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. They were similar in race, geography, climate, disease, and IQ, yet Sonora was poor, corrupt and crime-ridden. Why did Spanish colonization fail? [1]

Cathedrals and Palaces

Travelers often encounter the prominent architectural remnants of antiquity the most prominent of which invariably are a Roman Catholic [RC] cathedral close by a palace in the town’s central square or plaza. (Think of all those dusty Mexican towns in spaghetti Westerns.)

Cuba and nations south of us colonized by Spain suffered not from Roman Catholicism but from the Spanish conquerors who accompanies them to evangelize.

Early Christian Church

The Roman Catholic Church [RCC] both gained and suffered from its relationship with government through history because they were there!

About 30 A.D. Jesus founded the Christian church and promised it would endure. The RCC existed 1,500 years before there were Protestants. Being in but not of the world is a noble — but impossible — ideal for mere mortals.

The RCC was affected by the struggle because they were here and living in the world when much of Western history occurred — and, consequently, subject to it.

During those centuries, they always had the faithful who remained true to their calling within the constraints of their situation. If below you see otherwise, it was not intended by me.

Jesus told his disciples to pay their taxes. Greece’s democratic influence ended in 146 B.C. and Rome’s Republic ended in 31 B.C. to be replaced by the dictatorship of the Roman Empire under Octavian. He was given the title Augustus, which until then was applied only to holy objects and places. It clothed him with a halo of sanctity and the protection of religion and the gods. [2] Thus was one precedent set relating God and rulers.

The Church grew by doing as Jesus commanded and going to the “ends of the earth,” like Gibraltar, over Roman roads — all of which ended in Rome.

The government was the only large organization then, and the RCC evolved an organizational structure mirroring theirs. Rome eventually asked citizens to acknowledge the divinity of Caesar, which Christians refused to do — causing persecution of the Saints.

In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. He believed that absolute, monarchial rule was demanded by the chaos of the times and that it should be aided by an official church. He banned pagan deities and embraced the RCC. He also believed in religion being unified and brought that about by convening and funding the Council of 312 bishops that produced the Nicene Creed. He split the Empire, moving the capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire to the new city of Constantinople where it endured as the Byzantine Empire for another thousand years.

Constantine took all the VIP’s with him, leaving a political vacuum only the RCC was capable of filling.

Saddled with political responsibilities, the church took on many of the forms and titles of the Empire including installing Europe’s Christian monarchs. The RCC did so because they were true to the Scriptures.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established.” [Rom.13:1]

The Bible even asks slaves to obey. [Eph.6:5; Col.3:22; Tit.2:9] Kings combed legislative, executive, and judicial powers in rule by man.

It wasn’t a leap from praying “Thy kingdom coming” in spiritual matters to obeying earthly kings in political matters.

Mohammed [570-632] captured Morocco in 698 and Moorish troops marched through Gibraltar in 711 to conquer most of Spain. Christian troops would not extricate the last of the Moors from Granada until 1492 — the year Columbus sailed for God and country.

He was a carrier of 1,500 years of Spanish, Christian culture and institutions.

Ascetic Protestantism

The differences between Nogales, Ariz., and Sonora, Mexico, began with their colonization by different cultures. The U.S. was colonized by Ascetic Protestants.

In 1831, when French historian Alexis de Tocqueville floated down the Ohio, Kentucky was a southern state and heir to the southern plantation culture not unlike that of Cuba then. [3]

“On the Kentucky bank no white laborers can be found…all the work is done by slaves….On the Ohio bank no one is idle, for the white population extend their activity and intelligence to every kind of employment…they work without shame.” [4] (See also: 2 Thess.3:10)

Spanish Colonialism

The best description of the Spanish colonial system is by Bartolome’ de las Casas, a Dominican priest taken along as a chaplain to Cuba, and who would later sacrifice himself in fighting it.

Like the fortune hunters who failed at Jamestown in 1611, Spaniards were mostly single men not interested in tilling the soil for themselves. They wanted others to do it for them, and they wanted riches, gold and silver, to plunder.

They were “conquistadors” and quickly set themselves up as a new aristocracy using native labor until they perished then. Then, they imported African slaves just as planters in the American South did after the supply of indentured servants from England ran out by 1700. [3, p101]

“The settler would treat the whole of the native population as members of his household and, as such, make them labor night and day in his own interests, without any rest whatsoever. The Spaniards employed their usual strategy of apportioning among themselves the towns and their inhabitants…and then, as ever, treating them as common slaves.” [1, pp13-14]

So wrote Bartolome’ who spent the rest of his life fighting Spanish colonialism.

Today, the RCC is the strongest voice in Spanish Central and South America against the oppression of people and abuse of human rights.

Following the Pope’s recent visit, Cuban dictator Raul Castro began his current program of liberalizing Cuban society.

[1] Acemoglu, Daron, and J.A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail, NY: Crown, 2012.

[2] Durant, Will, Story of Civilization, Vol. III, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1944.

[3] Bailyn, Bernard, Peopling of British N. America, U.Wisc.,1985; pp99-102.

[4] Innes, Stephen, Creating the Commonwealth: The Economic Culture of New England, NY: W.W. Norton, 1995, p11.