The legacy of Spain’s super-rich “indianos” is a complex and multifaceted one. In the late 19th century, when hundreds of thousands of Spaniards ventured to America in search of fortune, a fortunate few among them, known as “indianos”, managed to amass exceptional wealth and eventually returned to their homeland. Their newfound riches played a pivotal role in transforming Spain, leaving behind a lasting imprint that is still visible today in the form of opulent mansions and architectural marvels.
However, beneath this veneer of wealth and grandeur lies a darker side to their success. Many indianos acquired their fortunes through exploitative practices, such as engaging in the slave trade, exploiting natural resources, or participating in colonial ventures. Their wealth was often built on the suffering of others, and the repercussions of their actions continue to reverberate through history. In recent years, Spain has started to grapple with this complicated legacy. There is a growing acknowledgment of the unethical means by which some indianos accumulated their wealth, prompting a collective examination of the past. This introspection encourages a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and moral implications of the indianos and their role in Spain’s history.
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Top image: Built on slavery? The home of an Indiano (Public Domain)