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The honor in traditional Spanish culture

The honor in traditional Spanish culture

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The honor It has been the main source of physical and spiritual energy of all cultures for millennia. The maximum expression of its meaning is found in Indo-European and Western European cultures. Although, of course, it has also occurred in other cultures, such as Japanese. We are faced with a high value, whose forms of expression or manifestation have been very diverse throughout history.

The sense of honor It has been present in many villages and in many historical eras, although today is in serious retreat. This noble ideal has shaped society, the social order. It has motivated many to perform extraordinary feats, but also reprehensible acts.

In this way, the honor has been one of the supreme values ​​of traditional culture, forged on solid spiritual and sacred principles, and inspired by a aristocratic vision of life and existence. In which, the best must be at the head, at the head of them the best, and all with the best.

The Italian writer states Attilio Mordini states the following:

When going backwards, in the opposite direction to the flow of time, historical research always puts us in front of the man of rite and honor, of wisdom and order.

Understand the way of feeling and apprehending the reality of our ancestorsIt helps us understand their psychology, and try to explain to us what was leading their lives and why they acted the way they did.

We cannot make the mistake of trying to judge the past from the present perspective. We must try to understand and put the place of our ancestors, to try to understand their complex and dangerous world.

The honor in traditional Spanish culture

The Iberian Peninsula has always been a strategic place, where many cultures and traditions have come together. Many of them tried to impose their vision of the world and of life, with greater or lesser success.

Spain was, perhaps, the nation where the idea of ​​honor fell more strongly in all its social classes. Actually, the honor and aristocratic sense of life forged the Hispanic identity from the Middle Ages to practically today.

The ideal of honor in Spain is clearly a goda heritage, so inclined towards issues such as honor, loyalty and personal devotion. In few nations, these ideals were rooted as well as in Spain, as many Spanish and foreign authors defend.

Medieval Spain

In medieval Spain the sense of honor would give rise to the figure of the gentleman, which sits on two firm pillars: honor and duty.

Thus, that noble gentleman is shaped by heroic deeds, meritorious acts, effort and fulfillment of duty. In the same way, the gentleman is distinguished by his valuable services to the King, the homeland and his ancestry.

Miguel de Cervantes, imbued with the spirit of the Spanish gentleman, and faithful heir of the Hispanic medieval spirit will say the following:

The wounds received in combat by those who have fought heroically are stars that guide others to the sky of honor

Miguel de Cervantes in the Battle of Lepanto (1571). Ferrer-Dalmau painting.

Remember that Cervantes himself was injured, being prevented from an arm, during the Battle of Lepanto, which faced the Spanish and Turkish squads, with a victorious result for the Spanish ships.

Honor in the most difficult times

The Spanish deed, from the Reconquest to the seventeenth century was great. He not only discovered, civilized, evangelized and commercially and culturally connected all the continents of the planet. If not, at the same time, he had to fight against the Turks in the south and east (which were the superpower of the time), while maintaining wars with France, England and Holland.

We are currently asking how all this was possible and what could motivate the Spaniards to resist and move on. The answer is clear, the sense of honor.

A sense of honor, coupled with a strong and deep religious sense that subject everything to the glory of God and the country. According to the German hispanist Karl Vossler:

Adventures attracted more to the Spanish soul than commerce, war more than work. For Spaniards, power and honor were worth more than wealth. Hence he coined the concept of Ein kriegerisch-fromme Herrenvolk (The Spanish people as a warrior-religious people of lords)

García Valdecasas points out that there was a time in Spain in which honor was a spiritual center, towards which life gravitated, with an axis around which social activities were oriented. So, and according to the author, for the Spaniards the honor was the Sun of the social firmament.

Along the same lines, the poet Lope de Vega described Spain as the most honest nation, meaning with the previous one that it was the town that gave more importance to the honor.

The honor shaped the Spanish nation

Battle of Rocroi (1643). Spanish thirds fight against the French army

It is no exaggeration to say that the honor It shaped the Spanish nation. Without him it would be impossible to understand either the character or many of the vicissitudes that Spain went through along its history. Without the omnipotent presence of honor the feats and historical deeds that characterize us would have been impossible.

The honor it was the most basic condition to serve the country, in the name of God and the King. As the Frenchman René Quatrefages states about the Spaniards: "without honor the King could not be served ". The same author argued that "Spanish cared little for death as long as the honor was safe."

Along the same lines, another Frenchman, Jean Creac'h, states "The only suffering that this people is capable of feeling in their flesh, the only one who does not know how to endure is the one caused by wounds in honor."

For the American Hispanic Waldo Frank, "Spain is nothing more than a symphony in the key to honor. Thus, the Spanish sense of honor is the effort of Spain as a whole to resist and defeat the adversary." On the other hand he came to affirm: "The pundonor was the handhold where the Spaniard took, not his place in heaven, but his place on earth. "

Empire, culture, army and honor

It was clearly the sense of honor that gave the Spanish army its enormous strength during the 16th and 17th centuries, who became the most powerful of his time. The conviction of these soldiers, of feeling firmly grounded in the value of honor and the sense of duty, which made them invincible for more than a century.

The Italian historian Raffaele Puddu, attributes to the feeling of honor the cohesion and discipline of the Spanish troops on all combat fronts. Thus, he maintained:"From the prince to the simple infantryman the chain of honor links all members of the military society to each other".

The Catalan Agustina Zaragoza and Doménech, nicknamed "Agustina de Aragón", in front of a Spanish battery during the Siege of Zaragoza (1809)

The supreme appreciation of each soldier's own honor, the awareness of their own personal dignity, together with "The Christian idea that in every man there is a soul to honor", turned the armies of the Hispanic Monarchy into a community composed of "gentlemen soldiers."

Vossler, on the other hand, points out that the Spanish imperial army was a true honor school. They all learned to honor and be honest. The honor was earned by serving his homeland with distinction, while facing life or death situations, almost always in total numerical and media inferiority.

Final comments

It is very true that the cult of honor has degenerated over time, being the cause, on several occasions, of serious deviations and recklessness. The Spanish people, who have been the most distinguished in appreciation and the cult of honor, it has also incurred terrible deformations of the true concept of honor. All this happens when certain passions are exalted and many ideals are taken to the extreme.

Nevertheless, this should not tarnish the noble and idiosyncratic background of the traditional Spanish vision of life, centered on the ideas of honor, duty, loyalty and an aristocratic sense of existence.


  • Quatrefages, The thirds, trad., Madrid, 1983
  • Vossler, Spanien and Europe, München, 1952
  • García Valdecasas, The gentleman and the honor, Madrid, 1948,
  • Frank, Virgin Spain, trad. by León Felipe, Santiago, Chile, 1941
  • Puddu, The gentleman soldier, trad., Barcelona, ​​1984
  • Navasal and de Mendiri, Spain time, Santander, 1938
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