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Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Open Letter to the Government of Spain


Dear Shameless, Unreconstructed Schmucks,

I just read with utter dismay that your sorry little country has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. courts against a salvage company (Odyssey Marine Exploration) over the contents of a treasure ship that was recently discovered off the coast of Florida.  It isn't even clear yet whether the treasure ship they found is of Spanish origin, yet you just had to be sure to stake your greedy little claim to it. 

According to what I read, your Culture Ministry spokeswoman, Susana Tello, had the temerity to declare, "If the vessel was Spanish or was removed from Spanish waters, any treasure would belong to Spain." 

I have a silly question for you:  Assuming that this ship is, in fact, of Spanish origin, where did Spain happen to find all that treasure in the first place?  Was it just lying around on desert islands waiting to be picked up like pretty sea shells on the beach?   No, that's right... I remember now... it was actually the property of several indigenous Mesoamerican and Andes civilizations.   

And while we're on the subject, Miss Culture Ministry spokeswoman... what about those cultures your country destroyed in the process of stealing all their treasure???

Let me see if I understand this (correct me if I've gotten anything wrong):

a) You guys gave your Conquistadors a charter to rape, pillage and murder an entire indigenous people in order to help finance your goal of world domination.

b) Most of the natives who weren't immediately ransomed or put to the sword were decimated by the diseases that arrived with your invading pirates.

c) In the process of transporting all that plundered gold and other assorted treasure back from the 'new world', a small number of your galleons got smited by the wrath of G-d and ended up on the bottom of the Caribbean. 

d) Over the course of several centuries your once-powerful country faded into an impotent back-water with little relevance beyond its own borders (some would say even within those borders).

e) Finally, when some entrepreneurial treasure hunters find some of your lost blood money sitting unclaimed on the ocean floor, you have absolutely no compunction about trying to get your bloody little mitts on it.

Did I miss anything?

Now I'm no legal scholar, but it seems to me that if a bank robber dropped a few bags of loot while fleeing the scene of the crime, he wouldn't have a stronger legal claim to the money than, say, someone who found it lying on the side of the road... or the bank from which it was originally stolen, would he???

So I have a suggestion for you: 

Why not establish a national marine salvage company of your own and task it with locating some of that lost Inca and Aztec treasure?  Then, as you send some of your own citizens out to risk their necks trying to bring up this sunken gold, you can publicly pledge to use every last Doubloon you find towards improving the lives of the descendants of these once proud and prosperous native peoples you tried so hard to wipe out.

Or barring that... you could just bite me.

Yours Truly,

David 'Trep' Bogner
"Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961"


[OK, admittedly I may have lost some of my objectivity about Spain due to that whole 'Inquisition' thingy]


Posted by David Bogner on May 31, 2007 | Permalink


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Wow! 2 posts in one day...

Besides all the stuff you mention -- isn't there some kind of international "salvage law" that would let the salvage company it keep it even if it was really "Spanish property"?

Posted by: wogo | May 31, 2007 10:14:32 PM

Nice, very nice.

Wait until the announcement comes up that the ship was in fact British, Portuguese, French or any other colonial kingdom that roamed the waters of the world a long time ago. We are going to be laughing at the Spanish (or as we call them in Argentina "a los gallegos") for making a fool of themselves.

Treasure Hunters Beware: Spain knows where you are and what you found, even if it never belonged to them.


David S.

Posted by: David S | May 31, 2007 11:15:23 PM

Nah, it's okay, David, they deserve it.

Shabbat Shalom to you and the rest of the family.

Posted by: tnspr569 | May 31, 2007 11:37:59 PM

Hi David,

I enjoyed your post. I'm not certain where your got your info on the location of the shipwreck that Odyssey salvaged but it believed by many to be a wreck located off Lands End, Cornwell, U.K.

Odyssey has not stated the location other than saying it was in International waters not under the jurisdiction of any country.


Posted by: Elmer | Jun 1, 2007 1:44:00 AM

Heh....and to think that you recommended Iberia to me because of their low fares.

Which in fact, they do have low fares. ~$500.00 less than El Al.

Anyhoo, I was thinking the same thing when I saw that story on the news this afternoon. It wasn't their gold in the first place.

Posted by: K Newman | Jun 1, 2007 1:57:34 AM

Now I'm no legal scholar, but it seems to me that if a bank robber dropped a few bags of loot while fleeing the scene of the crime, he wouldn't have a stronger legal claim to the money than, say, someone who found it lying on the side of the road... or the bank from which it was originally stolen, would he???

Perfect analogy. Love it! Oh, and p.s. Spain, you might want to sue the Dominican Republic while you're at it, since they have the real body of Christopher Columbus - ostentations sarcophagus in Seville notwithstanding....

Posted by: MizEllie | Jun 1, 2007 3:24:56 AM

Er - speaking of that "Inquisition thingy" - maybe the Spanish government should consider paying back the world Sephardic community for kicking them out of Spain and looting their life savings back in 1492?

On second thought - never mind. It turns out that the world Sephardic community is richer than Spain. Actually, I think there are a couple of Sephardic families in Deal, New Jersey that are richer than Spain.

Oh well...

Posted by: psachya | Jun 1, 2007 3:45:07 AM

You sound as upset as you were the time that a mutual friend of ours poured diet coke in your penny loafers. You are so right, though. Chedva and I were in Mexico last week and marvelled at what little is left of the Mayan civilization thanks to our friendly neighborhood Spaniards. I often wonder why Christianity is still embraced in these parts of the world (as well as by US Blacks) when it is the religion forced upon them through murder, rape, and slavery. In a related tirade, it pi**es me off when the European woosies who, in their colonial days, raped Africa and the Americas criticize Israel for defending herself. It is those same Europeans who created much of the chaos in the Middle East by gifting kingdoms to their Arab pals after WW1. And another thing...

Posted by: Alan T. | Jun 1, 2007 4:36:34 AM

[OK, admittedly I may have lost some of my objectivity about Spain due to that whole 'Inquisition' thingy]

As someone who is a descendant of those victimized by the Inquisition...uh...yeah.

Posted by: Tracey | Jun 1, 2007 5:18:43 AM

While i completely agree with your angry rant, i do feel a need to point out that the glorious Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations destroyed by the Spanish weren't quite so innocent themselves... the Aztecs especially, with their raiding of neighboring nations in order to capture human sacrifice victims, and use of propaganda about their sacrifices to terrorize the people they conquered and integrated into their empire.

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Jun 1, 2007 7:28:33 PM

To wogo
The law of salvage depends on the jurisdiction of the state claiming sovereignty over the site. One would think that the site of the wreck lies in US waters, because the Spaniards filed suit in US court. By law, the US federal courts have jurisdiction over all navigable waters (except Texas waters, but that's another story).

If the site lies in international waters -- as Elmer suggests -- then international maritime law applies and suit may be filed in any court of convenience (so why did the Spaniards not file in a Spanish court?; typically, such suits are brought in English courts in London). The wreck and its contents are salvage. Spain -- if it can establish its claim -- has first right of redemption; that is, it can buy the wreck and contents from the salvage company at an appraised price without auction.

The kicker is that Mexico or Peru may contest Spain's claim to the contents by demonstrating those contents are national treasures -- easy to do if the items are sculpted, impossible if the gold has been forged into coins.

Recently, Texans found and excavated one of La Salle's vessels in the Bay of Matagorda. Due to the heavy silt in that bay, this was a project that required much heavy engineering and concomitant expense. What could be salvaged was claimed by the state of Texas (the state with jurisdiction over the site). I do not recall that France made any claim to the salvage, but the bones of the crew were returned to France.

Posted by: antares | Jun 1, 2007 7:34:04 PM

Bravo David and I am quite impressed by your openess in acknowledging the disgrace of what happen to those civilizations and the suffering that is continues with their descendants.

Posted by: jaime | Jun 1, 2007 7:55:03 PM

wogo... I was going to point you towards some light online reading but I see once of my commenters has taken the time to give a brief primer on the subject.

David S... I seriously doubt whether Spain can make any larger a fool of itself than they have already done in recent years.

tnspr569... Shavuah Tov.

Elmer... Some of it is my speculation. For instance, why go to the trouble to file the suit in Tampa (Florida) if the ship was in UK or international waters. In those cases UK court or any convenient court (including their own) would have done. Also, the overwhelming majority of Spanish ships that were lost met their fate in the Caribbean and Azores.

K Newman... As they say in Little Italy; "It's not personal... it's just business."

MizEllie... If the sarcophagus were made of gold I'm sure they would. ;-)

psachya... That may be true in Deal NJ, but there are certainly some Sephardim over here who could figure out what to do with some reparation money. :-)

Alan T.... The topic under discussion is only about the destruction of a couple of civilizations. That incident with the diet coke resulted in the total loss of a beloved, irreplaceable, pair of LL Bean shoes! I think a little perspective is called for! ;-)

Tracey... You were one of the people I thought of when I wrote this. :-)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)... I think your point is terribly flawed. Are you really saying that just because these civilizations practiced tribal warfare and what we would consider barbaric religious rituals that a far more advanced civilization was justified in coming along and wiping them out for a few tons of gold?

antares... Thanks for stepping up and doing the heavy lifting for me.

jaime... Aw shucks.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 3, 2007 9:33:25 AM

Hi David, remember the fact that the song "Cortez the Killer" caused the album "Yuma" to be banned in Spain? (along with "Aqualung")

Posted by: asher | Jun 3, 2007 1:12:42 PM

Hi David, remember the fact that the song "Cortez the Killer" caused the album "Yuma" to be banned in Spain? (along with "Aqualung")

Posted by: asher | Jun 3, 2007 1:12:57 PM


Of course not!

I'm just saying that people have a habit of romanticizing the victims in that encounter.

I wouldn't want to live in Inquisition-era Spain OR in the Aztec Empire. Neither of them were quite nice places to be.

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Jun 3, 2007 1:55:33 PM

If Mexico recovered the loot, it could pay the US for social services their "guest" citizens are getting in the US.

Posted by: Bob Miller | Jun 4, 2007 7:09:26 PM

Oh my God! Reading these comments have illuminated me, WE AMERICANS ARE FUCKING STUPID! Why on earth do you think Spain would waste its time? Well in case you did not know, Odyssey was on Spanish waters. The discovery was made in Spanish waters (off the Gibraltar coast) the firm would be guilty of plundering and undertaking contraband dealing in cultural goods. Odyssey and all that bullshit they've told us all along is a very big lie. They have their right to judge us as we have our right to judge ourselves, we are the biggest losers in this world!!!

Posted by: Roby | Jun 7, 2007 6:28:19 AM

Yeah, you may be right! Americans are really silly: stealing and making benefit out of what is not theirs, just as what they are doing in Irak and maybe Iran in near future. A message to the guy who wrote the "Open letter": Open your eyes my friend, you should broaden your mind aswell!

Posted by: Alice Mackay | Jun 7, 2007 6:44:57 AM

Nice rant and funny, if somewhat historically lacking in credibility. To suggest that the times before the Spaniards arrived all things were idyllic in Latin America of course would be unthinkable - if anything, just ask the thousands of people who were routinely killed and sacrificed in indigenous rituals.

While there were barbarities among the conquistadores, I think I have read that there were actually less than in similar "adventures" by Anglo-Saxons - (i.e. what about all those American Indians?).

Anyway, a good rant should get a person to think, etc., and for that I tip my hat to you.

Well done.

Posted by: Robert Duncan | Jun 7, 2007 5:54:04 PM

"Open letter to the Spanish Goverment", it sounded like something serious and fact based only until the third word..."Unreconstructed Schmucks" ?? well, this sorry little country happens to have, as every other country, jurisdiction over its waters. As Bob Miller pointed out the ship was founded on the Bay of Gibraltar but in order to evade international maritime salvage law, your beloved pirates of the sea appear to have been taking out gold coins and other findings under the cover of night and flying them away hidden in shipments from Gibraltar Airport. The have been doing this for some months now mainly because the treasure was sitting at the bottom of the bay on the SPANISH WATERS, and versed as good pirates are on maritime laws knew well they had to shamelessly lie to take their loot.
By the way, had you anything to do with that intelligence report on Iraq capability to destroy the world in less than 2 minutes?? it was probably better founded that your "Open Letter"

Posted by: Kazike | Jun 11, 2007 9:51:56 PM

sorry, I mean Roby not Bob Miller

Posted by: kazike | Jun 11, 2007 9:53:25 PM


Posted by: lourdes cuadra | Oct 17, 2007 8:03:58 PM

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Posted by: MUHAMMAD SHAHZAD | Apr 6, 2008 1:41:09 AM

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