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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller standing in front of ruins in Comacalco, Tabasco.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller standing in front of ruins in Comacalco, Tabasco. (Photo: screenshot, Obrador Twitter)

Mexico Asked Spain to Apologize on 500th Anniversary of Colonial Invasion. Spain: 'No'

"Spain refusing to be held accountable for its violent conquest of Mexico is colonial denialism at its worst."

Eoin Higgins

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador demanded a formal apology for centuries old imperialist atrocities, but the request was met with a firm "no" from Spain. 

Obrador made the request in letters to Spanish King Felipe IV and Catholic Pope Francis I, he announced in a video posted online Monday. The video was recorded in front of temple ruins at at Comacalco, Tabasco.

"There were massacres and oppression," Obrador said. "The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross."

In an official government statement released later on Monday Spain firmly rejected the request.

"The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to what is today Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations," the statement said. 

"Our sibling peoples have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective," the Spanish government added, "as free peoples with a common inheritance and an extraordinary projection."

Spanish conquistadors arrived on Mexican shores in 1519 and began a brutal program of cultural genocide and repression that killed millions through massacres, battles, and diseases that came with the Europeans. 

"Millions of indigenous people died in the smallpox epidemic that followed the fall of Tenochtitlan," said author Daniel Hernandez.

Spanish rule ended in 1810, when Mexico won its independence.  

The irony of the Spanish rejection of Obrador's request wasn't lost on observers.

It's "colonial denialism at its worst," said historian Natasha Varner.

 An example of "bills long-overdue," said The Nation's Ben Ehrenreich. 

Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, argued that with all the apologies for the past in recent decades, Obrdor's request on the 500th anniversary of the conquest wasn't out of line.

"We're having a serious debate about slavery reparations in the U.S.," said Winter. "So why not?"

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