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.
Estamos en Comalcalco, vamos a Centla a conmemorar 500 años de la batalla de los españoles contra la resistencia de los mayas-chontales. pic.twitter.com/glYO0eAMtX— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) March 25, 2019
"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."
Mexico's new president would like Spain to apologize for its actions during the conquest. Spain isn't having it. https://t.co/DW0g8xDPMZ— Julia Love (@byJuliaLove) March 25, 2019
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.
Mexico's president moves to formally request an apology from #España for the atrocities of the Conquest, 500 years ago. Millions of indigenous people died in the smallpox epidemic that followed the fall of Tenochtitlan. #Mexico https://t.co/Y74qgorSJY— Daniel Hernandez (@longdrivesouth) March 25, 2019
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Never Miss a Beat.
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
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.
Spain is not officially recognizing the 500th Anniversary of Cortes' arrival in Mexico. Spain stated it's too controversial/sensitive a subject, and they don't want to insult Mexico...but no way are they gonna apologize for their conquest!— Aztec Empire (@AztecEmpire1520) March 26, 2019
??? #SorryNotSorry #500anos https://t.co/6EuFGtihac
It's "colonial denialism at its worst," said historian Natasha Varner.
Spain refusing to be held accountable for its violent conquest of Mexico is colonial denialism at its worst. An apology—even just a purely symbolic one—is the very least they can do. https://t.co/H5manMvkXd— Natasha Varner (@nsvarner) March 26, 2019
An example of "bills long-overdue," said The Nation's Ben Ehrenreich.
Meanwhile in bills long-overdue: the president of Mexico has asked the king, the prime minister of Spain, and the pope to apologize for the infamies of the conquest. The Spanish government (which is still “Socialist”) has so far only scoffed.— Ben Ehrenreich (@BenEhrenreich) March 26, 2019
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?"
Spain and Mexico both freaking out over this— Brian Winter (@BrazilBrian) March 26, 2019
But Pope John Paul II apologized for trial of Galileo and Church’s treatment of Jews
Pope Francis, for the inquisition
Reagan, for Japanese internment
We’re having a serious debate about slavery reparations in the US
So why not? https://t.co/GUP458Exvp