Mexico asks Pope Francis and Spanish king to apologize for colonialism | News | DW | 26.03.2019
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Mexico asks Pope Francis and Spanish king to apologize for colonialism

Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador told the Spanish king and the Vatican that "wounds are still open" from the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521. The Spanish government was not amused.

Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis should apologize for the 16th-century conquest of Mexico, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday.

The populist leftist Mexican president has sought to cast himself as a champion of Mexico's indigenous peoples and, until now, he had cultivated cordial relations with both Spain and the Vatican.

Read more: Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador marks first 100 days in office

Obrador seeks 'historic reconciliation'

The president said he had asked for an apology in a letter to both leaders. In the letter, he wrote:

  • Both leaders should apologize to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. 
  • He plans to apologize to indigenous people for post-colonial repression in Mexico.  
  • Historic wounds are still open. Forgiveness is necessary for "historic reconciliation."
  • A full account of the atrocities committed during the "so-called conquest" was needed.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Ugarte)

Obrador said he would apologize for abuses that were committed after the colonial period

Spain's swift rejection

Spain said it "firmly regrets" that Obrador's letter to the king had been made public and dismissed judging Spain's colonial actions in Mexico "in the light of contemporary considerations."

Symbolic visit: Obrador announced that he had sent the letters shortly before visiting Centla, the site of the first battle between the Aztec Empire and the army of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1519.

Read more: How artistic freedom is restricted in Mexico

Spain's long rule: Cortes' 1,000-strong army and indigenous allies quickly defeated the Aztecs. Horses, swords, guns and diseases like smallpox were central to Cortes' victory. The event paved the way for 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico, which eventually gained its independence in 1821.

Hernan Cortes (pictured with sword) had a small army, but superior weaponry

Hernan Cortes (pictured with sword) had a small army, but superior weaponry

Complicated past: Mexico's relationship with its colonial history is complicated and has been subject to debate. Roughly 98 percent of Mexicans have some combination of indigenous, European and African ancestry, according to a recent government study.

jcg/amp (Reuters, dpa)

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