A Spanish Apology for Mexico?

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryMexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador demanded an apology from both Spain and the Vatican for 300 years of Spanish rule of Mexico from 1521 to 1821. There is no question that Spanish conquistadors had conquered the Aztec Empire and with it a lot of other Native Amerindian civilizations of what is now Mexico. There is no question that the Spanish had held the indigenous population in slavery and near-slavery, and there is no question that the Spanish had brutally suppressed any and all grievances by the local population whenever protests or demonstrations broke out due to cruel Spanish rule. None of this is in dispute, and there is no dispute that the Spanish Crown had tried to kill as many of the Mexican rebels during the Mexican war for independence from 1810 to 1821. In fact, Spain tried to retake Mexico even as recent as 1829, when Mexico was in a period of instability. Thankfully this whole thing failed.

There are a whole list of problems with wanting an apology from Spain now. First, it has been over 200 years since Mexico had gained its independence. Why now? It would be like the United States asking for an apology from Great Britain during the American Revolution. The only answer is that Obrador is president, and he comes from a left wing perspective where he believes that Mexico is the true victim of Spanish imperialism. There is no doubt that Spanish imperialism was real enough, but what President Obrador seems to forget is that the Spanish conquistadors were not the only ones fighting against the Aztecs. We have to remember that the Tlaxcalans hated and despised the Aztecs, and the overwhelming majority of those who fought in the siege of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan were in fact Tlaxcalans. Just about wherever the Spanish went, they took Native Amerindian allies with them to conquer other parts of Mexico since the Spanish during the 16th Century really never had enough Spanish soldiers to conquer the areas they attempted to annex. Of course, people in Mexico today would call those who helped the Spanish to conquer Mexico as “traitors.” Fine, but this does not change the historic facts that the Tlaxcalans saw the Aztecs as a far greater threat than the Spanish. We also have to remember that the Vatican gave the benefit of the doubt to native peoples by calling them “people with souls” as a way of saying they were human (while of course destroying their civilizations).

One other problem with wanting an apology from Spain and the Vatican is that could Obrador also ask for reparations? This is a slippery slope that I am sure Spain and the Vatican do not want to cross. If they give a formal apology, then it is possible under international law for them to be obligated to provide some sort of cash reparations. This more than anything I believe is the reason why an apology is not forthcoming. In my view, there are better ways of working with Spain and the Vatican than trying to make them into a cash cow. The other thing is that Obrador may be trying to score brownie points with his base, and this is great for domestic political consumption but it does not help Mexico in the long run.

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