The Apology That Will Most Likely Not Come

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryMexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent an official letter to Pope Francis asking for an apology for the way the Church helped the Spanish Empire enslave and kill the indigenous peoples of Mexico in the 1500’s. The letter asks for the Pope to acknowledge the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples, and for temporary return of several books written by the indigenous Nahua peoples, who are the descendants of the Aztecs, from the Vatican City library. The best known of these works held by the Vatican is the Codex Borgia which depicts the ancient Aztec gods that the Aztec people worshiped before the coming of the Spanish.

The books might possibly be negotiated between the Vatican and Mexico for them to be loaned to Mexico, but an official apology is not likely. There are two major reasons for this. First, an apology would mean that the Church was implicit in the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the mass deaths of the indigenous peoples (the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire on his own; without the help of the Spanish Crown). However cruel the Spanish were, what many historians point out is that most of the indigenous peoples died of diseases such as smallpox which before the Spanish came were completely unknown in the Americas. Neither the Church nor the Spanish had any real idea what was killing most of the Aztecs, and the Church points out that it tried to stop most of the cruelty against the indigenous peoples by the Spanish Empire. Also, an official apology might mean some form of “compensation,” which is something the Vatican has no desire to do.

In related news, the Spanish Crown also rejected giving an official apology to Mexico. Like the Vatican, the Spanish Crown is fearful of being obligated for providing compensation. President Obrador is doing this because the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Mexico is coming next year. He is trying to appease the ardent nationalists in his party and in the country, and no doubt “right” a past wrong. All nice and good, but it does not make for good relations with other countries. Worse, Obrador seems to be trying to antagonize two countries that have been friendly to Mexico for decades (Spain and the Vatican) while remaining on good terms with the leftist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela—one of the worst offenders of human rights in the Americas in the current 21st Century. It is inconceivable for the Mexican government to accuse Spain and the Vatican of genocide against indigenous peoples of Mexico over 500 years ago when the current Venezuelan government is doing the same thing to the indigenous peoples in its own borders in the present. Who should be doing the apology?

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