Mexico's left-wing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has asked Spain and the Vatican to apologize to his country for the conquest of the Americas five centuries ago, a move met with a stark rebuttal in Spain.
The president said Monday that he sent a letter addressed to King Felipe VI of Spain and Pope Francis urging to issue a formal apology for what he described as an “invasion” and the “many misdeeds that were committed.”
“There were killings, impositions,” Lopez Obrador said in a video posted on social media. “The so-called conquest was carried out with the sword and the cross. They raised churches on top of temples.”
“There were killings, impositions ... the so-called conquest was carried out with the sword and the cross. They raised churches on top of temples.”
He said an apology is warranted to “the original peoples for the violations of what are now known to be human rights.”
But the attempt to elicit an apology was shot down by the Spanish government, which rejected the letter and its content “with all firmness.”
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to what is today Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” the Spanish rebuttal read.
“Our sibling peoples have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a common inheritance and an extraordinary projection.”
The rejection letter stressed the Spanish government’s willingness to cooperate with Mexico in a bid to strengthen the relations and tackle future problems.
The Mexican president says that 2021, which is the 500-year anniversary of the conquest of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, on what is today Mexico City, should be a year of “historic reconciliation.”
“It is time to say we will reconcile but first let us apologize,” he said. “I am going to as well because after the colonization there was much repression of the original peoples.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Vatican following the letter from Mexico, though an apology to Mexico wouldn’t be unprecedented.
In 2015, Pope Francis formally apologized to Bolivia for crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the conquest of the Americas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.