Lopez Obrador arouses misgivings in Mexico by demanding apologies from Spain for the Conquest: “It is using indigenous peoples”

  • The Mexican president’s initiative to demand that the Spanish crown apologize for the abuses committed during the conquest of America is linked to the historical criticism of indigenous groups
  • Some voices criticize López Obrador that this is an opportunistic gesture that is not consistent with national policies and megaprojects that affect local populations
  • “That Spain asked for forgiveness would be a gesture of respect to our culture and our ancestors,” explains a Mayan photographer who lived for a time in Spain.
The Tlapaneca culture, strongly punished during the conquest, lives in the region of La Montaña de Guerrero with an important cult of Christianity

The Tlapaneca culture, strongly punished during the conquest, lives in the region of La Montana de Guerrero with an important cult of Christianity

“For Spain to ask for forgiveness would mean showing respect to our culture and our ancestors, an act that would dignify the culture for which they made us ashamed, in a country where being dark-skinned and with indigenous traits still remains grounds for discrimination.” Victoria González speaks a Mayan photographer who lived and studied for a time in Spain. “I grew up in a rural community in Yucatan, Buctzotz, where all my life I heard the stories of everything my people went through before, during and after the Conquest,” he laments.

Two years before the bicentennial of the fall of Tenochtitlán (the ancient capital of the Mexica empire), the Mexican government has decided to begin its preparation for the commemoration by approaching positions with indigenist currents throughout the country. The new president, Antonio Manuel Lopez Obrador, has assured that the Spanish crown must apologize for the crimes committed 500 years ago in the Spanish conquest of the territory that is now Mexican.

As Victoria acknowledges, “there are still mixed feelings in many of us, we want that forgiveness or apology because there is a past that is always remembered,” explains Victoria. “The gesture of the president is a historic opportunity to understand that there is a wound that underlies the unconscious of many Mexicans and the minimum awake like a monster hungry and angry,” he concludes.

Kau Sirenio is a journalist of Mixteco origin and has documented the way of life of diverse indigenous communities throughout Mexico and the United States. “Indigenous communities have the right to demand their forgiveness and their history was buried 500 years ago.” Proud of his ethnic and linguistic lineage, he points out the consequences still suffered by the native peoples of Mexico after that conquest. “It is necessary to ask for forgiveness in a country that suffers from a problem inherited from classism chronically,” he argues. “Even me, some colleagues continue to treat me with reservations about my indigenous origin.”

However, despite the gesture of President Lopez Obrador to achieve moral reparation to the indigenous communities of Mexico by requesting a pardon from the Spanish crown, the reality is that the priority of many native peoples is the demands against their government, not against Spain. “I do not want the Spanish crown to apologize for its crimes, I want the Mexican state to respect the autonomy and self-determination of the people and to stop the granting of mining concessions in indigenous territory,” says Kau Sirenio. “When this happens then there will be justice after more than 500 years of opprobrium.”

In this sense, Yunyx Torres, a young woman belonging to the Purépecha community of Cherán K ‘eri (Michoacán), does not agree with the attitude of the president and sees the request for forgiveness of the Spanish crown unnecessary. “Andrés Manuel is using the indigenous peoples, he is appropriating traditional ceremonies, our symbols and part of our speech to pretend that he works with us, but in reality he does not have the opinion of the indigenous peoples and tries to justify the megaprojects with these actions, it is a feeling of many colleagues from organizations in other parts of the country that things with this government have not changed with respect to the previous one. ”

The Mexican president has held some traditional rituals in front of the media cameras and even made a “request to the pacha mama” in Chiapas for the development of the Mayan Train, a tourist “megaproject” with which he intends to build a train that circulate throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Purepecha people proudly claim to have been the only ones who resisted the invasion of the conquerors. In 2011, this community of aguacatera Michoacan mountain was declared independent of political parties and the tutelage of the federal government after years of real siege to the local population by the mafias of the timber industry linked to drug trafficking. Since then, the municipality is governed by an assembly system composed of representatives of various councils.

“Although our history is somewhat different from that of other native peoples (because we survived the conquest), we are aware that we can not demand responsibility for the mistakes of our ancestors, the time to change things is now.” The case of Cherán is an example of how direct democracy and the organization of indigenous peoples based on their uses and customs can achieve peace and prosperity in places where the Mexican state has not succeeded.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and up to fifty organizations linked to the Indigenous Council of Government (CIG) weave a network of resistance to the numerous projects that multinational companies project in various parts of Mexico.

Be indigenous in Mexico
Of the almost 15 million people of indigenous origin living in Mexico, approximately 72% do so in conditions of poverty. The latest report of the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONVEAL, 2018) confirms the existence of social gaps in terms of literacy, child health and access to services, among other items. But beyond the figures and the photography of the poor indigenous and rural community to which we can easily resort in our imaginary, in Mexico the problem of racial marginalization in diverse and very close ways is evident.

“To be indigenous in Mexico City is to condemn yourself to exclusion and contempt from the government itself,” says youtuber Alberto Lerner. “They are the excluded of the excluded”. In the Mexican city live almost one million people belonging to one of the more than 50 native ethnic groups of the country. During this week, Lerner has published the case of some families of Mazahua origin who occupied the abandoned building of the old Spanish embassy were evicted by the capital authorities.

“They are people who were left homeless during the earthquake of 2017 and never got help from the State, they occupied this building that during the Franco regime housed exiles and now they are going to demolish it without giving them any solution,” he explains. “The people of the National Indigenous Council have supported them, the government, or mothers.”

Updated: March 28, 2019 — 2:54 am