Thursday, December 2, 2021

500 years later, Spain and Mexico fight to conquer

Five hundred years after Hernán Cortez conquered Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, the Spanish mayor is demanding that the remains of the conquistador be returned to his place of birth due to what he says is anti-Spanish sentiment in modern Mexico.

Valentin Pozo Torres, mayor of Medellin, a village in the Extremadura region of western Spain where Cortez was born, sent a letter to the Mexican ambassador in Madrid expressing “deep concern” about the “anti-Spanish drift” of the current Mexican government.

Poso, representing the ruling Socialist Workers Party, said he feared that Cortez’s remains in Mexico might be desecrated and demanded “his repatriation to the people who saw him born.”

Cortes was born in Medellin in 1485 and died in 1547, six years after returning to Spain. His remains were reburied in Mexico City at his own request. They lie in the chapel of an ancient hospital – the oldest in America – which he founded and which is usually inaccessible to tourists.

This is the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between the two countries that revolves around their shared past.

After the conquest, Spain ruled Mexico not as a colony, like England or France, but as a viceroyalty or a separate kingdom and overseas territory known as New Spain. His War of Independence began in 1810 and was led by the descendants of the Spanish, or Criollo.

Interpreting history

In 2019, Mexican populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by the acronym AMLO, demanded that King Felipe VI of Spain and Pope Francis apologize for abuses committed during the Spanish conquest.

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Modern historians say the conquest was marked by violence, enslavement, cultural suppression, and plunder.

Spain rejected this interpretation of history and instead declared that the conquest “cannot be judged in the light of modern considerations.”

Historical accounts, notably Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s The True Story of the Conquest of New Spain, refute allegations of brutality, but also criticize Cortez’s campaign. Diaz del Castillo accompanied Cortez and notes that with a force of 600 Spanish soldiers defeated the Aztecs, only by recruiting thousands of fighters from among other indigenous peoples who were outraged by their oppressors of the Aztecs and sought to expel them.

According to historical evidence, among their tributaries, the Aztecs were known for their cruelty, the enslavement of the peoples they conquered and the performance of human sacrifices, including children, as part of their religion.

The Spanish government rejected Mexico’s demand for an apology for the conquest, praising Mexico’s support for the Spanish left-wing Republican exiles during and after the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.

“Mexico and Spain have a relationship with a long past, a very rich past, with which, obviously, sometimes we cannot agree. But what we have is an unusual future, ”Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in an interview with CNN in June.

But conservatives in Spain were irritated by the Mexican president’s insistence that Madrid apologize for the past.

FILE – People shout slogans during a demonstration in support of Mexican Zapatistas in Madrid, Spain on August 13, 2021.

Former conservative Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who still plays an important role in current politics, ridiculed AMLO at a recent party conference.

“Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Andrés from the Aztec side, Manuel from the Maya side, Lopez is a mixture of Aztecs and Maya and Obrador from Santander, ”he said, referring to López Obrador’s Spanish roots, which go back to his maternal grandfather. A biography based on the stories of relatives says that José Obrador was born in the Cantabria region of northern Spain and immigrated to Mexico in 1917.

FILE - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador performs before the traditional military parade to mark the bicentennial of Mexico's independence from Spain at Zocalo Square in Mexico City, September 16, 2021.

FILE – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador performs before the traditional military parade to mark the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain at Zocalo Square in Mexico City, September 16, 2021.

Lopez Obrador responded to Aznar’s remarks by saying, “It is an act of humility to offer forgiveness, an act that magnifies both the one who offers it and the one who receives it.”

2021 marks the 500th anniversary of the conquest and the 200th anniversary of the end of Mexico’s 11-year war of independence.

As Mexico celebrated its independence anniversary last month, Pope Francis sent a message to Mexican bishops stating that this moment “necessarily involves a process of cleansing the memory, that is, the recognition of very painful mistakes made in the past.”

However, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid regional government and rising star of the Spanish right wing, questioned the Pope’s words, claiming that the conquest of Mexico brought the Spanish language and Catholicism to an end to human sacrifice and enslavement. Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world with a population of 130 million compared to 47 million in Spain.

Complex relationships

Thomas Perez Vejo, professor at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico, said the relationship between Spain and Mexico is especially important because of Mexican claims that it was a nation before the 16th century conquest.

“The relationship with Mexico is without doubt the most important (among the former colonies) because one line of thought is that it was a nation before the Spanish conquest. An alternative argument is that Mexico was born out of the Spanish conquest. This is a civil war for identity that has never been resolved. ” he said to the Voice of America.

Unlike the British colonies, where the Indian population was wiped out and the survivors expelled to reservations, the Spanish colonists married and multiplied with native Mexicans. As a result, Mexico’s population today is overwhelmingly mixed of Spanish and indigenous North American descent, and its culture is a hybrid of European and ancient Mexican traditions.

Despite political divisions, analysts say the ties between Spain and Mexico are deep.

Carlos Malamud, a Latin America expert at the Real Elcano Institute think tank in Madrid, said that despite López Obrador’s recent confrontational style, relations between Mexico and Spain remain strong.

“Thousands of Spanish firms have invested in Mexico and there is an ongoing intellectual exchange between the two countries. In the other direction, Mexican companies have invested in Spanish media companies, ”he told Voice of America.

According to the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Mexico, Spanish investment in Mexico has totaled $ 5.5 billion over the past six years over the past six years.

Mexico is Spain’s main trading partner in Latin America.

The relationship between the two Hispanic countries is suggestive of comparisons with the United States and its former colonial ruler, Britain.

“The relationship between both groups of countries is so different. The Atlantic friends have remained in a strong relationship despite their colonial past. On the contrary, Spain and Mexico have a rocky relationship, ”Eduardo Garrigas, a former Spanish consul general in Los Angeles and a writer, told Voice of America.

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