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Writers, historians react to Mexico’s demand for an apology from Spain

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s letter to King Felipe VI draws ire, amusement and perplexity on both sides of the Atlantic

Carta de AMLO
Hernán Cortés' troops conquering Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital.

A request from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Spain’s King Felipe VI for an apology over the Spanish conquest has prompted responses from a range of figures in both countries.

One of the bluntest messages came from the Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, known for his Alatriste series of novels. “He’s the one who should apologize, since he has Spanish surnames and is living there. If this individual really believes what he’s saying, he’s an idiot. If he doesn’t believe it, he has no shame,” the writer and former war correspondent wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

He sent out another, more generic, tweet later this morning. “One gets sick and tired of seeing the history of Spain, with as much light and shade as that of any other country, keep being turned into a target for all demagogues.”

Meanwhile, in Mexico, Diego Fernández de Cevallos, a presidential candidate in 1994, told Milenio Televisión that it was “as if we called on the Mexican president to demand that Trump apologize because they stole half our land from us.”

Ifigenia Martínez, a former leader of the Mexican left, burst out laughing when asked about López Obrador’s request. “From the point of view of history, the scars are still there, but they can’t be fixed. We already overcame that stage, and are proud of that. There’s no room for an apology,” she said.

The Mexican academic Martín Ríos, an expert in colonial history, said that he thought the request was “very logical and coherent coming from López Obrador. In the end it reflects what he learned in the public education system. But it’s a distortion of the processes. The way in which the president expressed himself is a reflection of a very traditional education, promoted by the state after the revolution, and it has a marked indigenist slant. It’s a deformation of the historical reality, a manipulation and a political use of history.”

The request is very logical and coherent coming from López Obrador. In the end it reflects what he learned in the public education system

Mexican academic Martín Ríos

From Spain, Carlos Martínez Shaw, a senior fellow in Modern History at the National University of Distance Learning (UNED), says that “asking for an apology from a head of state for actions that took place 500 years ago, pitting societies that had little to do with ours against each other, is extemporaneous and anachronistic. It was a military conquest, with all of the damage that this entails, but in the three centuries of subjugation there were moments of coexistence and resistence.”

Martínez Shaw, who is also a member of Spain’s Royal Academy of History, adds: “If some of the affected communities themselves had asked for this, it might make some sense, but between states it borders on the ridiculous, it’s a qualitative leap in this brand of revisionism, and it could end up affecting relations between both countries.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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