Mexico's President, A Spanish King And The Problem With Apologies

Andrés Manuel López Obrador missed the mark when he called on Spain to apologize for its centuries-old conquest of Mexico.

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez with Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador during a visit in Mexico
Spanish President Pedro Sanchez with Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador during a visit in Mexico
Mauricio Botero Caicedo


BOGOTÁMexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) recently wrote to Spanish King Philip VI demanding an apology for abuses committed during Spain's 16th-century conquest of Mexico. AMLO has called for making 2021 — the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire — the year of the "Great Reconciliation," but says there can be no commemoration without a prior conciliation.

The Spanish government responded with a letter of its own, saying it "deeply regrets' and "firmly rejects' the Mexican leader's propositions.

Afterward, people came down on AMLO like a ton of bricks. "He addressed a letter to the wrong person," said Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. "He should have sent it to himself and should answer why Mexico, which was incorporated into the Western world 500 years ago and has been fully sovereign as an independent country for the past 200 years, still has so many millions of indigenous people living in conditions of marginality, poverty, and exploitation."

The Spanish novelist and journalist Arturo Pérez Reverte was even blunter. "He, with his Spanish surnames, should be the one apologizing," he said of President López Obrador. "If he really believes what he's saying, he's an idiot. If not, he is shameless." Pérez Reverte said he was sick of Spanish history becoming the "target of demagogues, opportunists, and rogues." Like all national histories, it has "bright and dark spots," the writer added. "It seems like it is a contest to see who can spit harder and further."

Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador who led the expedition that led to the fall of the Aztec empire — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Another amusing reply came from a Spanish humorist. "The Italians have said they would apologize to Spain over Viriathus (the Lusitanian prince murdered amid Roman intrigue in the 2nd century BC) once the Germans apologize to them for Odoacer, the Ostrogothic king who ended the Western Roman Empire," he wrote. "The Germans are fine with that, provided Mongolia first apologizes for Attila the Hun's invasion, and the Mongols, so peaceful today, will happily oblige once the Chinese seek their pardon for all they have done to them."

The humorist went on to say that China sees no problem with admitting to its dastardly acts during several thousand years of imperial rule, provided Great Britain recognizes it went far too far in going all the way to China to do mischief. Britain, of course, would be okay with that, he explained, but only assuming that Italy first apologizes for Julius Caesar's impertinence in his day... And so on and so forth.

The writer concluded by giving AMLO some advice: "Stop making a fool of yourself and, considering your surname, apologize to the Mexicans. Some of those decapitating Aztecs might even have been your ancestors! Though come to think of it, the Aztecs should perhaps first apologize to the descendants of the Tlaxcalans who are surely irked when they recall the Aztecs occasionally ate their ancestors."

That's the problem with demanding apologies: One knows where to start, but where does it end? This is something our own native peoples should consider as they protest against the government in Bogotá. And that brings something else to mind: a new book* that begins with the words "The sun of peace is finally shining in Colombia's sky. May its light brighten the entire world!" The question is: Where should booksellers place it? In the fiction section? Or maybe on the black humor shelf?

*The book in question was written by former president Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) who uttered those same words upon receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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