Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has demanded an apology from the Roman Catholic Church for its support of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s.
In an open letter to the Vatican head Pope Francis, Lopez Obrador talked about the abuses the indigenous people of Mexico had to suffer during the conquest.
The Mexican president also asked the Pope to lend the North American nation its ancient pre-Hispanic Mexican era documents. Mr Obrador didn’t stop here.
He further asked the papacy to make a statement in favour of Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican 19th-century independence leader. Hidalgo was excommunicated by the Catholic Church because of his contributions to the uprising.
The letter said, “The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered.”
Obrador further said that it would be an act of humility and at the same time greatness for the church to posthumously reconcile with the independence leader. However, many researchers believe that Hidalgo confessed his sins in front of the church prior to his execution. This implies that he was not excommunicated.
The letter and the demand for apology came at a time when Mexico is going to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-21 conquest led by Hernán Cortés.
As a result of the conquest, a huge part of the pre-Hispanic population of the country was wiped out from the face of the earth. On Saturday, when the letter was made public, the authorities of Mexico City decided to take down the statue of Christopher Columbus.
Last year, the Mexican president also asked Spain to an issue an apology for the atrocities they committed half-a-millennium ago. But, the demand was rejected right away by Spain. In response, the Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrel said that they will not issue the apologies which Mexico demanded.
Millions of native Americans died of mass slaughter, slavery and disease following the invasion. Because of this, the role of Christopher Columbus has been a topic of debate for a century. While English textbooks mostly describe him as the man who discovered America, the native Americans can think of him only as a merciless invader and coloniser, backed by the Spanish crown and the Roman Catholic Church.
“They deserve not just that generous attitude on our part but also a sincere commitment that never again will disrespectful acts be committed against their beliefs and cultures,” the letter to the Pope also said.