President López Obrador asked indigenous people for forgiveness for the fall of Tenochtitlán and called the ensuing domination of Spanish conquistadors “a disaster” at events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the collapse of the Aztec — or Mexica — Empire.
Tenochtitlán was the forbear to Mexico City and the capital of the Mexicas, the dominant ethnic group before the Conquest. After the military defeat on August 13, 1521 the city was looted and razed.
AMLO, as the president is commonly known, spoke on Friday in front of a replica of the Templo Mayor, a temple of spiritual importance destroyed in the Conquest, which was erected in Mexico City’s central square, the zócalo, for the event called 500 years of Indigenous Resistance.
“August 13 is a funeral date … we remember the fall of the great Tenochtitlán and we apologize to the victims of the disaster caused by the Spanish military occupation of Mesoamerica and the territory of the current Mexican republic,” he said.
“The Conquest was a resounding fiasco. How can we call it a civilization if the lives of millions of human beings are lost and the nation, the empire, the dominant monarchy does not even manage to recover the population that existed before the military occupation in three centuries of colonization … The Conquest and colonization are signs of backwardness, not of civilization, less of justice,” he said.
AMLO added that conqueror Hernán Cortes had achieved victory by deception. “A soulless soldier, a bold and ambitious politician … who skillfully took advantage of the divisions and weaknesses of the Mexicas to impose himself with … tricks, terror and violence until he succeeded in seizing the longed-for treasure: the gold and silver of Tenochtitlán.”
Without mentioning his name, the president criticized writer Marcelo Gullo for being a “pro-monarchist,” and resisted the idea that other indigenous populations had been enslaved before the Conquest. Gullo had written: “Spain did not conquer America; Spain liberated America. Asking forgiveness for freeing Mexicans from the Aztecs is like asking forgiveness for having defeated the Nazis.”
The crimes of the Conquest have been a frequently revisited theme during AMLO’s time in office.
In 2019, he requested an apology from the Spanish monarchy and the Vatican for human rights abuses committed, a request which the government of Spain “vigorously rejected.”
In 2020, the president’s wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, traveled to Vienna to pressure a museum into lending the country a headdress said to have been worn by the Moctezuma, the Aztec Emperor toppled on August 13, 1521. That request was also rebuffed.