Mexican Call for Conquest Apology Ruffles Feathers in Spain. And Mexico.

Mexican Call for Conquest Apology Ruffles Feathers in Spain. And Mexico.

A politician from the Popular Party, Rafael Hernando, went a step farther. “We Spaniards went there and ended the power of tribes that assassinated their neighbors with cruelty and fury,” he said on Twitter.

Spain’s far-left and third-largest party, Podemos, sided with Mexico’s president and promised to offer restoration to victims of colonialism if elected. Mr. López Obrador is “very right to demand that the king ask for forgiveness for the abuses of the conquest,” Ione Belarra, a Podemos politician, said on Twitter.

Whatever Mr. López Obrador’s political intent, his call exposed the contradictions of Mexico’s identity.

While Mexico officially celebrates the idea of mestizaje — a new race formed from the union of the European colonizers and the indigenous peoples they conquered — modern Mexico has done little to right the wrongs inherited by the brutal history of conquest. To this day, Mexico’s upper classes are predominantly white and its indigenous communities continue to suffer discrimination.

Mr. López Obrador has paid tribute to indigenous cultures. His many critics may argue that his devotion to them is a stunt, but he is the first modern Mexican president who has worked directly with people in indigenous communities.

Despite the blowback that followed his demand for an apology, Mr. López Obrador has defended his letter as necessary. And he said there was no risk of hurting relations with Spain. Indeed, Mr. López Obrador has a strong connection to that country.

In January, Mr. Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, was the first foreign leader to visit Mexico after Mr. López Obrador took office. Among his gestures of friendship was a gift to the new Mexican president: the birth certificate of one José Obrador, born in 1893 in the Spanish region of Cantabria.

In 1917, the Spaniard did what generations of Spaniards had done before him. He went to seek his fortune in Mexico. A century later that immigrant’s grandson, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was elected president.

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