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Mexico marks 500 years since Spanish conquest

By Pedro Pablo Cortes

Mexico City, Aug 13 (EFE).- The Mexican government observed Friday’s 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan to Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes with an emphasis on “indigenous resistance” to occupation.

“Conquest and colonization are tokens of backwardness,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said after noting that Mexico’s population declined by more than 90 percent in the 50 years following the arrival of the Spaniards due to conflict and the introduction of diseases previously unknown in the Americas.

“This disaster, cataclysm, catastrophe – whatever one wants to call it – allows us to maintain that the conquest was a resounding failure,” he said in front of a recreation of the Aztec Great Temple erected in Mexico City’s giant main square, the Zocalo.

“Of what civilization can we speak if the lives of millions of human beings are lost?,” he asked rhetorically, blasting the attempt to “justify the massacres of the conquistadors” with claims that the colonizers civilized the indigenous people.

The ceremony in the Zocalo was part of a packed 2021 program of events to commemorate not only the passage of 500 years since the conquest, but also the bicentennial of Mexican independence and the 700th anniversary of the founding of Tenochtitlan on the site of what is now Mexico City.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist who has more than once urged King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize to the indigenous peoples on behalf of Spain and the Catholic Church, respectively, took the opportunity to again express regret in the name of the Mexican state.

“We remember the fall of the great Tenochtitlan and ask forgiveness from the victims of the catastrophe originated by the Spanish military occupation of Mesoamerica and of the rest of the territory of the existing Mexican Republic,” he said.

But the National Indigenous Congress, founded in 1996 by the Zapatista movement, has questioned the administration’s sincerity, likening the president’s Tren Maya project for a passenger railway in southeastern Mexico to the depredations of the colonial era.

In line with the theme of indigenous resistance, Friday’s ceremony included representatives of the original peoples of the United States and Canada.

Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, chief of the Mohawk Council of the Kahnawa:ke community near Montreal, spoke of a “resurgence” of indigenous culture to overcome “the obstacles of oppression.”

The “ancestral knowledge” of the indigenous peoples have the potential to help humanity grapple with climate change and environmental degradation, she said.

Arizona state Sen. Jamescita Mae Peshlakai, a member of the Navajo Nation, said that the ties linking the continent’s original peoples to one another transcend borders. EFE ppc/dr

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