“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”

That well-known quotation from L. P. Hartley‘s well-known novel, “The Go-Between“, sums up the current dispute between Spain and Mexico.

Spain’s government has refused a demand from Mexico’s new president that it apologise for conquering the country five hundred years ago.

Firing the first shots in what threatens to become a diplomatic row, the Left-wing Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Monday that he had sent letters to Spain’s King Felipe VI and Pope Francis urging them to apologize for crimes committed against the indigenous peoples of what is today Mexico.

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the temples,” Mr López Obrador said in a video message.

. . .

At a speech to supporters later on Monday, Mr López Obrador said he wanted to reconcile Mexico, the Spanish crown and the Vatican by “together reviewing the history of that military invasion and three centuries of colonisation”.

Mr López Obrador said it was time to bury the Spanish interpretation of the events of 500 years ago as “a meeting of two cultures”, adding that “thousands of indigenous people were murdered”.

. . .

“The arrival of Spaniards in what are now Mexican lands 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary thinking. Our peoples have always been able to interpret our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective,” the Spanish government’s reply read, adding that “there is a great store of affection” between Spaniards and Mexicans.

There’s more at the link.

I must admit, my sympathies are more with Mr. Obrador than with the Spanish government on this one.  However, that must be conditioned by the fact that Mexico – and most of South America – had been ruled for centuries, and in parts were still ruled during the immediately pre-colonial era, by bloodthirsty tyrants who slaughtered their subjects wholesale.  Spain merely brought firearms, gunpowder and a different religion to the table.  (Judging by the way the church was complicit in the enslavement of the continent of South America for the benefit of the colonial power, one can make a strong case that the Christian Gospel had long since been commandeered by the Spanish Crown for its own purposes, just as it did with the Spanish Inquisition.)

The sad thing about almost all colonial expansion, by any country, was that it was done for the benefit of the colonial power rather than its newly annexed subjects.  Britain alone made at least some effort to induct the local populace into the governing structure it established in many of its colonies, but it was a patchy effort, successful in some areas, but not in others.  Portugal did an abysmally poor job, reserving land, education and all well-paid jobs for its colonial expatriates rather than indigenous people.  (I was told that, when Mozambique became independent in 1975, it had precisely one indigenous graduate from a Portuguese university.  Some of its new rulers had been educated at university – but that was the notorious Patrice Lumumba University in the Soviet Union, which is about as poor a preparation to efficiently run a country as you can possibly imagine.)

Both sides can – and do – emphasize their loss/misery/deprivation/whatever at the expense of the other.  Here in the USA, I’ve heard black people demand reparations for slavery, even though no living US black person has ever been a slave.  On the other hand, I’ve heard some US whites sneer that if US blacks had been left behind in Africa, rather than brought to this country as slaves, they’d have been much worse off;  therefore, they should pay the USA for the greater opportunities they’ve enjoyed here.  Neither side is actually listening to the other, of course;  they’re posturing for their own benefit.  Sadly, I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

In the end, I have to agree with Denys Winstanley, who observed, “Nothing is more unfair than to judge the men of the past by the ideas of the present.”  I suppose the same can be said of the colonial era.



  1. Why should any nation care for the opinions of another?

    Colonization is never conducted for the benefit of the colonized. Why should anyone go to the effort and expense? 60 million Latinos haven't colonized the USA for the benefit of Americans.

  2. It’s the usual out house morality play and the usual suspects fall over themselves to play their parts. This isn’t about morality or reconciliation or truth… it’s about money.

    Carefully not being said here is that the average black IQ is 85. Mohammed Ali had an IQ of 79 which is considered mild mental retardation in whites. Sub Saharan blacks have an IQ of 65. In the real world these guys aren’t smart enough for those high paying professional jobs, nor will they qualify for the prestigious universities unless the academic bar is artificially lowered for them.

    The Latinos are the same thing to a lesser degree. The reason Mexico is a third world country is because it’s full of Mexicans. They are marginally smarter than blacks but still stupid enough to fall for ideology like socialism. In their case, I think Mexico’s leftist leadership wants to drive a wedge between Mexicans and the faith. Christianity is exploding in the third world and it could conceivably threaten the leftists.

    I’ve had my fill of the fake morality plays myself and would like to encourage all the actors to FOAD.

  3. You have to wonder how an apology would matter 500 years after the fact? The people of Spain today have no more responsibility for the actions of their ancestors than the Mexicans do the the Incan blood sacrifices.

    The only logic I can see is that the symbolism apparently has more merit than the reality of the times. If Mexico did receive the apology what real effect would it have? None. So, this is posturing by the politicians and nothing else.

    Apologies are meaningless if made by anyone other than the one who caused the need for the apology to begin with.

    It never ceases to amaze me to what lengths a politician will go to bask in the limelight.

  4. BS leaders got to BS. The Philippines was a colony of Spain after Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the world as proof there is no flat earth. After 300 years, the islands were ceded to the USA after the Spanish-American war. Briefly, it became a vassal state of Japan, during WW2.

    Filipinos are grateful to Spain it is not a Moslem country because it brought Christianity, to the USA for it introduced a government patterned and education structured after the American system, & to Japan for a culture of discipline, persistence, patience and optimism; it is not for Filipinos to look back in its past. They've gained great learning experiences from it.

  5. Wait.
    Filipinos do not see themselves as victims?
    But, but…if you are not a victim you cannot blame others for your shortcomings.
    What kind of thinking is that?

  6. Colonialism is apparently only wrong if it is done by Europeans.
    I mean, except the Aborigines (and here I just don't know) every single culture conquered its neighbors at one time or another. Or some more distant lands.

    The natives of South and North America did it, the Africans did it, the Asians did it. Hell, the Turks are the descendants of the Mongols, so in a way Turkey is still a colony.

  7. Before condemning the Spanish Catholic Church of the late 1400's/1500's, please remember that they were involved in a small kerfuffle with some other religion for 700+ years and heavily involved in getting rid of said other religion from the Iberian peninsula. A Church by fire and sword, because else there would be no Church.

    Same can be said for the more secular Conquistadors themselves. Hard people, fresh from a hard war.

    All being said, for most of the people of pre-Mexico natives, the coming of the Spanish and, yes, even the Portugese, was a blessing. A hard blessing, but still overall better for the minion-class.

    As to Obrador's request for an apology, he's just playing to the same political crowd that is pushing the Aztlan movement. Socialists wanting to reconquista land that 'once was theirs' or some other bullscat.


    Don't get me started down the path of 'apologizing' for way-past 'sins.' There's a whole bunch of people that need to do that, and they aren't related to people from Northwestern Europe…

  8. waepnedmann said…
    Filipinos do not see themselves as victims?
    But, but…if you are not a victim you cannot blame others for your shortcomings.
    What kind of thinking is that?

    You are right, Waepnedmann; Filipinos are above victimhood status.
    IMHO, some former colonies in the Middle East & Africa miss their colonizers and how their life use to be.

  9. If the Spanish only massacred thousands, most of the conquered must have seen it as a huge improvement.

    Do you even History, bro?

  10. Mr. Grant, your Englishness is showing. I think you need to read more about the Spanish presence in the Americas. For instance, look up how soon and how many Universities were established in the overseas territories.

    Also, there is a difference between civilizing empires, and predatory empires.

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