Mexico’s president wrote an open letter to Pope Francis to ask for an apology for the church’s role in the Spanish conquests committed against the country 500 years ago.
Ahead of Columbus Day, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wrote a two-page letter that was tweeted on Saturday.
“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered,” the letter states. “They deserve not only this generous attitude on our part but sincere commitment we will never, ever, commit disrespectful acts to their beliefs, cultures, and let alone be judged or marginalized on economic or racism grounds.”
López Obrador also asked the Pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s 19th-century independence leader who was once believed to have been excommunicated by the church for his involvement in the uprising. Researchers later said it appeared that Hidalgo had confessed his sins before he was executed and thus was not excommunicated.
In the past, Pope Francis has extended an apology on behalf of the church and its exploitation of Indigenous people while on a tour of Mexico in 2016.
“On many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society,” he said at a mass before tens of thousands of people. “Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior. Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them.”
López Obrador had asked the Spanish government for an apology in 2019, which Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez rejected.
López Obrador’s letter was given by his wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, who has been traveling in Europe for archaeological and historical artifacts to be exhibited next year for Mexico’s 200th anniversary of their independence.
The letter was also tweeted the same day Mexican authorities removed a controversial Christopher Columbus statue in the country’s capital ahead of planned protests to tear it down.
Mexico City’s Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum dismissed the notion the statue was removed because of the protests, assuring it was for restoration purposes. For some, Columbus Day continues to mark a reign based on discrimination against Indigenous people. A petition circulating in Change.org has garnered over 1,700 signatures for its removal.
The Associated Press contributed.