Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has apologized to the country's indigenous Mexica community for the rights abuses inflicted on them during the bloody 1521 Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire.
Lopez Obrador on Friday asked Mexica peoples for forgiveness for the violations as he was speaking in front of a large replica temple built to commemorate 500 years since the fall of the ancient Aztec capital Tenochtitlan to Hernan Cortes, the leader of the invading Spanish force and the armies of his indigenous allies.
Cortes and his allies defeated the Aztec leaders and the Mexica people who lived in Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City. They then looted and razed the city, ushering in three centuries of Spanish domination.
"Today we remember the fall of the great Tenochtitlan and we apologize to the victims of the catastrophe caused by the Spanish military occupation of Mesoamerica and the territory of the current Mexican Republic," Lopez Obrador said.
The Mexican president underlined that the Spanish monarchy and Roman Catholic Church should formally apologize for the atrocities committed during the conquest.
Lopez Obrador linked the colonial-era abuses to the origins of inequality and corruption in Mexico, and said the colonialists narrated history at their convenience.
"The conquest and colonization are signs of backwardness, not of civilization, less of justice," he said.
As the anniversary approached, Lopez Obrador stepped up criticism of Spain and other European countries, including Austria, whose former ruling family, the Habsburgs, also sat at the head of a French-imposed Mexican Empire in the 1860s.