The image depicts the Matanza de Tóxcatl, also known as the Matanza del Templo Mayo. Photo: Wikipedia
Tenochtitlán fell into the hands of Hernán Cortés on August 13, 1521. On the 500th anniversary of that day of horror and barbarism, celebrated with jubilation by the fiercest conquerors, Mexico paid tribute to the Indigenous Resistance.
President Manuel López Obrador, while inaugurating a commemorative model of the Aztec Templo Mayor in the Zócalo Plaza, refuted all the false arguments of those who “tend to justify the invasion in the name of freedom, faith, racial superiority or civilization”. The triumph of the European invaders inaugurated “an era of violence, overexploitation, slavery, discouragement and sadness” for the indigenous peoples.
And he added: “This disaster, cataclysm, catastrophe, whatever you want to call it, allows us to maintain that the Conquest was a resounding failure. What civilization can we talk about if the lives of millions of human beings are lost (…)? Was it worth so many deaths, so many people razed, looted and burned, so many women raped, so many atrocities ordered by Cortés himself and recounted by him in his letters to the king? (…) During the three centuries of colonial domination, the indigenous people had only two options: to survive in poverty (…), because they were stripped of their best lands, or (…) to work in the mines or on the haciendas as slaves”.
And what real motivations drove the conquerors? To bring the Word of God and the Church to “savage” pagans? The noble intention of “civilizing” them? The answer is simple and brutal: “The primary motive of this expedition was the desire for wealth,” López Obrador stressed. Ambition, plunder, the most obscene greed, the passion for gold.
The Mexican President also drew some lessons from the tragedy for the present and the future of humanity: “The great lesson of the so-called Conquest is that nothing justifies imposing by force on other nations or cultures a political, economic, social or religious model for the sake of the conquered or with the excuse of civilization. Let us put an end to these anachronisms, to these atrocities and let us say never again an invasion, an occupation or a Conquest, even if it is undertaken in the name of faith, peace, civilization, democracy, freedom or, even more grotesque, in the name of human rights”.
A Spanish ultra-right-wing party made a very different assessment of August 13, 1521 on its Facebook profile: “On this day 500 years ago today, a troop of Spaniards led by Hernán Cortés and native allies achieved the surrender of Tenochtitlán, in Mexico. Spain succeeded in liberating millions of people from the bloodthirsty and terrifying regime of the Aztecs”. And it concludes with a sort of patriotic slogan: “Proud of our history”.
The aforementioned political grouping boasts of its Francoist ancestors and also seeks its roots, as we can see, in the executors of the monstrous ethnocide carried out on this side of the Atlantic.
For today’s peninsular neo-fascists, the Conquest has other merits, apart from being “evangelizing” and “civilizing”: it must be recognized as an admirable “liberating” feat. It is an appropriation of the fateful binomial “invaders-liberators” that the American Empire has used so much since its debut in Cuba in 1898 up to the “global war on terrorism” launched by George W. Bush.
We should ask ourselves from what other dates does this party’s calendar of fascist ephemeris feed? Do they celebrate the bombing of Guernica? And the tens of thousands of people shot or starved to death in the prisons and concentration camps of Franco’s regime? Do they applaud with the same “pride in our history” the anniversaries of those massacres? Are they proud of the vile murder of Lorca? Returning to August 13, 1521 and the two irreconcilable ways of remembering that date, I would like to return, once again, to López Obrador and evoke for a moment Martí.
A very reactionary newspaper, also from Spain, reviewed the aforementioned speech of the Mexican President in the Plaza del Zócalo and let slip, not without a certain malignity, that the President is “of Spanish descent”. He thus slipped in a murky questioning of the legitimacy of a descendant of the conquistadors feeling entitled to condemn their crimes against another race. The answer to such a shameful insinuation is in Martí, a direct son of Spaniards, who never doubted which side he should take in the face of injustice, cruelty and infamy: “With Guaicaipuro, with Paramaconi, with Anacaona, with Hatuey we must be [he said] and not with the flames that burned them, nor with the ropes that tied them, nor with the knives that slit their throats, nor with the dogs that bit them”.
Finally, I would like to recommend a text by analyst J. A. Téllez Villalón (https://culturayresistenciablog.wordpress.com), in which he comments on the close alliance forged between the neo-fascist heirs of Franco and Hernán Cortés and that group so eager for notoriety that has been articulated around the subversive plans against the Revolution.
Describing the anti-Cuban demonstration organized in Madrid on Sunday, July 25, Tellez tells us how one of the protagonists of “Patria y vida”, in the company of “the most right-wing leaders of the Hispanic oligarchy”, launched a cry of melodramatic colonial resonance: “Spain is the motherland and a mother never abandons her child”.
Téllez is right when he highlights the contradictory and caricatural fact that those “who sell themselves as defenders of the Cuban dream raise their banners together with those who feel nostalgia for Franco’s nightmare”.
Or are they dreaming of a deadly “liberating invasion” for our country, like the one that massacred the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan 500 years ago?
Abel Prieto President of Casa de las Américas, Cuban professor, short-story writer, writer and politician.
Translation by Internationalist 360°