Vindicating the 12th of October is against the grain

2 min
Image of the Colom monument in Barcelona

Historical events are always complex, and the context of the time and its cultural values must be taken into account in order to understand them from today's perspective. Even so, there are values and contexts that have no justification today and, therefore, are a stain on the countries that were the protagonists of events that today may seem reprehensible to us. No one can now accept, for example, slavery or the Inquisition. The same happens with the colonising processes of the 19th century, which in part continue to affect some continents, especially Africa, and, of course, with the "conquest" or colonisation of America by the Spanish Empire – and others. These in large part meant the extinction and deculturation of the original populations, either by systematic and violent persecution, or the diseases they brought, which killed millions of people.

The colonisation of the Americas by the Spanish Empire was a long process, from 1492 to 1898, when the last American colony, Cuba, gained its independence. In many of these countries this entailed the destruction, persecution, mistreatment or marginalisation of the original native population. It is only a few years ago that they have managed to make a place for themselves in the political and social agenda of their countries. At the same time, resentment against Spain has been growing among the descendants of the original settlers for a long time. In 2019, a few months after coming to power, one of the first things Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did was to send a letter to Felipe VI asking him to ask for forgiveness on behalf of Spain for the conquest and persecution of the native populations. He also sent another to Pope Francis asking him to ask forgiveness for the violence used in Catholic evangelisation on the continent. The Pope apologised this year and acknowledged the suffering caused by the imposition of religion by force; Felipe VI has given no response.

The PP, on the other hand, has responded by attacking the Mexican president and the Pope himself. Their triumphalism claiming Catholicism and Spanish as synonyms of civilisation has reached unthinkable levels. They have even gone so far as to claim that if the indigenous people complain it is because they are "communists". No need to comment. The difference with Joe Biden's gesture, who this year has approved that Columbus Day share the limelight with Indigenous Peoples' Day, is abysmal. In today's world there is a general consensus in recognising the right of peoples to their land and their own culture, but this is not somewhere the Spanish right is going to go. It would cost it little to recognise the mistakes and vindicate the good things that this part of common history may have contributed, with a minimum of humility and respect for others, but it is so arrogant that it is content believing that what it read in Franco's regime's books was true. The denial of history as a political ideology. A common strategy among the ultra-right in many countries that goes against the freedom and civilization that they falsely claim to defend.