López Obrador and Historical Guilt

López Obrador has sent letters to the Pope and to the Spanish Government. (Screen capture)

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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 28 March 2019 — Until now, Andrés Manuel López Obrador seemed to be a focus of concern or hope for millions of Mexicans. Saving his lukewarm performance in the face of the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the Mexican president had received criticism and applause only within the borders of his own country, where he wages innumerable political and economic battles every day. That was how it was, until it occurred to him to stir up the ghost of historical guilt on two continents.

In a letter, AMLO — as he is popularly known in Mexico — has asked Pope Francis and the King of Spain to form a joint commission to study the conquest of America and to ask for forgiveness for the excesses committed. The letter has provoked some reactions of support, others of anger, many of indifference and resounding taunts that feed the memes in social networks. The Mexican politician has come to stand, in a few hours, at the center of a barrage of comments that cross the Atlantic from one side to another.

AMLO’s two Hispanic surnames do not help much in this process of demanding an apology, because they confirm that he himself is the fruit of a long cultural process that transcends the Manichaeism of the conquered and conquerors. His own existence springs from centuries of confrontation, integration, symbiosis, miscegenation and accommodation, where the limits are not precise and seeking the guilty is a work that delves deeper into the terrain of neurosis than of objectivity. But demagogues have to live for something and the most comfortable source lies in burdening others with responsibility.

López Obrador knows not what he has done. While he believed that he was extending that path of official apology that began with his mandate, which includes several bloody events of recent Mexican history, he did not realize that he was entering a terrain that does not belong to him: the distant past. In trying to extract returns from a supposed political humility that would have the powerful kneel before the defenseless victims, he has stepped on the tail of the Spanish bull and with it the millions of citizens of this part of the world whose veins run with both Hispanic and American blood.

It remains to be asked what led AMLO to compose the letters he sent to the Vatican and the Zarzuela Palace asking for an almost impossible historical redress. Was it the search for truth, or ignorance,or  the desire to shift attention beyond the problems of Mexico, or was it his own ego needing to scale higher peaks and take on more universal challenges? Whatever it is, so far he is losing the battle because he chose the losing path of “we are like this because they damaged us,” while rejecting the path of “we are nourished by diversity and in our culture many channels converge: this makes us powerful.”

If AMLO follows the path of blame then he must begin by preparing the plea to hold the Aztecs accountable for dominating and controlling large areas of Mesoamerica, the Romans for molding European faces with the advance of their implacable legions and the Mongols for having planted terror so many times under the hoofs of their horses. But this he will not do, of course, because his true objective is not to assign responsibility but to nurture his populist foundations. López Obrador is not looking for a culprit, instead he just wants to garner the distinctions of a savior.

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3 thoughts on “López Obrador and Historical Guilt

  1. So true! That’s what AMLO should be doing, not Ministry of Truth historical revision. AMLO is another Chavez. Venezuela is in the US’ back yard, but Mexico is on its doorstep. USA, this is about so much more than a wall!

  2. So true for the apologies of the past in our country as well. The past is a miasma of complexity – yes, horrible things were done, but they were not done by us – they were done by many people long dead, many misled under the guise of patriotism and demonizing the “other” and many well-intentioned people died on both sides of the conflicts. So sad, but we need to leave the past behind and work today, celebrating the good stuff and using our understanding, will, technology and compassion to work together and care for each other and fix our broken systems. It is a massive job, but it is so worth doing. I continue to pray for you, for Cuba and for those in need in our world.

  3. Every autocrat is only a predend-savior. It’s only about power. To hell with the economy and the people!
    On CNN en español they’re saying “give him time”. For a long time they were politely discussing what the inMaduro should change in the way Venezuela was ruled. They don’t any more. It’s all about how to get rid of him. Very soon that will also be the AMLO refrain.

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