Department of Anthropology

Enrique Rodriguez responds to Jose Antonio Sánchez's comments about the Aztecs

Tue, April 11, 2017
Enrique Rodriguez responds to Jose Antonio Sánchez's comments about the Aztecs
Professor Rodgriguez-Alegría

During a ceremony at the Casa América in Madrid, Spanish public television president, Jose Antonio Sánchez, said that the mission of the Spanish who colonized America was "evangelizing and civilizing". He implied that the benefits of the conquest were the creation of churches, schools and hospitals, and denied the extermination of the Aztecs due to the advanced cultural level of the conquistadors. He even went so far as to compare the Aztecs to the Nazis.

Professor Enrique Rodriguez-Alegría was asked by Spanish website Verne to comment, and this was his response (translated from Spanish):

"To call what the conquistadors did a project of civilization is not something that most people would agree with today. We know that the indigenous Americans, the Aztecs and others, understood many scientific concepts, knew poetry and art. To say that Spain brought civilization is to demonstrate ignorance... When people think of the Aztecs, especially people outside of Mexico, it’s always that they had human sacrifice and nothing else. That they had great works of poetry, paintings, engineering and sculpture is unknown. I don’t see any reason to defend the Nazis, but neither do I see any reason to condemn the Aztecs without taking into account the great variety of their civilization. To me it's a comparison you can’t learn anything from... It’s correct that <the Spanish> didn’t want to wipe them out, because what they wanted was to enslave the indigenous people. It was that exploitation which killed so many through sickness and overwork... The bad reputation doesn’t come out of nowhere. And this gentleman tries to substitute a not-very-complex story for another that isn’t either. That the Spaniards were civilizers and evangelizers is simply another fiction. It’s ironic to me that even now someone is trying to celebrate an empire."

The full article is in Spanish, and can be found here: http://verne.elpais.com/verne/2017/04/06/mexico/1491435975_945457.html

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