King Felipe has called Puerto Rico a ‘model’ of colonialism as he lashed out at protesters who tore down a conquistador statue just before he arrived on the island. The King of Spain made the remarks in a speech commemorating the 500th anniversary of the founding of Puerto Rico’s capital.
He praised the conquistadors for bringing European civilization and values to the New World. His remarks stand in stark contrast to those of Prince Charles, who denounced “the atrocity of slavery” when Barbados deposed the Queen as head of state in November.
In response to the King of Spain’s visit, protesters in Puerto Rico attacked the ‘Spanish tyranny’ and tore down a statue of Juan Ponce de León, who was an explorer with Christopher Columbus when the first wave of ships from Spain has reached the island nation.
They retaliated against the Spanish Empire which tore apart the indigenous community of the island, which died by the thousands due to imported diseases and forced labor. “The presence of the king here is non grata. This validates many crimes against humanity that have happened here,” Jorge García Muñiz said during a street protest in San Juan.
A day later, King Felipe said that Puerto Ricans and all Hispanic communities in the Americas should feel ‘proud of our common past, of those values that Spain provided then and that are still valid today’ today”.
The King of Spain offered no apologies in his speech, nor did he acknowledge the suffering of the indigenous Taino people. Instead, he said the country was a “model of colonialism” and Spanish expansion in the Americas, as reported by The Telegraph. He argued that Spanish colonization brought “governmental institutions, the construction of universities, schools, hospitals and printing presses”.
“Spain brought with it its language, its culture, its beliefs, and with all this it brought values and principles such as the foundations of international law or the conception of universal human rights,” said he declared.
The speech was King Felipe’s strongest defense to date against Spanish colonialism, as leaders of Latin American countries and indigenous communities increasingly demand an apology or reparations from Madrid.
In 2019, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president, wrote to King Felipe asking the Spanish monarch to apologize for the “massacres and oppression” of indigenous communities in Mexico.
King Felipe said nothing and left it to the Spanish government to issue a response rejecting the Mexican leader’s interpretation of the conquest of Mexico.
“The arrival of the Spaniards in what are now Mexican lands 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary thought,” the Spanish government said.
“Our peoples have always known how to interpret our common past without anger and with a constructive perspective.”
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