Fall of Tenochtitlán: Enrique Krauze: “In Mexico there are no statues of Hernán Cortés to tear down” | Culture


Enrique Krauze, on July 7 in Madrid.
Enrique Krauze, on July 7 in Madrid.Bald Elm

The historian and essayist Enrique Krauze (Mexico, 73 years old) said he felt “especially good” after pronouncing the name of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor, in a room of the El Escorial Monastery. He did so within the framework of the Spanish Orders History Award ceremony that he received on Wednesday, July 7 from the hands of King Felipe VI, an award that he has brought to Spain after 15 months of confinement and that has been granted to him. when the 500th anniversary of the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan is about to be completed on August 13, 1521, as he himself recalled in his speech. “I could not stop talking about this fifth centenary, although in my work as a historian I have focused more on the study of the two centuries after independence,” he pointed out a few hours later on a terrace in the Chamberí neighborhood. “I wanted to remember the defeated, the Mexicans, and their heroic defense. I think those 500 years are divided into three centuries of common history and two of shared history, but between two countries ”. The commemoration of this year, he maintains, should return to the etymological root of this word and allow “to remember together.”

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Faced with the historiographic currents that question the legacy of the viceroyalty, Krauze, author of a score of titles, among which are Century of caudillos O Of heroes and myths argues that after the first terrible years in Mexico there was later an important period of cultural construction. “The miscegenation is a reality, although today it is discussed. Of course, indigenous cultures must be respected. Without denying that discrimination existed, hierarchies and exploitation cannot be compared with the experience in the United States. Spaniards are great experts in self-flagellation and they can do whatever they want, I’m not in there ”, he joked. And then he remembered the Spanish friars who contributed to the rescue of indigenous memory that others had almost completely destroyed. “This is a complex story, but today we live in a color blind age where colors and nuances are lost. In the end, in Mexico there are no statues of Cortés to tear down ”.

“The capital sin of Latin American societies is to have tolerated this division between the modern sector and the marginalized,” he points out.

Back to the present and before the confrontation of the Mexican president López Obrador with the press, the founder of Free Letters stresses that “it is not just an abuse of power but an invitation to violence” in a country where being a journalist was already a risky job. His magazine, founded 23 years ago there, has an edition in Spain that will celebrate its 20th anniversary in October. “It is a small cultural company that shows that you can have a certain impact even in this dizzying time that we live in,” he reflects. “We never depended on state money, those ads were not more than 15%, which has been shown in a transparency portal,” he defends.

Krauze, who worked for decades with Octavio Paz on Return, vindicates the legacy of the Mexican Nobel as a universal poet. “I refuse to reduce him to politics or power or history, although he wrote extraordinary essays. He had great sympathy for the Zapatista revolution, but was disenchanted with the Soviet revolution. He never stopped being a socialist ”, he maintains. And the vindication of the work of his first wife, Elena Garro? “On the intellectual level, they had a much more creative marital relationship than mythology says. Octavio helped Elena, and Elena helped Octavio. Garro’s claim is extremely justified, because she was a great writer, but it is not to the detriment of Paz ”.

“Nicaragua is a dictatorship, just like Venezuela. And this no longer has to do with the covid or with the populism that existed with Chávez, “he asserts.

And what is your assessment of the effect of the pandemic in the Latin American region? “Nicaragua is a dictatorship, just like Venezuela. And this no longer has to do with the covid or with the populism that existed with Chávez. In Peru, the disappointment of four successive democratically elected presidencies, in the context of economic growth that suddenly ceases and the ravages of the pandemic enter, have the country in suspense, divided, and torn apart. And in Chile the situation is delicate, but I have more confidence ”, he sums up.

Caudillismo is not the way out

In the background, Krauze points out, is the reaction to inequalities. “The capital sin of Latin American societies is to have tolerated this division between the modern sector and the marginalized. Pure liberal recipes have not worked and the entire region has long been in need of a new economic imagination. Because those great impoverished masses cannot wait. And there are the leaders who head them. The way out is not populist caudillismo, this has already been demonstrated in the Venezuelan case and see that they had oil resources to give away ”, he emphasizes.

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in May, during an act of commemoration of 700 years of the founding of Tenochtitlan at the Museo del Templo Mayor.
The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in May, during an act of commemoration of 700 years of the founding of Tenochtitlan at the Museo del Templo Mayor.PRESIDENCY OF MEXICO

“The way out is within the framework of democracy, freedom and the laws. A profound change in economic policy to act and forms of direct support to the most needy population. Curiously, López Obrador has had that impulse in Mexico supporting the neediest and the oldest people, for example. But in return he asks for political obedience. There have to be other imaginative and new ways for poverty and malnutrition to drop dramatically. The State is needed, yes, but attached to the laws ”. A formula like that of US President Biden? “Exactly, because in Latin America either Biden’s path is coming or we create trumps”.


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