There are dumb things people say on accident, and there are dumb things people say on purpose. This falls into the latter category.
On Thursday, employees of Spain’s public television network RTVE apologized for comments the company’s president made during a March 30 speech. RTVE Corporation President José Antonio Sánchez was speaking at Madrid’s Casa de América, a public consortium whose primary function is to improve relations between Spain and the Americas, when he tried to rewrite history by downplaying the genocide committed by Spanish conquistadors against the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas.
Sánchez posited that the exploits of Spanish conquistadors for half a millennium were aimed at “evangelizing and civilizing” the invaded indigenous lands, Spain’s El País reported this week. Never mind those 10 million indigenous people the Spaniards wiped out in the Americas from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Or the pillaging, raping, brutalizing, and enslavement of the ones who survived. Or the sacking of their vast natural resources including gold and silver.
In fact, Latin Americans are so grateful today for such historical benefaction that the biggest holiday in nearly every country in the region centers on independence from Spain—to say thank you, of course.
Not satisfied with simply denying genocide and continuing to claim superiority—at an event that’s supposed to bridge cultural barriers—Sánchez went on to compare the Aztec Empire to Nazis during World War II. Wrongly citing anthropologist and historian Inga Clendinnen, who died last September, the TV network president said, “Mourning the disappearance of the Aztec Empire is like feeling sorry for the defeat of the Nazis in World War II.”
Following backlash on both sides of the Atlantic over the statements—and their context—employees from the network union issued a public apology.
“We want to make clear our absolute rejection of the inappropriate discourse, titled, ‘RTVE’s Commitment with América,’ which is strictly [Sánchez’s] opinion and damages the image and reputation of public radio and television,” the statement said.
Clendinnen must be turning over in her grave.