MEXICO CITY – Descendants of the last Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, and Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes embraced in Mexico City on Friday to mark the 500th anniversary of the first meeting between their ancestors.
Federico Acosta, who can trace his ancestry to a daughter of Moctezuma, and Ascanio Pignatelli made their rendezvous outside Jesus of Nazareth Church in the center of Mexico City, which holds the remains of Cortes.
Mexican filmmaker Miguel Gleason brought the two men together for the making of his documentary, “El reencuentro, 500 años de Moctezuma y Cortes” (The re-encounter, 500 years of Moctezuma and Cortes).
The church stands on a site that was once the entrance to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, where Moctezuma received Cortes and his troops on Nov. 8, 1519.
While that initial encounter was friendly, less than two years later, on Aug. 13, 1521, Tenochtitlan would fall to a combined force of Spaniards and indigenous Mexican foes of the Aztecs.
“I want to beg your pardon for all the evil that happened with our ancestors,” Pignatelli, an Italian national, said to Acosta before the men embraced.
Acosta replied that no apology was needed, as Mexicans are heirs of both the Aztecs and the Spaniards.
“To deny that would be to shoot ourselves in the foot, because 90 of Mexicans are mestizos with Spanish and Aztec blood,” he said. “We had a mixture and it was much better for us than if any other European people had come. Many others would have exterminated us.”
With the passage of 500 years since the conquest, Mexico needs “to recover its identity” and overcome internal divisions, Acosta said.
Pignatelli, who has traveled throughout Mexico for the filming of the documentary, said that he feels Mexican and urged the nation’s people to “leave the past in the past.”
A native of Rome, Pignatelli belongs to an old Italian noble family linked to Cortes by marriage.
Gleason said that his project is meant as “a documentary of healing.”
“I am in love with Mexico and I want Mexico to heal, because I know that those two worlds of 500 years ago continue to exist and it makes me sad that instead of being together, there continue to be divisions,” the filmmaker said.
Relations between Madrid and Mexico City were strained earlier this year after the leak of letters from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to Spain’s King Felipe VI and Pope Francis asking them to apologize for the abuses that accompanied the conquest.
In a speech Friday in southeastern Mexico, Lopez Obrador said that seeking apologies “is not offensive,” but rather part of a process of reconciliation to enable the two nations to look “toward the future as brothers.”
The leftist president has likewise pledged to apologize to his country’s indigenous peoples for the wrongs committed against them by the Mexican state after achieving independence from Spain.