Mexico marks end of last Indigenous revolt with apology

A delegation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN, say goodbye from a ship as they depart to Europe from Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, Sunday, May 2, 2021. The rebel delegation says they are planning the trip to "invade" Spain, as Mexico marks the anniversary of its 1519-1521 Spanish Conquest. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A delegation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN, say goodbye from a ship as they depart to Europe from Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, Sunday, May 2, 2021. The rebel delegation says they are planning the trip to "invade" Spain, as Mexico marks the anniversary of its 1519-1521 Spanish Conquest. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MEXICO CITY – Mexico on Monday marked the anniversary of a 1901 battle that ended one of the last Indigenous rebellions in North America, by issuing an apology for centuries of brutal exploitation and discrimination.

Monday's ceremony was held in the hamlet of Tihosuco in the Mayan township of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the headquarters of the rebellion. It comes amid broader commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 Spanish Conquest of Mexico, and 200 years of Mexico's 1821 independence from Spain.

“For centuries, these people have suffered exploitation and abuse,” said Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero. “Today we recognize something which we have denied for a long time, the wrongs and injustices committed against the Mayan people.”

“Today, we ask forgiveness in the name of the Mexican government for the injustices committed against you throughout our history and for the discrimination which even now you are victims of,” she said.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was accompanied by President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, the neighboring country that has a majority Mayan population.

The Mayas of Quintana Roo — who fought an 1847-1901 rebellion against Mexican settlers and the government known as “the War of the Castes” — still live on the Caribbean coast. The rebellion was finally ended when Mexican troops captured Felipe Carrillo Puerto between May 4-5, 1901.

While Mexico's Mayas have survived, they have been largely locked out of the rich tourism industry that has sprung up at coastal resorts like Cancún and Playa del Carmen since 1974. Most eke out livings as small-scale farmers or fruit growers, or as construction or cleaning workers at resorts.

“We realize that we have a great history, that we are held up as an example, and people make a lot of money off our name, but that money never shows up in our communities,” said Mayan activist Alfaro Yam Canul.