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Mexico apologizes to indigenous Maya for centuries of abuse

Mexico apologizes to indigenous Maya for centuries of abuse
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The Mexican government on Monday issued an apology to the indigenous Maya people for years of abuse and discrimination, marking the anniversary of a 1901 battle that ended one of the last indigenous rebellions to take place in North America.

The Associated Press reports that a ceremony was held in the town of Tihosuco, which is located in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the headquarters of the indigenous rebellion and also where it ultimately ended. It is now known as the "Maya capital” due to its history in the rebellion.

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

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“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,” Sánchez Cordero added.

The AP reports that this apology comes as Mexico commemorates 500 years since the Spanish conquest, and 200 years of Mexican independence.

Although the AP notes that Maya iconography and motifs are often used to attract tourists to Mexico, most Maya are excluded from benefitting from the money brought in from such attractions.

"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," Mayan activist Alfaro Yam Canul said.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was also present at the ceremony, accompanied by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, whose country holds the majority of the current Maya population.

Yam Canul called on López Obrador to revise rules regarding a nature reserve along the coast in order to allow the Maya to promote tourism there. The activist says the reserve called Sian Ka’an was “taken, stolen from us in a bad way, without our knowledge or consulting us.”

Experts have said that tourism activity in the reserve could severely threaten its delicate ecosystem, the AP reports.

Yam Canul asked the Mexican president to change the rules “so that we Maya, followers of the cross, can enter and develop community ecological tourism, in which we do not want really big buildings.”