Felipe & The Sword Of The Liberator

The recent eye raising incident of King Felipe not standing during a part of the inauguration ceremony when the sword of Simon Bolivar was paraded may have been a bit awkward but also shone a light on the complex relationship between Spain and her former American possessions.

The sword of the rebel leader who successfully fought the war of independence for what became Gran Columbia, encompassing present day Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador remains a potent symbol in those countries.

The incoming left-wing President of Columbia, Gustavo Petro, had requested that the sword to be paraded in front of the invited dignitaries which included the Spanish king.

Intriguingly in 1974, the Marxist M-19 guerrilla group had stolen it from a museum in 1974 and returned to the government in 1990.

President Petro, now 62, was once a member of that group

There are six “swords of the liberator” as Bolivar was known – in the three south American countries – and who remains a heroic figure to many in the Americas.

He was much affected by the revolutionary ideals of France following 1789 and initially supported the installation of Napoleon´s brother, Jose, as King of Spain.

The ensuing Peninsular War, ironically known in Spain as the War of Independence, was an opportunity for those seeking independence, which Bolivar led successfully against the weakened Spanish Empire.

Spain´s subsequent relationship with its former possessions has not been an easy one, and the long shadow of history has been difficult to escape.

In recent years the Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying the relationship remains one of “colonial exploitation.”

In a letter, marking the 200th anniversary of Mexico´s independence from Spain, Pope Francis, called for “a process of purification of memory, that is, recognizing the mistakes made in the past, which have been very painful.”

And awkward.



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