The King of Spain, Felipe VI, during his visit to Puerto Rico has defended and praised "the model of Spain's presence in America". Along with this, he praised the pride "of the Spanish model" in the colonisation of America, as well as the Hispanic heritage left by the Spaniards during the conquest.
Faced with the indigenous movements that question the conquest throughout the Americas, Felipe VI defends the fact that the Spaniards managed to lay "the foundations of human rights" and that the former Spanish colonies "were incorporated into the Crown on an equal footing with the other kingdoms", something that only Spain did in comparison with the other colonising powers.
After receiving the keys to the city of San Juan from the Puerto Rican mayor, Miguel Romero, the king vindicated Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico and discoverer of Florida and Bimini. In this context, the statue of the former governor was knocked down a few days ago in an act of vandalism, which Mayor Romero played down and said would not affect the monarch's visit.
In his speech, Felipe VI said that during colonisation "Spain brought with it its language, its culture, its creed and with all this it brought values and principles such as the foundations of international law and the concept of universal human rights". He went on to state that these "concepts and elements contributed in a very important way to the beginning of the so-called Modern Age through institutions such as the school of Salamanca".
He went on to declare that "many of the values and principles are still fully in force today and nourish the best of our democratic societies".
He also stressed that during the Spanish presence "Spain promoted constructions and buildings that today, more than 500 years later, continue to house public institutions and constitute an indissoluble part of the culture of Puerto Rico". Among them he highlighted the "creation of government institutions, the construction of universities, schools, hospitals and printing presses".
Trying to demolish the arguments promulgated by "the black legend", a historical version that tries to spread a negative image of Spanish history, Felipe VI appealed to both Spaniards and Puerto Ricans to "feel proud" of history, just like the rest of the Hispanic peoples. He argued that the values brought to Puerto Rico today are "so basic that they seem obvious to us today, but were not so in other times".
This is due to the fact that Spain managed to approve the figure of the "protector of Indians", a Spanish administration that looked after the welfare of the indigenous populations. In fact, one of the greatest defenders of indigenous rights was Bartolomé de las Casas, who stated that the inhabitants of the colonies "were just like us, with souls and feelings" and that those Spaniards who committed excesses against them "did not deserve salvation and would be condemned".
After his speech, Felipe VI walked through the cobbled streets of old San Juan to conclude that in Puerto Rico "there is a lot of Spanishness in the air, as could not be otherwise".