At New York’s Hispanic Society, Leader of Madrid Laments Indigenous Movement as an “Attack Against Spain”

Conservative President of the city of Madrid Isabel Díaz Ayuso bashed “historical revisionism” at the Manhattan headquarters of the Hispanic Society of America (HSA) this past Monday, September 27. The HSA’s museum is currently closed to the public for “extensive renovations,” but nevertheless opened its doors to Díaz Ayuso, hosting the right-wing politician in its Sorolla Vision of Spain Gallery for an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion editors.

Organized as part of a weeklong US trip with stops in New York and Washington, DC, the interview was followed by an impromptu speech delivered to about a dozen Hispanic Society representatives, according to the Spanish newspaper El País.

Díaz Ayuso spoke favorably of US-Spain relations before launching into a diatribe against “revisionist, dangerous, and pernicious” ideologies that she believes are leading to a “cultural regression.” Calling for a “defense of real history,” she criticized anti-colonial and Indigenous movements that challenge heroic narratives of the Spanish conquest as a “dangerous current of communism through indigenismo that constitutes an attack against Spain.”

When asked by El País journalist María Antonia Sanchéz-Vallejo for her opinion on the New York City Department of Education’s decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Díaz Ayuso said the move was “fatal.”

On Wednesday, Díaz Ayuso delivered similar remarks at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC.

“Why are we revising the history of Spain in America and questioning Hispanicity 500 years later,” she asked, “when all it did from its origins was bring universities, civilization, and the West to the American continent, values sustaining prosperous democracies to this day?”

Con el director de opinión de Wall Street Journal y sus redactores, muy interesados en la política fiscal de la Comunidad de Madrid y nuestra política de atracción de inversión norteamericana.

Foto en la sala de Sorolla de la Hispanic Society. pic.twitter.com/cFxSZwo3bH

— Isabel Díaz Ayuso (@IdiazAyuso) September 27, 2021

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, HSA Director and CEO Guillaume Kientz said, “The Hispanic Society is not affiliated with Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The opinions expressed by Díaz Ayuso in no way represent or endorse the views shared by the museum and its mission.” Kientz added that areas of the museum are currently “open by appointment only” and the society regularly hosts officials from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities.

The organization was founded in 1904 as a public library and museum dedicated to the art and culture of Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines. Housed in a 1908 Beaux-Arts building in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, where 70% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, the museum has been closed for renovations since 2017.

Díaz Ayuso’s visit comes in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15 to October 15. Labeled as a “Trumpista” by supporters of the left-wing national government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Díaz Ayuso and her conservative Popular Party (PP) won Madrid’s regional election by a landslide this spring, in part by pushing for laxer pandemic measures.

The politician has previously drawn ire for her discriminatory comments, like her suggestion that cases of COVID-19 in Spain were being driven by the “way of life” of the country’s immigrant population. Just a day ago, Díaz Ayuso publicly denounced Pope Francis’s recent apology to Mexico for the church’s role in the Spanish conquest. 

Shortly after her visit to the HSA on Monday, she tweeted a photo from the event. One Twitter user commented, “You’ll make few friends in Latin America by criticizing Indigenous movements and imposing your own historical and ideological reality with the same fanaticism as the colonizers and inquisitors of the 16th century; you’re not doing Madrid’s people any favors.”

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