On a day like today: the conquest of Guatemala

 

“It was on April 12, 1524 (Mayan date 1 Hunahpú) that the Castilians arrived at the city of Yximchée; their chief was called Tunatiuh. King Belehé Qat and King Cahí Ymox came forth to meet Tunatiuh. Tunatiuh’s heart was well disposed towards the kings when he came to the city. There had been no fighting and Tunatiuh was pleased when he arrived at Yximchée. It was in this way that the Castilians arrived so long ago. Oh, my children! In truth, they infused great fear among us when they arrived. Their faces were strange. The kings thought they were gods. It was your father himself who went to see them when they entered Yximchée.
 
Tunatiuh slept at the Tzupam house. On the next day, the chief appeared and went to the residence where the kings were, causing panic among the warriors.’” Why do you make war upon me when I can choose do so upon you?’ he asked. The kings answered ‘There is no war because many men would die. You have seen how their carcasses lie in the ravines.’ He then entered the house of Lord Chicbal.
 
Tunatiuh asked the kings about their enemies. The kings answered ‘Our enemies are two, oh god! They are the Tzutuhiles and the people of Panatacat.’ It is thus, said the kings. Barely five days later, Tunatiuh sallied from the city. The Tzutuhiles were quickly vanquished by the Castilians. On April 18, 1524 (Mayan date 7 Camey) the Tzutuhiles were destroyed by Tunatiuh.”
 
According to the Memorial de Sololá, Tunatiuh came back to Yximchée to receive his due.
 
 
(Modern Cakchiquel people of Guatemala)
 
“On the 21st of July 1524 (Mayan date 10 Hunahpú) he came to Yximchée upon his return from Cuzcatlán. When he returned to the city, it had been two months since he had departed for Cuzcatlán. Tunatiuh asked for one of the daughters of the king; the lords gave her to Tunatiuh.” The Memorial continues “Tunatiuh then asked the kings for money. He asked them to give him mounds of metal, their vessels and crowns. Since they did not hand these over immediately, Tunatiuh was angered and told the kings ‘Why have you not brought the metal to me? If you do not bring all of the money of the tribes, I will burn you and have you throttled’ he told the lords. Tunatiuh then immediately demanded that they pay him 1,200 gold pesos. Weeping, the lords appealed for a reprieve, but Tunatiuh would not consent. He told them ‘Find the metal and bring it here within five days. I pity you if you don’t bring it to me! I know my heart.’ This is what he said to the lords.”
 
  – From the Memorial de Sololá: transcribed from the original Maya Kiché language by Guatemalan paleographer Adrián Recinos.
 
'Tunatiuh' was none other than the bellicose and redhaired Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, lieutenant of Hernán Cortés, who had come from newly conquered Mexico with his band of Spanish adventurers and Mexican allies. Alvarado had earned from the conquered Mexicans the name “Tunatiuh” – the sun – because of his height and reddish hair. In Mexico he had gained a reputation for a cruelty that exceeded even the very liberal standards for warfare in the 16th century. His armored cavalry, war dogs, guns and pike men were used to great effect in Cuzcatlán (now the Republic of El Salvador) against the native peoples armed with stone-tipped weapons after the relatively uneventful conquest of Yximchée (now the Republic of Guatemala). He would later die on his way back to Tenochtitlan - the future Mexico City -  when he was crushed under his horse. His daugther, Leonor, would become the first known female head of state in Latin America and would die during a volcanic eruption in the city the Spanish founded in Guatemala. 


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under politics, history, guatemala, history, human rights, History

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