Blood and fire, annihilated traditions and the disappearance of a millenary culture. It could be the plot of a goremovie . Nothing like showing a few bodies fight against others at the rhythm of the wind and with the jungle in the background. Some winning, others dying, but always with honor on high. However, the script is even more shocking if it really happened. Something similar is the episode of the Spanish conquest that almost nobody remembers, disappeared from the books of history and popular knowledge: before submitting and evangelizing the Mexica , the Mayans faced the Spanish invasion.
The official story does not mention the Maya as central characters, not even remote from the Conquista episode. However, the process of conquest of the Mexican southeast and part of Central America was one of the most violent and bloodthirsty forced occupations, to the extent that the rulers preferred to give up their land or wealth in exchange for keeping their people alive; It does not heal and it does not save, since women were raped and men enslaved. Many of them disappeared without a trace with the desire to evade the conquest.
Yucatán: the first exploration
It was 1511 and contrary to what one thinks, the Mayan world still existed, with conflicts between the different kingdoms, the fall and rise of cities, rulers and all the activities that characterize a millenarian civilization. One day, the native panorama was reduced by a boat named Santa María de la Barca, which had sailed along the Central American coast under the command of Pedro de Valdivia.
Just as it passed near Jamaica, the caravel hit a reef and sank with most of the crew, except Gonzalo Guerrero and Jerónimo de Aguilar, who, on board a small ship, were transported until they found safe lands. Thus, they arrived in Yucatan. When seeing them of a whitish color, undernourished and with shining armor in the body, a group of settlers took them and took them as prisoners before Halach Uinic, a Mayan gentleman. By then, it was learned that Captain Valdivia had been “saved” by the same villagers who murdered him along with other crew members and immediately served his meat at a party.
Aguilar and Guerrero fled from the captors to reach another Mayan sector in which they were similarly imprisoned and later authorized as slaves. After a while, Gonzalo Guerrero was the “official” slave of Mr. Nachan Can of Chetumal, little by little he went up to the point of becoming a war chief who served against the enemies of Nachan Chan, in 1514. The first Spanish expedition in Mayan land did not had greater consequences. As for Aguilar, he remained a slave until the arrival of Cortés, when he became one of his interpreters.
Cuba, Spaniards and the interest in the Mexican coasts (1517-1518)
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba was based in Cuba and after hearing the violent story that involved his compatriots, he began an expedition to the Yucatan Peninsula, which was strangely followed and supported by some Mayans. Along the way some Spaniards died and suddenly they were surrounded by a group of Mayans willing to defend their territory who, in the face of the attack, were wounded and captured some of them to be used as guides and that the Spanish fleet could plunder the lands.
One of the Spaniards discovered that the arrows they used as weapons had poison impregnated in them so that death was slow and the agony of the poison was lived through every corner of the body; which entered slowly through the blood and was stored in each pore. With this as an antecedent, the Spaniards refused the arrows on the captured Mayans and without hesitation they nailed them to the bodies, as if they were a game, while they saw them suffer.
Between blood and suffering they reached Campeche, where they threatened to kill more people, but they failed in their first attempt. Just before the Sun came out, the small, but bloody Spanish conglomeration was surrounded by a great Mayan army which not only launched poisoned arrows, but decided to fight hand-to-hand against the captors, who had no more objection to surrender after an hour of fighting, half of his men wounded and another good number of them killed. Hernández de Córodoba had led the expedition from afar, as if he were hiding from them, so, before being attacked scathingly, he suspended the mission and returned to Cuba where he was safe. On his return,
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba wrote to Diego Velázquez, governor of Cuba who upon learning of all the material wealth that was in Yucatan, made an expedition that sounded more like a joke after the background. However, he prepared a larger group of men with the faithful belief that extreme violence and a bloodthirsty attitude would lead him to seize new lands.
With Juan de Grijalva heading the troops by mandate of the governor, the first fleet arrived at the port of Cozumel making alliances with some subjugated peoples in order to enter Mayan territory in a safe and “friendly” manner. In this way, some settlers accepted and the passage of the Spanish troop was easy to access, until reaching a certain region the Mayans did not want to negotiate with water. It was not necessary to insist them, Grijalva would not be walking with games, reason why it ordered opened fire with a prototype of cannon. This action frightened the settlers who fled the site, leaving it on a silver platter to the conquistadors.
More forced than willing, the Mayans gave part of their territory and became interpreters and messengers, as well as forced traitors, subjected to unthinkable tortures in order to obtain information from towns surrounding towns and civilizations that awaited in central Mexico to bring the conquest to a successful conclusion.
Hernán Cortés: a well-known character
Grijalva returned to Cuba to write to Hernán Cortés and give him every detail of the first Spanish company in continental America. Thus, with 500 men under his command, horses and a large fleet of ships, the Spaniard initiated the route that would change the history of Mexico, making a first stop in Cozumel, where he rescued Jerónimo de Aguilar from his condition as a slave. The Battle of Centla marked the first great triumph of Cortés over the Mayans, who in the consecutive had to pay tribute and cooperate with Spanish interests, until the expedition took course to Veracruz, bound for central Mexico.
In 1521, the story took the channel we all know: Cortés conquered Tenochtitlán, without forgetting the Mayan territory to which he would return in 1525, with a ceremony officiated by the priests who accompanied him. The Mass culminated with the presence of the King of the Itzaes who was amazed at the greatness of Cortes. Thus, the Spanish conqueror secured the territory, which served to give way and security to other Spanish adventurers who, by blood and fire, established cities in the Mexican southeast.
In this way over the years and after seeing different settlers arrive and leave, the Mayans adopted some traditions and lifestyles such as Catholicism and economic order, as well as the use of new tools, animals that served for the personal and social support and some rules of coexistence in a group. Sadly, the Mayan world was leaving behind the particular greatness that characterized it as the advance in mathematics and astronomy, as well as the form of organization and the rest of its cosmogony.
The indigenous chronicles indicate the deep pain of the Conquest, the subjection to violence and the resistance that little by little was disappearing to accept the imposition of beliefs, customs and institutions would create a completely different world in which, in spite of everything, the Mayan indigenous has impregnated a little of itself, although not enough to survive as the great power that someday was.
” The Spanish conquest “, Autonomous University of Yucatan.
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