THE EARLY HISTORY OF BELIZE.
By Silvia Pinzon BA, MLS
Comentarios y sugeencias:
The exciting prehistory of Mesoamerica is just coming to light in the past few years. Beginning with the
Spanish conquest, we have a record of Mesoamerica and the Mayan Empire for the past five hundred
years. Today, thanks to recent discoveries in the interpretation of the Mayan written language, we are
beginning to scratch the surface of three thousand years of history. Many Mayan ruins that have been
archeologically explored and excavated have not yet had their glyphs translated. The few that have reveal
a world of pre Spanish city states that warred with each other for several thousand years
Many ruins exist in the jungles of Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and the Peten, which until today have not
yet been excavated to reveal their history. many more ruins are yet to be found. The city states of
Mesoamerica rivaled, and probably surpassed, the social organization and development of Medieval cities
This is an exciting time for archeology and anthropology students, because the history of the early Maya
civilization is yet to be filled in by field studies. Now that the written language is being deciphered, we
will in future years be able to compile a history going back in some cases for four thousand years, long
before the time of Christ.
This paper discusses how this came about, and the limits of what we know today. The emphasis of this
study is on the story of the Maya glyph deciphering, starting with the Spanish manuscripts and Codices, a
brief overview and explanation of the calendrical system and the logograms and how they work, and, in
the last section, the history of the Maya rulers whose glyphs have already been deciphered.
9064 B.C. ( 11,060 years ago)
Au Chac was tired. The trip across the water ( Gulf of Honduras today ) had been long and he had
been sea sick. The twelve men in the dugout canoe were greeting friends along the shore of the small
island ( Wild Cane Caye today). Several thatched roof huts were scattered around and the sand was
covered in tiny pieces of broken pottery, where women had started a new life during their rituals by
destroying the possessions of the old one. At least twelve canoes were tied up, much smaller than the
one he had crossed the big water. On the mainland opposite he could see a row of seven hills and far
off in the distance was the range of mountains were the men paddling the cargo dugout had said they
It had been a long journey and he still had far to go to reach that fabled island of Cozumel to the north,
which seemed like some myth. Au Chac had traveled far.
When he had been younger he had traveled the coast to a land in the far south, more than a year of
traveling away, with huge mountains and volcanoes in the high country, huge cities like Tiahuanaco and
Sacsahuaman had been built from immense blocks of mountain granite, each block as big as one thatched
house found around here, but the people called Hauacan & Choumica who had lived near those city ruins
in those far off mountains to the south today, did not know how those cities had been built. They spoke of
tales passed down from father to son, of unknown ancestors who built them, living a thousand years
earlier with many skills not available today. Some catastrophe had occurred cutting off the people of
those olden times from their ancestral home on land in the middle of the sea which had been a hot land
and turned suddenly cold when the angle of the sun in the sky had changed completely and the star charts
had almost become useless as the sky had tilted. These myths and tales were still talked about and Au
Chac did not know whether there was any truth in it, or not.
Those people in those far away southern cold high mountains did not have writing today, but he had been
surprised to see that the traders of this cargo canoe from this hot lowland here, had some sort of script that
they calculated with, on clay tablets. He remembered the argument he had concerning the calendar and
timing of the year with the leader of the trade canoe. Some of the old keepers of the records back in the
last mountain valleys across the water (Guatemala) spoke of a time in pre-history about the time of the
beginning of this Mayan calendar when this area had been a very cold country with something called
snow at certain times of the year. Then it had suddenly changed as had the stars in the sky and the
weather had become very hot and the vegetation had changed. No one knew today if those old tales were
true, but they sounded similar to the tales told in the mountains far to the south. Those were the stories
handed down from generation to generation.
People just did things differently in different places, but the moon and the stars never changed as f ar as
he was concerned and wherever he had been, festivals and celebrations were timed to the night sky. He
looked around him disgusted at this group. Most of them were drunk. They had been driving away the
evil spirits by burning copal and drinking wine. Only the Nacon did not get drunk.
This drunken festival would continue until the month of Pop. He fervently hoped he would get a ride with
someone returning to the highland villages across the small bay and up the river. (Golden Stream) He
wanted to discuss his new calendar with the astrologers and wise men in those hills to see what they
thought of the new way of counting the days of the year. It was the tenth Katun by his count. ( 9064 B.C.-
11,064 years ago ) He thought about his new name. It was the custom of people in towns and villages in
this area, to find some citizen with the same last name as a traveler. They would assume that there must
be some remote family linkage because of the same surname and give him food and shelter, this was the
custom. He had chosen the name carefully, back across the bay in the mountains to the west.
CARACOL IS A VASSAL STATE OF TIKAL
2,338 years ago ( 342 B.C.)
Reluctantly, Seiba climbed up on the rocks by the side of the stream. She dried herself off and replaced
the gourd covering her genitals and tied the string around her waist.
Much later, between the cracks in the palmetto walls of her house she watched the magnificent procession
of the Lord of Tikal. Her town chief ahaoub for Caracol was dressed in his finery as befitting a vassal lord
on the periphery of the political organization of the area. The visiting royal Lord of Tikal wore a Jaguars
head and a feathered headdress of the Quetzal bird denoting his high rank. The warriors surrounding him
in the procession had their war regalia on, with leather shields on wicker framework, spears, axes, bows
and arrows. Walking behind came lesser individuals in a long line. Inside the dark shadows of the hut
Seiba could hear her mother making ready the calabashes of food which was the allotment assigned to
this house of her father. Seiba had already filled a clay jug with wine decorated with writing for special
occasions, which she would have to carry out to the visitors at a command from the Nacom. First there
would be some rituals and sacrifices to the Gods which would take at least an hour. She supposed the
three young men from the other side of the town that had been causing trouble with an older man who had
no woman and was finding life difficult because of a leg injury would be killed at dusk. The girls had
been talking about it down by the stream. A big pile of stones had been built up in the ceremonial plaza
and three stakes set in the ground. The old men of the council and the Ahaoub did not tolerate teenage
disobedience and hooligan actions, such rowdy young men were always killed to teach obedience and set
an example to others of public behavior.
It was the annual visit of the senior regional lord from Tikal and the town had known he was coming,
because runners had arrived yesterday to give the warning. She didn't know why he was coming this way,
because the gossip was that the procession had proceeded from Tikal in the Peten ), to Yaxha, then Ixkun
to the southwest of Caracol in Belize ) a fairly straight journey according to the gossip she had overheard
the men talking about last evening.
Usually the Lord of Tikal visited the vassal states in this area by going to the north of Tikal, visiting
Uaxactun, Xultun, Holmul, Nakum, Xunantanich, Naranjo then Caracol with Ixkun last on the visiting
circuit before returning home to Tikal. Sometimes he went southwest to visit Machaquila, Aquateca, Dos
Pilas Seibal, Polol, Itsimte and Tayasal before returning to Tikal. This visit was strange and she could
sense the uneasiness of the town leaders.
( The date was 342 B.C. in what is known as the pre-classic era when Caracol was a vassal state of Tikal,
or 2338 years ago.)
XCALAK, CHETUMAL BAY, COROZAL OF 2,846 YEARS AGO (850 B.C)
(Presente en Zona Mexicana)
Mik Chan waited patiently on the sand beach waiting for the paddlers who crewed the dugout to arrive.
The surf broke on the reef just off shore. It was a never ending pretty sight, but after two months of it he
had enough. He wanted his milpa, the fruit trees, his tame deer, turkeys, wife and children around him
once more. They had all been drinking heavily last night of the wine, made from honey and water. He
himself had a severe headache that did not seem to go away with the rising sun. The bright light as the
sun rose in the sky hurt his eyes. The three young girls at the thatched house who had served the wine and
gone off on the beach with each of the traders during the night, in return for the pretty stones had been not
bad. The really young one was very sweet, when she had told him she liked him and wanted his baby. He
wondered who her family were and why she had run away. He hadn't liked the older girl because she
drank too much and he didn't like women who drank. He checked his pouch ruefully. His wife was going
to be angry he thought. There was nearly nothing left from his trading trip north to Xelba along the reef .
He had been gone for two moons. She would be expecting more than what he brought back. He would tell
her the high surf had rolled them over when crossing the reef to find a place to camp for the night on the
way back and they had lost most of the cargo. They were all going to have to get their stories straight so
the details would agree, for the women tended to gossip together when washing and they would be sure to
pick the tales to pieces in little bits and if there was any discrepancy, they would soon get into trouble. It
wasn't that the trading trip hadn't gone well. It had and they had made much.
The trouble was the girls, drinking and partying all the way down the coast and they had spent nearly the
whole load. There was not going to be much left to split as shares among the crew when they got home to
Saxia (Santa Rita-Corozal).
Four hours later, with the sun high in the sky with Xcalak and the great ocean and barrier reef behind
them, the sorry lot of paddlers swatted mosquitoes as they cleared the last of the mangroves crowding the
passage between the ocean and the inland bay. (Bacalar Chico the stream that separates Belize and
Mexico today) . Everybody had a headache, but he knew the paddling and the sweat would get rid of the
unhealthy effects of the drink by the time they were three hours further west near Rocky Point down the
bay with the tradewind behind their backs. They were not going to arrive at Saxia (Corozal) before night
caught them and it was probably going to be the middle of the night when the star formation Orion would
be high overhead before they arrived home. If they didn't get lost in the dark! There would probably be
some fires along the habitations on the shore making smoke for mosquitoes, which just might give a
beacon of direction during the paddling in the blackest part of the night. Unfortunately, there was no
moon expected, but the starlight was quite bright and they should be able to see the trees on the shoreline.
He and the men would be glad to get home to their own hammocks and wives, it had been a fun trip and
just the thing to break the boredom from planting crops all the time.
CYCLE OF THE MAYAS. THEIR WRITINGS
Mayan Epigraphic Database (MED) Project: Premier site for latest advances on Maya
writing, translating, and interpreting. Supported by the Department of Anthropology at
the University of Virginia.
Maya Syllabary: Good site! Includes "how to write your name with glyphs" plus a
collection of logographs, aristocratic titles, etc.
Linguistics: Pronunciation and phrases. Information and tables
Do-It-Yourself Stela and Try a Translation
More Maya Writing
Not only did the Indians have a count for the year and months, as has been before set out, but they also
had a certain method of counting time and their matters by ages, which they counted by 20-year periods,
counting thirteen twenties, with one of the twenty signs in their months, which they call Ahau, not in
order, but going backwards as appears in the following circular design. In their language they call these
periods katuns, with these making a calculation of ages that is marvelous; thus it was easy for the old man
of whom I spoke in the first chapter to recall events which he said had taken place 300 years before. Had I
not known of this calculation I should not have believed it possible to recall after such a period.*
AMBERGRIS CAYE SOUTH POINT, 2,646 YEARS AGO (650 B.C)
(Pr esent Ambergris)
Tutul Xiu was very excited. They had been paddling for the whole day since leaving Rocky Point (
Chetumal Bay near Sartenja today ) along the shore of the main island, since leaving in the middle of the
night last night. Before the sun set, he would see for himself the fabled transhipment port of Quia (
Ambergris Caye south point ) on the shallow shore of the island. When they got through the passage
between the land ahead, his cousin had told him, he should be able to see the ocean waves breaking white
on the reef and there would be about twenty houses. This was the first real new stop for him on the
voyage they planned all the way south for weeks, to the lands of high mountains across the open sea.
Tutul was excited, he had just turned fifteen and this had been his present from his uncle. When the
invitation came, his mother had not wanted him to leave, but his father had said okay. It amazed him to
think that for twenty or more generations his family had been making this trip and now it was his turn to
see the outside world. He had marveled at all the hundreds of birds living on that one small caye behind
the main island and wondered why they had chosen just that one small caye when there was so much
country to put their nests in? His uncle told him the paddling and waves would get rougher once they
cleared Quia and the islands beyond that. They would follow the reef south for most of the way, camping
at different spots and meeting new people who fished on the islands and lived further south in towns he
had heard of, but never ever dreamed of seeing. He would not see the towns on this trip either, but he
would make new friends, meet relatives with his last same surname maybe and perhaps one day be able to
travel overland and visit to see for himself how they lived down there.
CERROS, 2,183 YEARS AGO (187 B.C)
The Maya Astronomy Page: Excellent!
Astronomy Analysis: Includes analysis of planets, the ecliptic, the Milky Way, and the
political aspects of cosmology
Cob Chan was sore and tired. His head hurt and he had a bump the size of a turkey egg blurring his right
eye. His hands were tied behind his back and his fingers were going numb. It was the month of Pax ( May
). He had traveled from far inland past Lake Yaxha, across the Mopan River to the town of Baltok on the
Macal River. Here he had proceeded down river, past Xunantanich guarding the road to the coastal sea,
until reaching Zaczuz, which was just a few hours of canoe travel further than Petenzub. From Zaczuz
and nearby Chantome across the river on the north side, ( near Belmopan today ) he had taken the trail to
the town of Boxelac, then across the Cancanilla River (Labouring Creek today), until he once again had
found passage in a canoe going north down the Dzulumicob River ( New River ). He had been treated
well by some distant relative in Colmotz by the last surname as his (Chan) and told that there were more
Chan Is living further north in Lamanai with whom he could stay. There had been warnings from these
distant cousins of his in Colmotz, where he had spent the night. War was going on further north among
the towns of Chinam, Uatibal and Chanlacan, on the lagoon and coastal area of the big bay ( Chetumal
Bay today ). He hoped he could avoid any pitched battles, or involvement.
His luck had run out on the river about 4 hours paddling beyond the town of Holpatin, which had been
about eight hours of paddling north of Lamanai. He and his companions from Lamanai had been set upon
by a war party from Chanlacan, which was situated to the north and overland on another lagoon to the
east ( Progresso Lagoon ). He had woke up with his hands tied behind his back and a big headache. From
the battle he had been marched to the end of the river and along the coast of the bay ( Chetumal Bay ) to
the site of some sort of temple complex called Cerros. There were a lot of dugouts pulled up along the
shore when he arrived and hundreds of people around. As a prisoner and slave he knew what his fate
Before his eyes the Ahauob of Cerros and the Nacom, along with their ceremonial attendants, had taken
the prisoners one by one up the temple steps to be sacrificed to the Gods.
It was the year 187 B.C. by our modern calendar in Cerros on the shore of Chetumal Bay and the head of
New River. It had been 2927 years since-the start of the new Mayan calendar, that had started in 3114
B.C., or about 5109 years ago, since the date 1996 by our counting and 9064 years of our counting since
that traveler 'Au Chac' had crossed the Bay of Honduras to Golden Stream in the Toledo District of today,
those thousands of years earlier when he had conceived of the new calendar the Maya had finally adopted
many, many, centuries later in 3114 B.C.
On the far side of the world in the Mediterranean Sea, the Greeks had started to form their civilization just
a mere 589 years earlier in 776 B.C., while Romulus would form the first village he called Rome just 110
years later than the Greeks. The Indian bible the Bhagavad-Gita had already been written and passed
down for the last 4,191 years. The Mayan history books of record were now 3,200 years old, those that
we know of. The Ahauob of Cerros did not know this of course. He got the idea of becoming a King and
building a temple on a trading trip he had made across to the central valley of Mexico. The Gods
demanded blood and the prisoners would provide a suitable sacrifice.
It was the year Kan and the suitable God was Hobnil who ruled the south. So the wise men of the council
had ordered that clay idols be made of the God Kan-uvayeyab and be placed at the piles of stone marking
the entrance to the ceremonial plaza on the south side. Clay statues were then made of the God Bolon-
tzacab which was placed in front of the Kings house by the central plaza. The council Of Wise men and
other sub leaders, ordered the villagers from far around to clean the road and pathways and prepare arches
of cohune palms and bay leaves. The nobles went to the first statue at the south and there they gathered in
a devout ritual. The statue was covered in smoke from the copal incense and forty nine grains of the best
maize. This ground maize was a holy gift and called sacah. A guinea hen had it's head cut off and was
presented as an offering to the god.
From here the statue was raised on a wooden platform carried on the shoulders of men called kante, with
a calabash of water along with more clay statues painted in different bright colors. The whole was carried
back to the house of the king and the other God statue Bolon-tzacab. The statues were not Gods of course,
just representations like Catholics and Christians do today with crosses and idols on the cross. A drink
was passed around to all the nobles of the community made of 415 kernels of maize. This drink was
called picula kakla and everybody of importance took a ritual drink. Here more offerings of food and
drink were made to the two Gods now present. Strangers and visitors were also made presents of food and
drink at this time. The Nacom received a leg of deer meat.
Further offerings were made during this ceremony to the God Kanalacantun by cutting their ears, or other
parts and offering their own blood to smear the face of the statue. A ritual paste of calabash seeds and
molded bread was offered to the God Kanuvayeyab. Incense braziers were used to cover the statues with
sweet smelling smoke. These rituals were to prevent bad luck in the coming year. Once the days of
ceremony were over, they believed that the evil spirits were driven out and the coming year of Kan and
the bacab Hobnil would be a good one.
The Ahauob of Cerros had then commanded that another statue be made of the God Itzamna-kauil and
place at the top of the steps in the temple. Up there, the nobles burned three balls of resin called kik
(rubber) and proceeded to sacrifice the prisoners. This was done by throwing the men quickly on a round
stone altar, holding the man or woman's arms and legs splayed open by the attendants. The Nacom then
used a heavy stone dagger to break and spread the bones of the rib cage just below the nipple, where he
could reach in and pull out the beating heart. This was then carried around the temple and blood was
smeared on the stone faces of the Gods. Food and drink were then offered as gifts to the Gods and people
in the plaza below.
CERROS, 2,000 YEARS AGO IN NORTHERN BELIZE
The Mayan Calendar: Its relation to glyphs, "do-it-yourself" stela, and date maker.
Supported by the Halfmoon Organization
Day and Month Names and Approximate Meaning: Tables and explanations
The people of Chunox, Sartenja and Corozal experimented with Kingship over 2000 years ago at Cerros.
They finally decided to go back to the ancient ways of small f arming villages, much as they do today.
The King that started the building program in Cerros at the head of the New River was never buried in the
acropolis he had made. Whether he was killed in battle, captured and sacrificed, or died some death at a
remote location on a trading trip we do not know. We know that his heirs managed to get enough support
from the surrounding area to build more temples. These were done roughly and cheaply. City states were
rising and sinking at this time and Cerros and Lamanai were some of the very first in Maya history and of
course Belize to ever be built. The very act of building pyramids placed Belize in the historical forefront
as a leader in the changing customs of political organization for the Maya of meso america. The swampy
northern area of Belize was also the the breadbasket for the nearby drier northern Yucatan with it's
droughts and insect pests. The system of walled fields, and seasonal re-fertilization of the growing area by
heaping the muck cleaned out of the drainage irrigation canals onto the ridges on each side would make
new soil, full of fresh rich nutrients. In fact, they could plant crops every day, or every week of the year
and never do without food. In later centuries this practice was to be developed as industrial farming and
the Maya exported food far and wide, particularly during the 200 year drought in the Peten which hardly
effected them at all, due to the swampy ground and local rainfall convection from the nearness of the sea.
Traders from Cerros traveled far and wide, in long dugout canoes with as many as forty paddlers. They
traveled north to Cozumel and south to Honduras visiting many of the trading ports in between. They
were young men, full of adventure and eager to see the wide world, to explore the fabled lands beyond
northern Belize. This practice went on for thousands of years. We know those people more than 2000
years ago in Belize were literate, for they wrote on their pots and ceramics. We can still read these today.
Something emphatic must have happened, or perhaps it was some charismatic leader. The village that lay
at the site before the temples at Cerros were built, was abandoned as a group. The people broke their
belongings, the pots, the jade jewelry and buried the house sites, in a ritual ceremony of getting rid of the
old life and the starting of a new life, making a broad plastered plaza with massive temples. This must
have taken a lot of organized labor from the farms around the area. It was not uncommon for farmers in
Belize those thousands of years ago to live to be eighty years old. Life must have been healthy then, as it
is now. Even though we know they traded as far as the central valley of Mexico and saw metal tools. For
some reason, they never adopted metal tools in Belize.
One of the instruments found at Kichpanha, a burial site, just a few miles south of Cerros was a bone
bloodletting instrument used in ceremonial rituals from the pre-classic era, a few hundred years before the
temples at Cerros were built.
Ambergris Caye was used as a port of entry for the villages of Chetumal Bay during those old days. I
suppose foreign traders would need guides, or transhipment of goods to find the towns in the area coming
by sea. Much of the area has a lot of very shallow water, making passage for trading canoes difficult in
some spots. This would have required local knowledge.
The sign of royal leadership, or kingship as we call it through the pre-classic era of 2500 years ago, to the
present day was a headband, or sort of crown of precious stones representing the Jester God image found
on many carved monuments over many centuries of history. A cache of stone pendants was found at
Cerros in northern Belize made in the first century B.C. Five head pendants of precious stone were
discovered in a deliberate arrangement within a ceramic bucket at Cerros. This style of lowland Mayan
stone carving did not change for another thousand years. A nearly identical royal headband piece was
found at Nim Li Punit in the Toledo District of modern day Belize, but was made some five hundred
years later, representing the Jester God, a sign of kingship and royalty. Four more headbands were
discovered at the city state of Nohmul also in Belize. These four also had precious stones, particularly
greenstones. The headbands of royalty at Nobmul in Belize were almost a thousand years younger ( or
later ) than that found from Cerros. In Belize, so far the earliest discovery of writing is 2500 years ago.
The new Mayan calendar we know started 5110 years ago.
CERROS, 1,938 YEARS AGO
Bo Chun said to his friends, "Well I'm leaving here at the next new moon. How many of you will bring
your families and come with me?"
Col Cak replied, "I'll go with you. it is the month of MOL (December ) and we will miss the bee-keepers
festival, but I guess it is important to arrive before the rains will be over at our new place."
"Where have you chosen to go, Bo?" asked Tik Xiu.
Bo Chun answered, "We will move to the far side on the east coast, behind the lagoon (Shipstern Lagoon)
along the shore just back from the inland sea. Anything to get away from this Lord and his soldiers. It was
okay to volunteer workdays for the temple buildings during the dry season, but making my little brother a
slave because he refused to obey the Lord and the Ahuoab and leave his milpa at such a critical time was
"I know," Col replied. "When the Nacom tied him to the post and slashed his genitals that was a bit
"Yes," Pol Yiu said, "count me in for the move. I have no stomach for the way they treated your little
brother, then tore his heart out of his chest for the Gods. May the Gods strike me dead if I don't believe,
but I'm tired of this royal Lord and King stuff. Do this and do that, all the time. They treat us like dogs
and tax us more maize than I can save. My father remembers before we had these temples and appointed
a King and nobles. Then we voted on a committee and elected the chief every year. It is true the Nacom
served for three years but he was still elected and had to work with the elected council. I for one, want to
go back to the old ways. Everybody having a vote and changing our leaders every year is the proper way
of doing things. I don't want people telling me what to do, it's okay if they ask my opinion and we vote on
it, that's fair. This bunch telling us what to do and ordering us about is not my style."
"Careful what you say Pol," said Kal Chan, they won't think anything of making you a prisoner and
sacrificing you, to shut you up." Kal looked around at his companions to see if any would betray them to
the Lord of Cerros.
Bo stood up, stretching his arms. So! How many of you will come with me at the new moon, bringing
your families and tools? We will start a new village on the coast, far away from this bunch of fools here
and go back to the old ways of doing things."
Eleven hands shot up. No one abstained. Bo hadn't expected any to abstain, for they were all in danger of
their lives meeting like this and he had chosen the people he wanted to lead away to start a new village
carefully. This Lord of Cerros was nothing like the previous King and the attempts at coercion,
intimidation and bullying would not make them obey him. Even at pain of death!
Kal offered a comment. "At least by leaving at the new moon, we will have time to build houses before it
will be necessary to start clearing fields. The rains should be over just after the full moon and the cold
weather from the Northers finished."
"I'm not so sure of that," Col replied. "Still, it will give us three or four weeks to clear land and do the
burning before we have to plant."
"We better do some irrigation ditches and raise some ridges for planting too, because I hear that land is
swampy and flat and might flood." Pol offered.
There was a little more conversation about how they were going to carry enough food, seeds and things
and the making of hidden food caches a few miles away, that they could perhaps sneak back to get food if
it was necessary. They all knew there would be plenty of fish, lobster and crab to eat, it was just the maize
and other plants that would be a problem for a few months. They also knew other groups around Cerros
were planning similar moves, but it wasn't safe to talk to anyone outside of the family and everyone
present was connected by marriage, or blood in some way.
XAXIA (COROZAL), 1,918 YEARS AGO (78 A.D.)
CHOL SPEAKING MAYA FROM THE MOUNTAINOUS WEST
IMMIGRATE TO BELIZE
He had appeared out of nowhere, with his wife and two very small children. The language he spoke was
strange, he called it Chol, a language spoken by the Maya of the mountains and volcanoes in the far west.
His name was Na Chen Chac and he was learning the local language fast.
Mu Loc Chac supposed he had to take the family in, for they were distant relatives of some kind with the
same surname as his. There was gossip that there were many more of these immigrants coming from the
western mountain highlands speaking this strange language they called Chol. The villages and towns up
and down the country were mumbling and grumbling about the migration and influx of the newcomers. It
would not be too hard to help this fellow and his family fit in here at Saxia (Corozal) . Truth be known he
could stand some help with the camp he had set up for fishing for lobster on the two islands (Caye
Caulker and Caye Chapel) south of Quia (south point of Ambergris Caye ) The traders and fishermen
from Altun Ha and their camp at Xelchac ( center of the Drowned Cayes 4 miles to the west of Caye
Chapel ) were poaching on his territory and some more manpower would help defend the place. He
needed to leave somebody on the island full time. The problem would be the mosquitoes. They were
much more terrible on the Cayes than here at the town Saxia (Corozal) . Still, beggars could not be
choosers and this fellow had nothing now and would never get anything unless he took the offer. He
probably would be glad of it, too.
It would be better if he got the fellow out of Saxia anyway, he thought. His talk of building temple
buildings, royal families, battles, warriors and that kind of stuff would not be appreciated around the town
here. It had been hard enough getting rid of those ruffian soldiers and that ambitious bunch of self
proclaimed nobles over in Cerros from the tales they had heard: He for one wanted nothing to do with
hereditary families, warrior life and quarrels with other towns. He had his hands full with the milpa here
and the fishing on the islands and that took up his whole year. Besides, he liked it better when the council
they had, was dominated by sensible men who went trading and the community held elections every year
to see who would manage the town. Having a distant government ( like Belmopan today ) that told you
what to do and when and then taxed the heck out of you was a stupid way to live. Those traders that had
been way over to the Teotihuacan culture (central Mexico) and came back with tales of buildings and
parades, sacrifices and royal nobles could keep their ideas to themselves, thank you! Be snorted in disgust
at the thought.
He smiled to himself, thinking about the young slave girl he had just acquired. His wife could look after
the milpa here, while he went on a trip to the islands and set this immigrant Chol speaking Maya and his
family up in camp. Then he would bring back a load of boiled lobster. The slave girl could go on the trip
of course, to cook. He grinned in anticipation.
1,520 YEARS AGO (376 A.D.) LORD SMOKING FROG CONQUERS
CRUCES FRONTERIZOS FORMALES)
Miel Xiuc peered out the shadows of the door in her house in Caracol, protected by the
shadow of the overhanging thatch. She felt sympathy for all these strange rs straggling
in, with vives and children. The occasional wounded ma n trying to keep up. These
refugees were f rom Rio Azul and Na kbe and ha d come a very long way via Holmul,
Nakum Xuna ntunich and Naranjo to her town of Caracol (western Belize) . They would
have to go to the community house and there the Ahauob would arrange for food to be
brought from houses like hers. These refugees could not stay here and just in case,
warriors a nd scouts were placed 24 kilometers up the trails in all direc tions to the north
and west, to protect from any surprise attack.
Naranjo was closer and easier of access and though we don't know, it would seem that
Xunantanich would be subservient to Naranjo. Cahel Pech ( Baking Pot a few miles east
of Xunanta nich) in turn was subordinate to Xunantanich.
The many city states in northern Belize seem to have never been involved directly in the
various battles for geographical supremacy. Life went on here, the same as alwa ys.
Farming, fishing and trading. Life in northern Belize and also southern Belize in the
Toledo Distric t seems to have been more concerned with living and the e conomic s of
successful trade. We can say that the Belizean Maya communities with a peak
population of about 350,000 survived the seven hundred years of the classic Maya
geographic wars unscathed. The re probably were local raids and struggles befitting the
traditions of the time, but nothing on the scale of the wars in the Peten. Belize was then
and still is today, a place of refuge for the immigrant, fleeing war, poverty and
1,314 YEARS AGO ( 682 A.D.)
WAR AND THE CONTROL OF MANPOWER LABOR
We do know there was a complicated set of interrelationships between Dos Pilas, Tikal, Naranjo and El
Peru in the Peten of that time. Prosperity seems to have returned after the decline of Kings and wars. This
seems to indicate that the deceased old King Flint Sky God had been successful in his political
machinations and a coordinated military and political geographical area where sub leaders owed
allegiances to a central regional political group developed.
There must have been an enormous population in the eastern Peten and even more in the central and
western Peten. It is estimated nearly a half a million people lived in the eastern Peten near Belize alone.
About 682 A.D., the scion of Shield Skull who had been imposed as ruler on Tikal from Caracol much
earlier in history, seems to have adopted, or wrapped himself with some semblance of joining with the
hereditary line from Tikal. There was a lot of marriage between rulers in different city groups and the
family lines mixed. The rejuvenation of Naranjo began with the arrival of another royal woman from Dos
Pilas called Lady Six Sky who married Smoking Squirrel. They were probably first, or second cousins
descended from King Flint Sky God. It is believed that Lady Six Sky outlived King Smoking Squirrel of
Naranjo and ruled the whole political area for another three katuns. There were no .further historical
recording done on stone during this time. Though we know that Lord Hummingbird of Cabel Pech, (
between Benque Viejo and San Ignacio) owed allegiance to Lord Smoking Squirrel over in Naranjo
(across the Guatemalan border today).
Naranjo and Tikal joined together in a military alliance between 693 A.D. and 695 A.D. making war four
times against their neighbors to keep the area together. In one of these wars, Jaguar Paw Jaguar is
recorded as captured to the west of Tikal. It is believed that Lady Six Sky was part of a diplomatic,
political effort to solidify control in the area when she moved from Dos Pilas to Naranjo. At any rate, war
was simultaneously started from both Tikal and Naranjo in different directions with the intention of
subduing surrounding city states. Political fragmentation seems to have started about this time.
War and politics seems to have been about the control of manpower and labor for public construction.
The effective area of the time seems to have been a radius of 67 km, about 3400 square kilometers. The
same distances are found in northern Belize between city states.
A study of pottery made of clay at Lubaantun from this time compared to pottery from other city states,
shows that there must have been established trade routes, or that the skill of pottery was something an
artisan carried with him as he went traveling from one place to another.
There was no religion as we would recognize it today. Political leaders, or as today, elected Mayan
leaders carried out ceremonies to the Gods as part of the function of their office. There were no priests.
MAJOR BELIZE CITY STATES.
Geographic Description of the Area: Including maps on altitude, rainfall, and temperature
The major Maya ruins of city states found in Belize at the time of this writing, were Caracol, Lubaantun,
Altun Ha, Xunantunich, El Pilar, Pusilha, Nimli Punit, Lamanai, Nohmul, Pibil Luum, NegromanTipu,
Uxbenka, Xnaheb, Cerros and Colha.
The last building constructed at Altun Ha, half way between today's Orange Walk town and Belize City
the port was built around 850 A.D. to 875 A.D., or about 1,121 years ago. Building still went on at Altun
Ha until 1100 A.D. about four hundred years before the Spanish arrived in Yucatan.
The city states in the Peten were disintegrating at this time with their political organization. One of Tikal's
old subordinate kingdoms still thrived and declared it's independence. This was the city state of Uaxactun
and they were still erecting tree stones of their history in 889 A.D., or 1, 107 years ago. Yet the city state
of Lamanai in northern Belize was still vibrant in 950 A.D., over a thousand years, and continued until
the Spanish conquistadors came to invade from their northern Yucatan conquests.
There is a lot of speculation of what happened in the Peten. Was it because of overpopulation, destruction
of the rain forest changing the local climatic cycles, reduced soil fertility, the two hundred year drought?
This long drought affected even Bolivia and Lake Titicaca which dried up forcing the people to abandon
the city of Tiahuancaco. Even California has records of cycles of long 200 year droughts. Could it have
been the immigrant waves of Putun Maya coming up the rivers from the Tobasco region of Mexico to
mingle and mix with the Chol Maya changing the systems of agriculture and management? No one is
sure, but we do know that Belize did not suffer. Belize is also close to the sea and would have enjoyed
local convection and rainfall of some kind, even if the Peten had been deforested by overpopulation.
The greatest part of the Mayan history for which we have records from stelae, temples and other
engravings was the four hundred year period of the tenth baktun. Yet we know from the archeological
record, that though the carving stopped, the people still lived on and around these areas a hundred years
We know that Lubaantun a city state located in the highland hills of southern Belize was intensely
occupied between 580 A.D. and 800 A.D., (1,196 years ago) , during the worst of the Peten wars. This
area of southern Belize in the Toledo District seems to have been a self sufficient one. It is unlikely they
saw any warfare with the'Peten as the terrain and travel is very difficult. There is commerce by Maya
traders even today between villages over in Guatemala and those in the Toledo District of Belize. There is
a trail, a very muddy one, going along the hills into Guatemala and in 1960 I met a traditional Maya
trader carrying his bag of goods to sell, near Golden Stream. He carried a chicle waterproofed canvas bag
with a head band tump line on his back. His goods were decorated woven village cloth for skirts and
blouses to identify the village and clan you owed allegiance to and the milpa grinding stones used to grind
corn by hand.
In modern terminology, the Maya practiced then and still do today, real democracy, with decentralized
government and regular elections of different official posts, unlike our country of today which uses the
inherited Roman model of the class, cast, elite system used to financially benefit a few at the top.
Mr. Owen Lewis the Indian Officer in British Honduras for this district in the 1950's took this muddy
trail, on an exploration and came out to the road in the Peten running from Flores to Puerto Barrios. There
is also a trail over the mountains to the north, which in olden times would have connected to Actun Balam
on the north side of the mountains and then onward to Caracol and minor centers in the Forest Reserve of
the inner basin of today's Belize.
This southern area of Belize was a fairly isolated regional area caused by geographical conditions. There
are mountains to the north and west, the Caribbean Sea to the east and a large swampy river area drained
by the Temash River on which the modern day Maya village of Crique Sarco lies and the Sarstoon River
further west, still dividing present day Guatemala and Belize. People would have to be funneled through a
relatively small opening in the Maya mountains to travel east and west. The population of the Toledo
District probably never exceeded 100,000 people. The Maya understood some things that we today have
not yet learned and that is the healthy living is to be found in the hills above the coastal plain, away from
where insects carry debilitating diseases.
During the nineteenth century the Toledo District coast often boasted immigrant populations larger than
that of today in the last decade of the twentieth century. Yet, because they lived on the coast, such settlers
were decimated frequently by plagues of yellow fever, malaria and cholera.
The principal diet of the Maya throughout known history has been corn, or maize. People who live on this
diet are usually short and compact of skeletal structure. The average Mayan diet was about 1200 calories
a day. A person of European, or African descent would starve on that amount and need a minimum of
1800 calories a day. Maize is prepared in many different ways and is basically unchanged to this day. The
maize is used to make various kinds of food and drink. The women leave the maize to soak overnight in
lime and water so that by morning it is soft and partially prepared. This makes it easier to separate from
the grain. Then they grind it on a curved stone with a stone roller. For traveling, they make balls of this
half ground maize and these balls of ground grain last several months. These balls will become sour, but
do not go bad. At home using a calabash they make a maize gruel with the maize and drink it themselves
and feed it to guests. The fine ground maize can be squeezed to produce a milky substance, which they
thicken over the fire place into this porridge or gruel. They will also toast and grind the maize mix it with
a little hot red peppers and cacao, which makes a healthful drink.
When the Maya had meat, which they tried to do once a week, they made a stew. Sacrificed prisoners and
slaves to the Gods were also eaten by the population of olden times and an excellent way of getting
concentrated protein from an environment that had no large game animals. Since all meat is broken down
into basic amino acids by the stomach during digestion and reconstituted by the body into new muscles
there is nothing really wrong with this practice. The taboos of today were imported and perpetuated by
scientifically ignorant Europeans usually on some vague religious ground, yet these same Europeans
accepted the foulest methods of torture against live innocent helpless victims. Cannabilism, was a
common practice worldwide in most places. Wild turkey, small deer, armadillo and other small game are
common in the jungle. The men usually ate separate from the women. If they did not have much in the
way of food, because of weather and seasonal fluctuations, the Maya could do with very little sustenance
for long periods of weeks. The Maya tattooed their bodies for beauty and decoration. Swimming and
bathing in the local stream, or cenote once or twice a day was a regular bathing practice and they are a
very clean people, unlike Europeans.
Wine was made from honey and water and certain tree roots. Celebrations and festivities with this kind of
partying would produce a lot of drunken men. The women would watch with stoicism and be there to
carry the man home after the celebrations were over and the men so drunk, they did not know what they
would be doing. Like all drunken people, some of the Maya would get into fights, create quarrels, sneak
out to sleep with somebody else's wife and have a great spree. Usually they would spend everything they
had acquired through months of hard work in a few days of such drunken festivities.
The Maya had various musical instruments. There were drums of different types, some played by hand,
others by using hollow sticks against another, some sticks were padded by chicle balls and they had thin
trumpet like instruments made of hollow wood with large gourds on the end to give resonance. Another
instrument was the cleaned turtle shell which was beaten in rhythm with the bare hand.
There were whistles and flutes made of wood, reeds and shells. The Maya had several dances that were
favorites for gatherings. These were usually line dances and nobody would stop, not even for food and
drink, which would be served while they danced for hours. Men did not dance with women.
There were people who specialized in certain skills. There were potters, carpenters, surgeons, herbal
doctors and merchant traders. One of the major items of trade from northern Belize was the taking of
food, salt and sometimes slaves. You could become a slave by breaking certain laws of the community. In
the region of Tabasco everything would be exchanged for cacao and stone beads which could be used for
money. Some beads used for money were precious stones and shells which they carried in bags of netting.
There was an active commercial and financial market and the Mayan merchants gave credit and made
loans without charging interest as we do today. The majority of the people worked their milpas, in which
they stored their corn in cribs, or storage sheds, sometimes in caves and granaries to sell in the off season
someplace else where there might be a shortage. Work at milpa time is done today the same as three
thousand years ago. There is a village, or community leader and council freely elected and they decide
after consultations when public work projects will be carried out and organize the clearing of the land and
planting in groups of twenty until everyone had their land cleared and planted. Planting is done by
carrying the seeds in a little pouch and using a stick to make a hole to place the seeds. visiting between
Maya is always accompanied by gifts. Respect for rank is shown, but also first names would be used
freely. Visitors would be offered a drink and in the evening food by the host and if a traveler was on the
road it was compulsory for anyone he met to offer them food and drink even if it meant doing without
The headman, or Lord of the village would decide punishments for breaking the law, or quarrels between
people. If the Lord was unable to find a satisfactory solution he would confer with a council of respected
citizens. Satisfaction would be demanded by grieved parties in a dispute, such as when somebody might
be killed in an accident, or a wife, or husband killed themself through the interference of another person,
or perhaps a fire got out of control and damaged a neighbor's goods, such as maize plants, beehives, or
storage places for maize.
Adultery was punished by binding the guilty man to a pole and handing him over to the man who had
been offended. He could do whatever he liked, or let him free. To kill him, the custom was to drop a large
stone on the adulterers head. Husbands usually left the guilty wife and she would be disgraced in the
community. Death of another person, either accidental, or deliberate was usually death, or blood money to
the offended relatives.
A person caught stealing was made a slave. If the thief was noble or elected official, the thief would be
forced to undergo cruel tattooing all over his face and head.
The young had to respect their elders. Juvenile delinquency was punished by execution. It was a zero
tolerance system for teenagers. Young men usually had their own meeting house for amusements. Here
they played games and slept when not working, until their parents arranged a marriage. Some girls
practiced prostitution, but they had to handle a very large clientele and were held in low esteem by the
villagers even though they were paid for services and might enjoy themselves. The Spanish when they
finally arrived in the Yucatan made mention of the common occurrence of incest. While the Spanish in
Europe also practiced incest, they made -religious laws declaring it a sin and brought this religious
concept to the Yucatan. The Maya on the other hand recognized that incest would occur and while there
would be some condemnation of the practice by community group leaders, they also understood that the
man who planted the seed should also have the right to taste the first fruit. Such practice was usually done
in a loving and affectionate atmosphere and only forced sex was frowned upon by the Mayan customs.
The Spanish concept of religious sin about incest was foreign to the Maya.
Young men often painted themselves black until they married.
Children wore no clothes until about five years of age. Girls eventually wore small skirts. Breast feeding
of children could occur up until the age of four. Young children played freely, bathed frequently and used
toy bows and arrows. A sloping forehead was considered a thing of beauty and young babies would be
bound between two boards to compress the bone into shape before it took solid formation. Many children
died from this, because of the pressure breaking the skull.
Mayan women liked to have a piece of amber in the center of the nose for jewelry. Teeth were filed sharp
by older women using stones and water. They wore earrings by piercing their ears. Tattooing of the upper
torso was common for women. Liquid amber they called iztahte was sweet smelling and used as a
perfume. Unmarried girls usually wore plaits of two or four braids. The hair was long, black and
beautiful. When traveling, the women wore a kind of wrap that was open at the sides and tied around the
waist. It was the custom of the Mayan women not to look strange men in the eye, they cast their eyes
down on the ground when passing, or turned their backs. Young girls were scolded and taught to behave,
by pinching them on the ears and arms. Pepper would be rubbed into the eyes and the genitals. Mayan
women were very jealous of their men, as it was the expected custom to show jealousy, even if they hated
their husband. Besides taking care of the home fire and meals, the women would help in the fields during
needy seasons. The villagers had various tame birds and deer and the women would weave cloth. It was
not unknown for women to get drunk when they had their own gatherings.
873 YEARS AGO,(1,123 A.D.)
THE REVOLUTION IN BELIZE WHICH STARTED IN COROZAL,
SPREADING TO ALL THE COASTAL TRADING CENTERS.
THE YUCATEC MAYA THROW OF THE YOKE OF ITZA MAYA
CONTROL OF THE TRADING ROUTES.
Kul Tak slipped quietly around his storage shed for corn and crossed the field between the rows. He was
to meet the others as soon as the moon rose. There should be fifteen of them. Ever since the story had
filtered down from Chichen Itza and Cozumel that the Yucatec Maya had slaughtered the Itza occupying
forces in the big cities up north, the group had made plans to get rid of these Itza rulers here on the bay of
Chetumal. When the moon started to decline in the sky, they would strike from house to house and kill
them all, the arrogant foreign bastards, he thought.
Soon the villages of Chetumal Bay would be free from Itza rule and control of the trade routes. The
Yucatec may would be back in charge of their own destiny, he thought. His village ( Corozal was better
than most and it would be good to get back to the old ways without these domineering braggarts and
rulers pushing them around from far away. Maybe they could re-establish the trade routes south along the
barrier reef islands and coast, that his great, great grandfather had told tales about before the Itza had
come to the area and taken over. He would like to see those lands of mountains ten days paddle to the
south that people talked about.
THE YEAR 1346 BY THE EUROPEAN RELIGIOUS CALENDAR
Shi Col broke the last of the censers and clay pottery she loved so well, scattering the remains on the
ground to join with the thick layer of broken pottery that covered the sand of Wild Cane Caye. She took
one last look over the water. The ceremonies were now over and it was time to return home. The island
which had seemed so important in tales told in the highland village beyond the seven hills she could see
on the mainland now seemed so small and forlorn. The water was deep and blue to the shore. She
watched twelve pelicans undulate past in flight searching for fish. That was a good sign, she thought.
Slowly, she walked back to the small dugout canoe. There were five of them to paddle back up stream to
their village and the way was long and hard. The river current would be against them and the trip should
take two days. She knew the rest of the girls were impatient, because they needed to get past the flatlands
of the coastal area before sunset arrived, otherwise insects, botlass flies, and night flying blood sucking
bats would give them a very miserable night on the river. If they could get far enough up river to the first
camp, they could expect food and shelter and there would be smoke to keep away the mosquitoes.
The men who guarded and escorted them were camped on neighboring islands and would see them leave
and soon follow. This was a womans island and not for men.
AZTEC SPIES EXTEND THEIR NETWORK TO BELIZE IN 1487
The Aztec trader was polite and careful. These Yucatec Maya on the Bay of Chetumal were noted for
belligerence. He had brought his trade goods of metal copper and sheet gold from far off Oaxaca when he
had heard that they no longer could get obsidian in this eastern area and that alone should ensure him
some sort of welcome for the tales he could tell them of far off places. The attack on the forts at Tulum
and Ichpaatun in the Coba controlled political sphere would be local news he thought and of interest even
if it was many days travel, to the north. Gossip up the road had it, that these people traded as far north as
Muyil, Tulum, Xelha, Chakatai, Paamul, Xcaret and Cozumel as well as south to the old Itza Empire
trading grounds down the barrier reef and across to the mountainous country to the south. He wished he
was now back in Zinacantan or Soconusco in Chiapas. At least he could speak the language there. The
stories of the old capital Mayapan, were just that, stories! Nobody had lived in that area for fifty or more
years. The bringing of the bow and arrow as a weapon from Tabasco had caused that. Curiosity and the
urge to travel and see new places would kill him yet, he thought. Especially if this bunch were a
suspicious lot and thought he was a spy for the Aztec Empire. Rumor had reached him on the road by
runner from Zinacantan that these Yucatec were making an alliance with the Nahuatl. His instructions
were to see if he couldn't somehow steal the book Chilam Balam for the local area. This would give a lot
of local details for his Aztec masters back in the central valley of Mexico, presuming they could find
somebody to read it. They used two different calendars in this area and it was hard to figure out the dates
they were talking about for events which had happened. For instance, the differences in dates that
different villages in this area gave for the great immigration ( the Great Descent ) into the local area a few
hundred years ago. ( A.D. 970 ) It had taken him a long time to come to the realization that people were
using two different calendar systems.
He grinned a rueful smile, squared his shoulders and prepared to meet another bunch of uncouth primitive
village farmers. The trade wind blew sweet, warm and fresh across the waters of Chetumal Bay from the
east, blowing the smoke filtering from thatched houses along the sandy shoreline away inland.
It was a nice quiet place to live, he thought. A pity the water was not clear and blue like the coast. At least
he would eat fish and shrimp tonight, he thought, that would be different from boring maize gruel.
1511 THE FIRST SPANIARD ARRIVES AT
The first Spaniards to visit the Yucatan were Geronimo de Aquilar, a native of Ecija and same
companions shipwrecked off Jamaica with twenty men surviving in an open boat. During the drift to the
Yucatan which took thirteen days, half the men died. The landing was at Mayatlan. The local lord
sacrificed Valdivia and four others to the Gods while Aguilar and Guerrero and five or six others were
kept to be fattened up. They managed to escape and fled to another community where the Lord made
them slaves. The new Lord after this one, treated them more kindly, but all except Aguilar and Guerrero,
died from grief. Aguilar managed to re-join Cortez when he landed in Cozumel in 1519. Gonzalo
Guerrero went exploring and ended up in Chetumal ( where Corozal is now ) , or it was later known for a
while as Salamanca de Yucatan near there. The local Lord of what we call Corozal today was 'Nachan
Can' and he made Gonzalo Guerrero the War Chief and Guerrero taught the locals Spanish tactics of
fighting. He was quite successful in local raids and battles. He married and raised a family.
In 1517 Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba sailed from Cuba to look for slaves for the mines in Cuba and
landed on Isla Mujeres. The reason they landed here is because when you sail from the western tip of
Cuba you can see the clouds forming up in the sky from seventy miles away, over the hot lands of the
Yucatan Coast as the Gulf Stream sweeps by. Isla Mujeres was named this by the Spaniards because of
the female goddesses here. The names of the idols were Aixchel, Ixchebeliax, Ixhunie, and Ixhunieta. The
island also had sophisticated stone buildings and some gold ornaments which the Spaniards stole. After
exploring westward along the coast of Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico, the Spaniards received a good
beating at the town of Champoton by the Lord of the community whose name was Moch- Covoh. They
then returned to Cuba.
Here the tales of the gold they found stirred up gold fever and Diego Velasquez, governor of Cuba at the
time, sent his nephew Juan de Grijalva with four ships and two hundred soldiers on May 1st, 1518.
Alaminos was the pilot again on this trip and this time the warlike expedition landed on Cozumel.
Alaminos already knew the Gulf of Mexico route and wanted to explore the other way. They went as far
as Bahia Ascension south of Cozumel, about one hundred and fifty miles north of Belize today. Then they
turned around and went north around Cape Catoche and west along the Gulf coast. Again they had a bittle
at Champoton, but continued further west where they managed to conduct some trade and bring back
goods to Cuba.
Hernando Cortes was in Cuba at the time and heard the tales of this new land and sailed for this new
fabulous land with eleven ships and five hundred men, horses and goods for barter. Francisco de Montejo
as a captain and Alaminos was now the chief pilot of the small armada. They landed in Cozumel again
and through a little luck, this is when Aguilar the shipwrecked sailor was reunited with his Spanish
countrymen invading the new continent.
FRANCISCO DE MONTEJO THE ADELANTADO ARRIVES IN
COROZAL IN 1528
The first encomiendas of central and northern Belize were established under the control of a rough bunch
of ex- conquistadors at Salamanca de Bacalar, which is Lake Bacalar today a few miles from modern day
Chetumal in Mexico. The conquest of the province of Dzuluinicob, by taking the town of Tipu in Belize
was accomplished in 1544. The Spanish hoped to use Tipu the capital in Belize as a launching point to
conquer the Itza Maya in central Peten. The inhabitants of Chanlacan on Progresso Lagoon killed their
encomendero in 1546 and this was the signal for a massive rebellion against the Spanish.
EFFECTS OF THE SPANISH, IN BELIZE & THE YUCATAN
The Spanish invasion of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala and eventually the Yucatan was devastating to
the Mayan economy, much like the Malaysian logging invasion in 1996 to the Toledo District some five
hundred years later. The economy had been based on long-distance trading. In the early 1500's the Maya
commercial centers ringed the Yucatan Peninsular and the Putun Maya, or Chontal Maya around
Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico were considered the Phoenician traders of the New World. Trading sea
routes and land routes existed from Cozumel, Tulum, Belize and down to Nito on the Bay of Honduras.
These ancestral trade networks going back thousands of years were disrupted completely when the
Spanish first by-passed the Yucatan in favor of the source of Gold and went to overthrow the Aztec
Empire in Mexico and the neighboring trading partners down the western valleys of Central America.
By the time the Spanish got around to belatedly conquering the Yucatan, they found it a much more
difficult task than the organized kingdoms of the west. The Mayan economy of Belize and the Yucatan
had already collapsed, or was in severe decline, because of the western conquests of the Spanish. What
once had been flourishing cities and roads had already deteriorated into scattered settlements. French,
Dutch and English pirates had already started to attack the Spanish settlements for their gold by the
The Spanish found it difficult to conquer the Yucatan. Their horses were of little benefit, the terrain was
harsh and the Maya were aware that resistance would bring reprisals by military expeditions. The Maya
thus found it more prudent as a policy to feign submission and then relocate to new settlements. Or go
along with the Spanish customs and missionaries were it could not be avoided and return to their own
government and religious beliefs when the interlopers departed. The Spanish took more than 165 years to
achieve an equivalent control over the Yucatan compared to the few years it took to conquer the mighty
civilizations in the west. The Lacandon Maya have never been conquered by the Spanish or the successor
government of Mexico and still give trouble to the authorities in Mexico City today.
The Maya war of 1847 was launched across the wide Yucatan and reached from Bacalar in the south
almost to the houses of Merida. Only the rainy season intervened and the Mayan troops left the field to
return to their villages and planting. The foreign Spanish invaders re-grouped and the Maya had to retreat
again, though the new frontier was now about where it had been a hundred years earlier in the mid 1700's.
This state of affairs continued for another fifty years.
In 1901, Chan Santa Cruz the cruzob capital fell to federal Mexican troops from central Mexico. The
Caste War was technically finished, but not in practice. The Santa Cruz Maya still controlled the district
around which is now called Quintana Roo.
The war was not officially over until 1969 with the death of the chief of the cruzob town of Chumpom
and the last of the Caste War leaders. This Caste War lasted 122 years, when the new council of Maya
elected not to attack the road crew invading their territory, because they could not get modern carbines to
In the centuries of fighting the Spanish invasion, the Cupul, the Cochuah and the Cocom Maya ( of
Sotuta), met with unrelenting resistance from beginning to end any invasion of territory and even today
resist any invasion of their territory. While the Chontal Maya on the gulf and east coasts, the Pech, Chel
and Canul dynasties and the Xiu of Mani sided with the Spanish.
THE MAYAN CALENDAR
- was cyclical and historical unlike Western lineal
The Mayan calendar underlined what the Maya did and believed. Their view of time was cyclical and
historical. They believed then and still believe today and who is to say they are wrong? That each
recurring twenty year period (katun) repeats itself over a 256 year interval. Certainly the history of
European wars would lend some credence to this belief.
1542 THE SPANISH DECLARATION OF INVASION AND
This declaration was required by all Spanish Captains when stepping ashore in new territory for conquest,
irregardless of whether natives were present or not, understood or not. This amazing declaration of
conquest underpins all the claims made in Spanish territories around the world today. Philip II was
seeking world ownership, not just world supremacy. The legality of the proceedings as far as he and the
church were concerned lay in the Papal Bull in which Spanish America was divided between Spain and
Portugal. The authority for the religious Bull was the divine vice-gerency.
The idea that other people could establish governments that were communal and socialist in nature was a
foreign idea incomprehensible to the dictatorship type kingdoms of Europe. The idea of common
ownership and a community approved principle of social cooperation in the vital necessities of production
and distribution is still an elusive idea in Belize and elsewhere. In the modern world it is expressed in de-
centralization and autonomous smaller governments by consensus, with one person one vote, instead of
the representative democracy form of the dictatorial European model.
The Maya do it still and are far more advanced in government than the modern inherited systems of old
Europe. The idea is to achieve social peace, not senseless and destructive economic war in the struggle
and ambition for a small group of ambitious individuals to control the destiny of others.
The hardest fight in the history of humanity is finding methods to provide government which will thwart
the ambitions of others to rule, dominate and control. This goal has not been achieved in Belize yet in
1996. Though Belizeans before 600 years ago had successfully used this concept of local independent
democratic government for many thousands of years, except for the 800 years of the feudal aristocratic
noble wars throughout mesoamerica when the imported foreign system of experimental government was
imported from the central valley of Mexico and the Aztecs.
Under the declaration of Spanish Captains when they landed in new territory they had to conquer, lay the
idea that they owned everything and that fact gave them the legal right to do what was required in their
eyes, irregardless of the populations living there at the time who also claimed ownership. The European
system was the idea that all land and people were owned by the authority of the state. The state owned
everything and everyone, not the people owning the government as in a democracy. Even the people are
owned by the state in the European model.
In the Mayan system, the people own their government councils and the community finds a consensus in
decision making, as also found in the USA government system today. These two philosophical concepts
of how to govern best are vastly different in how government is applied.
In the case of Bishop Landa and the Franciscans, they believed they owned everything, or at least the
Spanish Crown did and they had the license to therefore govern in the way they saw fit. With this concept
of state ownership and rule, came the excesses of abuse caused by concentrated power. In the Yucatan
much of the eastern part was depopulated, and Maya were sold as slaves in Cuba and Central Mexico for
the mines. Vast homesteads and ranches were granted including the towns and people living on them,
without their knowledge.
It is thus by this background of philosophical concepts in government we can understand Landa, the
Proclamation and the Ordinances and the town-burnings, tortures, murders and removals of 1550. This
still goes on in Central America, in Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Nicaragua even today in 1996.
In 1547 the new villa of Salamanca de Bacalar was comprised of only the two Pacheco cousins and a
handful of their Spanish conquistador followers. Alonso and Melchor Pacheco were listed as alcaldes.
There were three regidores (the ones who rule) ; Pedro de Avila, Alonso Hernandez and Juan Farfan. The
public scribe was Juan Perez de Castaneda. The three rulers and Alonso Pecheco received the four
encomiendas, while Melchor himself got the biggest encomienda, bigger than the other four put together.
Melchor's grant of ownership by the absentee Spanish crown we know, consisted of Quitun with all the
towns and outlying populations, the towns and cabecera of Taxamas and half the towns of Xoca and
Bacalar with all the subjects in them. We do know from the archives that Quehtun was one of the towns
on a 1582 list of Bacalar provincial towns. The names we know of Mazanahau, Chable and Chetumal
were not recorded and may have come into being, after the immediate post-conquest record. The
encomienda Chanlacan which was probably in Belize at Progresso Lagoon we know of in 1544.
Being on the frontier and with small garrisons, the Spanish had trouble controlling the local Mayan
populations and in many cases, the Maya rebelled by simply moving away, deeper into the forest. It is
probable that the Spanish on this frontier gave up in part, because they could not keep captive slave
populations by reductions and congregated labor forces (slaves) . Since captive labor was the source of
wealth and income, many of the early Spanish supporters must have given up in disgust when they
realized wealth was not to be theirs. Fray Lorenzo de Bienvenida was also a moral critic at the time from
the sidelines. It was one thing for the absentee Spanish crown and authorities to make grants of lands,
villages and towns with their resident peoples, it was another to conquer these same people and make
them subject to you if you were given such a grant.
The goal of the Maya rebellion of 1546 was to remove the Spanish invaders completely from the area and
was led by those political Maya leaders who also were responsible for religious ceremonies as held in
times past. In Belize the rebellion was centered at the town of Chanlaca on Progresso Lagoon. Here the
inhabitants had killed their encomendero, Martin Rodriguez known locally as El Piloto. Francisco de
Montejo the nephew in northern Yucatan sent Juan de Aguilar to Bacalar to pacify the rebel town in
Belize. Here he received a commission and instructions from the cabildo, which had already failed when
it had sent a Mayan party from Lamanai to Chanlacan on Progresso Lagoon. Juan de Aquilar seems to
have been successful, partially to the influence of his wife. The leadership of various Mayan rebellions to
expel the Spanish had first started in 1528 at Chetumal and shifted through the year 1531 to Chequitaquil
and finally, to the town of Chanlacan and became fairly successful with the brutal conquest of 1544. The
constant effort by the Maya to expel the Spanish intruder army involved all the southern Yucatan, then
shifted to the province of Dzuluinicob, which was most of northern Belize as we know it today and then
shifted to Tipu, a western Maya town in Belize and eventually to the central Peten.
The wide spread rebellion and warfare went on for many years and the Spanish considered Belize to be
the Indian frontier. The Spanish were afraid that with the loss of Bacalar, they would lose the trade routes
to the interior of the Peten and also to the south in Guatemala. The Bacalarenos themselves feared losing
their slaves, the tribute payers and indios de servicio their system of government and control demanded.
Some political manipulation went on in Bacalar and Merida and Pacheco had his encomienda reassigned
to the crown in 1553 and moved farther north into the drier Yucatan with a tributary population of half of
Hocaba, which was much larger than his original encomienda at Bacalar and much easier to manage.
In 1567, midway through the katun 11 Ahau, the Spanish reorganized and launched counter attacks from
Bacalar after earlier rebellions. They went through the villages, slaughtering, torturing, destroying
religious Mayan imagery and icons, burning Mayan historical books throughout northern Belize. These
reductions as they were called, went on for a long time and the Maya and the Spanish joined in frontier
warfare. The Spanish settlers and conquerors fought to hold on to their encomiendas, villages and slave
inhabitants they thought they owned. ' There were about twenty encomiendas.
In 1568 Juan de Garzon, at his own expense mounted an expedition composed of Spanish soldiers and
Mayan troops to invade the area to the West and he burned many villages and towns, burned Mayan
books and religious icons, captured men and women, travelling eighty leagues to the West. The idea was
to cut of f the escape routes for the Maya in the northern Yucatan who were fleeing south to the central
Peten. The next year, Garzon took his expedition south through Belize as far as Tipu on the Macal River.
Here he repeated his methods of the year before. Then using Tipu as his base, he marauded the
surrounding area up to fifteen days travel in all directions, until the area was depopulated. He even
traveled south nearly to Lake Isobel in Guatemala violating the territory of the Dominicans and entered
the area of the Manche Chol territory (Toledo District of Belize). Somewhere in here he reduced an
unnamed town which according to the Spanish belonged to the encomienda of Chanlacan, which along
with Yumpeten belonged to Diego de Riveros. He returned through Lamanai on the New River in
The town of Tipu in western Belize on the Macal river was considered a strategic gateway into the Peten
and so the Spanish concentrated much effort here. The rebellion in Tipu was put down time and time
again, with new reductions of conquest being made by the Spanish. Reductions at Tipu occurred in 1568,
1608 and 1615. By 1638 the local Spanish in northern Belize could no longer count on the support of new
Spanish soldiers coming to maintain the conquest, destroy the Mayan resistance and return the runaways
to their encomiendas. Much of the Mayan resistance was led by political leaders who had been trained by
the Franciscan Monasteries as an elite and these natural Mayan leaders combined their own intelligence,
ingenuity, Mayan religious customs with a blend of Christianity in local native politics for the next
In 1568 Mayan writing, books of history and records written in the Mayan hieroglyphic text were much in
evidence in all towns and villages. There were literally hundreds of Mayan books, but the zeal of the
Franciscans who accompanied the entradas continued the policy of destroying the cultural heritage of the
Maya and killing the leaders under one pretext or another.
When the Spanish first arrived in northern Belize and the area which is now southern Mexico, many
towns were quite large of 5000 population and sited very close together, but from 1531 onwards, the
population declined, due to reductions, the slave trade for the central Mexican mines and the eventual
melting away of the Maya to other central Peten locations. It was unusual in later years to find a village of
more than 100 people. The total population of Bacalar and northern Belize around Corozal had declined
to about 852 persons in 1582. The eight vecinos left in Salamanca de Bacalar were said to be very poor at
this time, because their slave labor had disappeared. The loss is blamed on warfare with the Spanish,
killings, slavery for export, disease epidemics, introduction of malaria and fleeing of the local Maya to
1562 THE INFAMOUS CRUEL BISHOP LANDA, FRANSCICAN
Probably, in recent history of the Maya Kingdoms and that connected with influence on the future of
Belize is the story of Diego de Landa. His place in history is both famous and infamous As a Catholic
Franciscan Provincial priest of his time, he was, bigoted, opinionated, dogmatic, intolerant, an abuser of
human rights (torturer and murderer) as we know it today, anti-feminist, and a rabid raving religious
fanatic. His place in history is secured by two acts.
The first important event happened on July 1562 at Mani (Yucatan) with the religious Auto de fe in which
he caused to be burned some 5000 or more idols (religious icons of a different religious faith), 27
hieroglyphic rolls (history books of the Maya which he could not read and described as "works of the
The second important event was the writing of his book "Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan", from which
we gather much of the data to interpret the history of Belize and the surrounding Mayan areas in meso
Up to 1960 in Belize, not much had changed with the attitudes of the Catholic clergy (now the Jesuit
order) and it was still common in the Toledo District for the Priest in the Mayan highland village of San
Antonio, Toledo District of Belize, to storm into the home of some new young couple joined together in
the Mayan traditions in remote villages like San Miguel and force them apart, insisting that they live
separately until a Catholic ceremony could be approved and made. At least one Catholic Priest was killed
in San Ignacio in the 1960's because of the lord owner/boss and serf mentality of the rural priesthood and
the common practice of interference with local people and their lives. This secret government within the
government of Belize still goes on, but is much weaker today, due to the encroaching effect of new
competing protestant evangelical religions who have the same ambitions to control and rule. Much of
rural Central America and South America is still ruled though by the local catholic priesthood as in the
It was the Provincial, Landa and his Franciscans, supported by the Auditor Tomas Lopez with his
Ordinances and his direct authorization for the removal of whole towns in the reductions of that era, by
cruel tortures and murders to set examples to the populace, that the inhabitants were concentrated in
towns of the Spanish choosing and control as servants of the Franciscan order. The Auditor Tomas Lopez
was also a Judge of the High Court of Guatemala and the Confines, and himself a Franciscan friar.
In hindsight we know now from Spanish archives that Bishop Landa was also a cheat, thief and a liar.
While on trial in Spain, documents arrived ostensibly signed by many Mayan nobility of different towns
in the Yucatan pleading for his return to the Yucatan,to serve the crown. One such letter signed by
Francisco de Montejo Xiu, Mayan governor of Mani, who was the first to come to Montejo in January
1542 with other governors and disavow these false letters to the crown in support of Landa.
Even when Landa had gone to Spain for his court trial to account for his actions and returned to the
Yucatan in 1573 as bishop, succeeding Toral, as Bishop, Landa used his office to subordinate his position
for the crown to the order of the Franciscans.
The Spanish were very cruel to the locals in enforcing the conquest. The local Maya rebelled often. In
Cupul the Spanish burned alive people and others they hung. In one town called Yobain, which was a
town of the Chels, they took the leading men, put them in stocks in a building and then set fire to the
house, burning them alive. Diego de Landa talks in his memoirs of a great tree near one village, upon
which the branches were filled with women hung by their necks and their infant children in turn hung
dangling from their feet. At another town nearby, he speaks of them hanging two very good looking girls,
more handsome than Spanish women, one of the girls was just recently married. Their crime was that they
were beautiful and a temptation to the Spanish soldiers.
Our area around Corozal rose up against these Spanish, but military expeditions under Captain Gaspar
Pacheco pacified them with great cruelties, so that hardly anybody was left alive. The Spanish cut off
noses, hands, arms and legs and the breasts of women, throwing them into Chetumal Bay with weights
around their feet. They speared the children for sport. Slaves were taken in chains and men and women
The Spanish in their arguments of defense of the time, argued that since they were small in numbers to
the general local population, they had to instill fear of retribution in order to achieve control and conquest.
This same system is still used today in Guatemala using modern weapons and methods. The idea of the
Fransiscans was to destroy the native towns and force them into servitude near the monasteries under
large Spanish land grants.
1569 THE DUTCH ARRIVE ALONG THE COAST OF BELIZE
By 1569 the British and Dutch had started to land and explore the Belize coastline and offshore cayes.
1582 IN BELIZE (THE FAMOUS BELIZEAN AGRICULTURAL
WEALTH OF CACAO)
In 1582, the bishop of Yucatan, Fray Gregorio de Montalvo noted that though the riverside towns and
villages of Belize were tiny, he recommended against reductions and forcing the inhabitants into
centralized communities, because of the cacao orchards which needed local attention, the production of
vanilla and the cultivation of achiote.
1600 - 1610 ABSENTEE COLONIAL SPANISH CONTROL FROM
By the early decade of the 1600's, Spanish control over Salamanca de Bacalar (a small hamlet) and
northern Belize had been shifted to absentee ownership by the Spanish who had moved north into the
Yucatan to places like Campeche and Valladolid. From this distant absentee position they did their best to
exploit the region with rigorous control of the Mayan population, congregation of the people into
controlled villages or towns and a system of exploitation based on family rule by absentee encomenderos
who wielded considerable cabildo influence in Valladolid. There were reductions carried out in the town
of Tipu in 1608 and 1615 which temporarily increased tax revenues for the absentee owners in northern
Yucatan. This increase in old practices of exploitation probably contributed to the Mayan rebellion of the
area in 1638. It was about this time that foreign invasion by pirates and logwood cutters put the Spanish
locals on the defensive. These foreigners also had the military resources and weapons to meet the Spanish
conquerors on equal terms.
The Spanish that did reside in the area at this time were the second generation and more inclined to flee
north to the civilized fleshpots of Valladolid or Merida, than stay in rural poverty around northern Belize.
Around 1608 a new group of Spanish came down from the north, to attempt re- establishing the failed
encomiendas in a policy of re-conquest throughout Belize. The group of influential men in Valladolid
who sponsored this expedition were dominated by Juio Sanchez de Aguilar, who became alcalde
ordinario of Bacalar in 1609 and Bernardo Sanchez de la Sena, who served as comisario de la real
hacienda (treasurer), from 1609 to 1612. This new generation initiated a series of reductions and re-
settlement schemes throughout Belize. They and their kinsmen and retainers used the province as a source
of tribute and repartimiento income for the next twenty years. These seem to have climaxed around 1616
and 1617 at the time of the Itza (central Peten Maya) visit to Merida, under the direction of the Franciscan
Juan de Orbita. After the Maya rebellion and frontier wars of 1638, the Belize encomiendas subsequently
collapsed and were abandoned, even the villa of Bacalar was abandoned.
Throughout this period the control of Bacalar and Belize was in a state of collapse. The absentee
encomenderos of Bacalar living in Vallolidad organized military expeditions to firm up the control of
distant Mayan towns, particularly in Belize.
In 1615 an encomendero by the name of Juan Sanchez de Aquilar as alcalde ordinario under the Spanish
system of government carried out a reduction in the area of the town of Tipu in western Belize on the
Macal river. Two new towns were formed by the reduction called Petenzub and Zaczuz. The reduction of
Tipu had been going on sporadically since 1608. The actual number of families involved was only 136.
Though Tah Itza was the center of rebellion for the Maya, around Lake Flores, some Maya Itza leaders
did make a trip to Merida to submit to the Spanish crown with the intention of possibly ceasing hostilities.
There are references in the book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin that pertain to the year 1611, toward the end
of katun 5 Ahua. These Mayan representatives are believed to have been seized and beaten when they
returned home and the Governor's records in Merida seem to have covered up the visit for his own
reasons. It is possible the year was 1616, or 1617 and the date of this visit is not certain.
1618 THE FRANCISCANS SEEK CONQUEST BY PERSUASION
"Father Orbital', called out the Franciscan Father to his comrade walking in front. "There seems to be no
settlement on the Topoxte Islands anymore. I wonder what happened to the people?"
"I know Father Fuensalida, my guides do not seem to know either. Yet Cortez mentioned there was an
influential settlement in the vicinity of Lakes Yaxha and Sacnab. We came from Tipu (in Belize) by the
regular route on the way to Tayasal (Lake Flores today) and my chronicles show that Cortez mentions a
settlement was here 93 years ago in 1525. According to my map, we are situated at Lake Yaxha near the
bend in the Mopan River, where the direction changes from a northward flow out of the southern region
to an eastward flow to the Caribbean Sea."
"Perhaps the town of Becan has taken over the trade routes, Father?"
"You know how all these people hate each other. warfare is going on continuously between Lakes Yaxha,
Macanche, Salpeten and Peten- Itza. I expect there must have been a big battle here long ago. You know
the political group of Yalain located to the east of here is hostile to the Itza around Lake Peten-Itza. Don't
forget Father, a hundred years before Cortez came through here, Mayapan up to conquest and a stream of
refugees fled southward to this area. Don't forget too, that our Spanish Conquest of the highlands to the
west of here in 1524 disrupted all the trade routes and that would have some effect far to the east here."
"Do you think Father, that the people of Topoxte moved to Tipu on the Macal Branch of the Mopan
River?" (In Belize.)
"I don't trust these Itza, Father, and our Tipu guides are afraid. Do you think we will be in danger in
"The Lord will protect us and let us carry on his work, if it is his will, so I am not worried."
In 1618 at Tayasal, Father Orbita in his arrogance and sense of superiority destroyed the Itza idol,
Tzimin-Chac and both Fathers Fuensalida and Orbita were chased out of the area. This was the preserved
stuffed horse that Cortez had left behind a hundred years earlier.
According to the Mayan books Chilam Balam of Tizimin and Chumayel, this new katun was to be a
period of violence and defeat.
In 1618, the beginning of Katun 3 Ahau, the Franciscans Bartolome de Fuensalida and Juan de Orbita
arrived in Tipu. This was probably not accidental, nor a temporal coincidence.
Father Diego Delgado tried to convert the Tayasal with from Tipu and the whole group were killed as
retribution Orbita's sacrilege in destroying the Itza icon Tzimintales of the cruel torturous Spanish
reductions of villages in the Peten and the Western Highlands were also filtering down to the Peten area
with fleeing refugees and also did not lend any local credence to Spanish methods.
There was a period here of greedy taxation and plunder in the traditional Imperialist fashions of Europe,
of conquered provinces by the Spanish in Bacalar. These Spaniards applied overwhelming military might
and extortions of cacao from the towns of Belize. The Mayan leaders in Tipu sent a delegation to
complain all the way to Merida.
Rebellion finally broke out in La Pimienta in 1624 with the massacre of a Spanish military force at
Sacalum. This followed an earlier massacre by the Itza Maya of a Spanish and Tipu party that tried to
take the priests to what we call today Flores, Peten.
By 1631, rebellion was in the air in Belize and the villagers along the Sibun and Sittee rivers fled to avoid
repercussionE. This was the principal source of the orchards for cacao.
Referring to the town of Lucu on the Belize River, Lopez de Cogolludo reported that Fray Bartolome de
Fuensalida saw there in 1618, the finest achiote he had ever seen with thick cacao that turns reddish
brown and tastes very good, along with vanilla beans they called cizbiques. The maestro de capilla in
Tipu, a refugee from Hecelchakan, had planted over 8000 cacao trees. These people were also traders to
the Itza in the central Peten and the trade in machetes and axes coming from Europe were a big part of the
revenue. This had not changed much even in 1964 in Belize, some 346 years later.
This Mayan leader in Tipu, Francisco Cumux, in 1618 was reputed to be a descendant of the first Maya
leader to greet Cortez on the island of Cozumel. Whether this was a con-job on Fray Bartolome de
Fuensalida we can only suspect, the good father believed him and reported that Francisco Cumux was a
supporter of the true church, very courteous and a great singer during mass whenever he visited. What the
true feelings of Francisco Cumux were we do not know, but no Mayan leaders of the period in Tipu
supported the Spanish invasion that we know of, as the future rebellions showed.
Fray Juan de Orbita and Fray Bartolome de Fuensalida actually visited Tah Itza twice in 1618 and 1619,
travelling across Lake Bacalar to the Rio Hondo (called Noh Ukum at that time) across Chetumal Bay by
the town of Tamalcab to Laguna Seca which was east of the New River (known then as Dzuluinicob),
then through Belize by the river routes of New River. On the New River they passed three towns called
Punquy, Zonail and Holpatin before reaching Lamanai on the northwestern shore of the New River
lagoon. Here they walked across the pine ridge to reach Labouring Creek (called Cancanilla then) . Six
leagues further on they reached the town of Lucu on the banks of the Belize River. Going up this river the
paddlers of Lucu crossed 190 rapids each with it's own Maya name. After three days travel they
approached the town of Tipu on the Macal River branch in western Belize. Word of their coming had
gone ahead and they were met two leagues below the town of Tipu by the town leaders who held Spanish
titles of alcaldes and principales. The alcalde of Bacalar who accompanied this trip and provided logistics
was housed in the home of Dona Isabel Pech, the widow, whose husband the former cacique named Don
Luis Mazun had died by torture in Merida for having icons of the Mayan gods in his house. The
population of Tipu at that time was of a small village and about 340 persons. The most important man in
the town was Don Francisco Cumux. who claimed to be the descendent of the Mayan chief from the
island of Cozumel who had befriended Hernando Cortez. He is believed to have been a rebel leader of the
time for the Mayan resistance, but fooled the visiting Spanish clergy handsomely by attending all
religious functions with wife and family, singing mass and impressing all with his religious fervor.
Don Francisco Cumux was sent ahead to Tah Itza to arrange things for the friars. The trip took six days
and he presented the friars proposals to the leader of the Maya, Lord Can Ek. Francisco Cumux returned
to Tipu in fifteen days, with two Itza captains named Ah Chata Pol and Ahau Puc with twenty other Itza
warriors. Since the friars where unarmed and without soldiers, permission was granted to them to visit the
On August 15, 1618 after two and a half months in Tipu, the friars left for Tah Itza. They were received at
Tah Itza (Flores on the island) and treated warmly. Despite the hospitality Fuensalida stood with cross
raised after getting located in hospitality houses and attacked his public audience with a fluent sermon in
Mayan, insulting the population, their religious beliefs and way of life. He was heckled back and told to
go back from where he came from. The Lord Can Ek continued to show forbearance and showed the two
friars around the town on the island. There were about two hundred well packed houses along the shore.
Twelve or more temples, the largest of these was as large as the church in Merida and could hold a
thousand people. The church had a statue of the horse that Hernando Cortez had left on his expedition
through the area nearly a century earlier. This horse was worshiped and called Tzimin Chac. The horse
had starved as the Maya had fed it human food, not knowing the animal needed grass.
Orbita destroyed the idol and Fuensalida preached damnation about worshiping it. The two friars had
hoped to convince Lord Can Ek and his people that Mayan prophecy of change and conversion was due
in this katun, but failed when they disagreed on Mayan calendar dates. Young men in canoes chased them
across the lake and threw stones and threatened the party with bows and arrows. But the friars were smart
enough to let the Tipu Maya do the arguing and they convinced the people to let them alone as they were
now going. The party reached back to Tipu in Belize in six days. If you go to the town of Flores on the
island today, you will receive the same rude harassing treatment from the young men of that community,
especially if you are a young woman, Spanish or of European extraction.
The two friars had fought a political battle back in Merida and had received Council permission to
conduct an unarmed visit without military escort to Tah Itza. The Franciscan provincial chapter meeting
held in Merida on March 25, 1618 approved the mission. They received cedulas encouraging them to
make the mission trip. The patent for the visit was received from the newly elected provincial Fray Juan
de Acevedo and presented to the bishop Fray Gonzalo de Salazar. Governor Fuigueroa had been denied
permission to undertake an armed entrada to Tah Itza.
A similar trip was made the following year, but in this case the friars got beat up in Tah Itza and Orbita
was knocked unconscious and thrown to the ground. Fuensalida was treated less harshly, but they were
put in an old canoe and sent across the lake to the main shore without food to travel. When the friars left
Tipu the capital of Belize later, to go back to Merida, Friar Fuensalida seemed to have realized the Maya
of Tipu were happy to see them go, so they could be left alone to live in peace as they wanted.
1622- TIPU, THE CAPITAL OF BELIZE SHRINKS TO
In 1622, Tipu was a town that was part of the combined encomienda of Petentzuc, Zacaua, and Tipu,
claimed by the Spanish invaders. Petentzuc and Zacauz were located on the Belize River below the Macal
branch from the town of Tipu. The population of this time in Tipu had shrunk to about 30 people. This
indicates that after the last visit by the friars Fuensalida and Orbita in 1619, the population had decided to
vote with their feet and fled the town ' or were forcibly moved in a reduction underway in 1622. In 1623
we know that 80 adult males from Tipu were coerced into accompanying Fray Diego Delgado and three
Spanish soldiers to carry their baggage on the expedition to Tah Itza. Here, all of them were killed by the
While the Maya of Belize and the southern frontier expected the period to be a time of unrest and
rebellion, the Spaniard was confused by what was going on. To the Spanish, absence of free slave labor
was chaos, to the Maya it was part of a pre-ordained historical cycle. Mayas sought consciously to
engender confusion among the Spaniards, the confusion bred by flight and movement of people. This was
an ordered act that could be administered by fugitive frontier leaders wanting to weaken the Spanish grip.
The Maya were not telling everything that was going on to their Spanish overseers, in a code and culture
1627 & 1630 FAMINE & PLAGUES OF LOCUST DEVASTATE THE
(As some Spanish admit, God sends the biblical scourges down on the invading Franciscans and the
In the years 1627 and also in the year 1630. The Yucatan was hit by a plague of locusts and the crops
suffered severe shortfalls. Famine scourged the countryside as four consecutive harvests failed, due to
massive infestation of locusts - Also a new governor in Merida by the name of Juan de Varga was out to
get rich at the expense of the established encomiendas. He pursued a policy of accusations and new grants
dividing up some of the old encomiendas, particularly those on the frontier like Belize and up the
Caribbean shoreline to Bahia Ascuncion. The famine however, probably caused more flight of residents
to the forests in search of roots and wild fruits. Many people died. The dead from starvation lined the
The famine ended in 1631 when the locusts took flight out to the coast and the sea. A new Spanish
Governor took over in Merida and he immediately started to round up the survivors in reductions to new
towns that could be controlled.
Part of this drama can be found in the flight from Xibun (Sibun River town) and Soite (Sittee River
town)in Belize. One Cristobal Sanchez who was alcalde of Bacalar at the. time claimed that the citizens
of these two towns had abandoned them taking everything with them, including the bells of the church.
Andres Canul the 48 year old Alcalde of Zacatan reported that he was ordered by Sanchez who came in a
f alca to go with them to bring back the villagers who had abandoned their community en masse at Xibun
(Sibun rivertown). One of the four paddlers who went with the party, named Francisco Zima from
Zacatan was about 30 years old. A difficult search was made of the interior and they found the inhabitants
had built a new village about five days walk away. Over a period of weeks, these people were coaxed
back in a peaceful reduction to the original abandoned towns of Xibun and Soite. The Maya would not
give their reasons for abandoning the place and their cacao orchards. A number of religious Mayan icons
were found and destroyed by throwing them in the river. Probably, cacao and vanilla taxes were getting to
be too much nuisance by the absentee Spanish. There would also have been a political and religious call
sent by runners throughout the Mayan communities to comply with the Katun and the calendar
The abandonment of Xibun (Gales Point area) and Soite (Sittee River town) in Belize in 1631 was just the
beginning of a series of flights of the visita missions in Belize. The Spanish did not understand this
rebellion by historical cyclical prophecy (256 year cycle in 20 year katuns) and the resisting Maya played
the role of simple minded peasant who did not know anything. The Maya were not about to enlighten
1636 WAR! BELIZE BECOMES FREE OF THE HATED SPANISH
In 1636 a major uprising against the Spanish settlements occurred in the Peten and in Belize, around Lake
Bacalar, thus freeing the capital city of Belize, Tipu, on the branch of the Macal River in Western Belize
from any Spanish interference and control.
The region around Belize at this time had a different political organization. Where Bacalar is today was
called Salamanca de Bacalar and was in the southernmost region of the Uaymil province. The province of
Chetumal was confined to northern Belize and the capital was probably Corozal, known then as Chinam,
or it might have been at Lamanai. The province of Dzuluinicob ran from Northern River Lagoon to the
town of Tipu in western Belize on the branch of the Macal River. Over in the Peten, to the southeast of
Lake Flores was the province of Mopan. Here a loosely organized confederacy of political territories
existed concentrated around the Central Lakes Region. North of this area was an area called Cehaches
which was made up of refugees fleeing the Spanish further north in the Yucatan and the Spanish
compulsory reductions and encomiendas in the conquest area.
In the Mopan province the predominant Mayan language was Mopan Maya. Among the refugees who had
fled the northern Yucatan and the .Spanish conquest and settled in that area north of the central lakes
district of the Peten, they spoke the Chontal -speaking Putun Acalan. In southern Belize of our Toledo
District of today, the language were Chol-speaking Manches. For the most part the Maya in the Toledo
District of Belize escaped the political events of the Spanish conquest.
To the Maya of the Yucatan, the Maya of Belize were on the frontier of little known territory, sort of a
people beyond organized civilization as the northern Yucatan Maya understood it.
There were two waves of refugees from northern Yucatan, around Chichen Itza. One occurred before the
Spanish arrived and these Itza Maya that migrated to the Peten were the Itza, also known locally as the
foreigners. After the Spanish also came and started .conquering territory, there was a second wave of
refugees migrating south to the Peten.
These two waves of immigrant Maya from the north of Yucatan formed a confederacy of chiefdom-like
groups, known collectively as the Itza. They also formed the resistance and organized political power that
resisted Spanish advancement into the Peten and further south.
The Spanish settlement at Salamanca de Bacalar was never more than a small village and mixed
marriages were common. There are numerous shocked complaints by officials in the historical record of
Merida, in which mulatto (mestizo) persons were serving in positions of authority in Bacalar, traditionally
reserved for those of pure Spanish blood. We can see this same situation in Guatemala today. Bacalar
seems to have been a dumping ground of the poor and impoverished Spanish from the northern Yucatan
towns. Even the Mayan Belizean town of Tipu in western Belize was larger than Bacalar at any time. In
1688 when the population now resided in Chunhuhub, at least four mestizo men who were married had
the surname of Franco instead of a Mayan surname. So the Franco's at least mixed with the Mayan
population despite the stigma attached by officials in Merida. There was at least one black person in
Bacalar in 1571, but no record of any black person fifty years later. To the Creoles of today's Belize, this
black person is historically important as the first black man recorded here.
1637 THE SHRUNKEN POPULATION OF BELIZE NEARS
The citizens of Lamanai in 1637 were noted as being rebellious and composed of runaway Maya families.
These were reduced and moved nearer to Bacalar and Tamalcab.
What we can recognize,is that the total tribute paying Mayan population known to the colonials of the
early Spanish period were probably never more than 1600 families in the northern half of Belize. There
was probably that many, or more again, hidden in the forest in small family village community groups,
farming peacefully away, avoiding the Spanish system. The same situation existed still in Belize,
particularly the southern half of the country in the 1950's of our own recent history under British Colonial
1638- BELIZEAN INDEPENDENCE AND THE PROPHECY OF
The Maya were concerned with historical cyclical prophecy. The twenty years that were to begin in 1638
by the Spanish count was to be a period of political resistance according to the historical calendar
prophesied by the Maya. This would be Katun 1 Ahau. The first Spaniard to get wind of what was being
planned by the Mayan calendar in the more remote uncontrolled independent Mayan territories was the
Spanish cabildo at Salamanca de Bacalar in September that year. Since he was on the frontier of
independent lands he had more contact with the original owners of the territory that the Spanish claimed
and planned to conquer. The leaders of communities throughout Belize listened to the political leadership
of Tipu in Western Belize and prepared to abandon their villages and towns and join the resistance to the
Spanish invasion at Tipu.
The same prophecy the Spanish were to find was recorded in the Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin. If
they had not burned all the Maya records and history books, they would have been forewarned.
This period of resistance and political rebellion to the Spanish invasion came in predicted Mayan
calenderical cycles and was all written down and prophesied. All these frontier battles and small wars and
raids preceded the dramatic collapse of Spanish control over most of Belize.
In 1638 the Mayan villages in Belize were described as small and poor, although their inhabitants were
peaceable people. The largest town was Tipu in western Belize. Tipu had a resident priest who was very
old around this time and unable to walk the roads to the villages, so the governor in Merida sent another
priest to help him. This new priest had a big ego and behaved so badly and tyrannically that in 1637, the
town's governor and principales sent representatives all the way to Merida to request that the defensor
complain to the governor himself about the mistreatment they received from the Bacalar vecinos and the
Catholic priest himself, which was referred to the ecclesiastical council. The big problem at the time was
the oppressive actions of the vecinos from the headquarters at Bacalar, who were attempting to squeeze as
much tribute as they could out of the Belize encomiendas. The Maya continued to flee the villages and
family orchards they had built. Nearly all the population of Tipu at one time, fled to form new remote
villages in the forests.
It was not unusual for the Maya to be whipped, or hanged, or tortured, to make sure they were telling the
Three heroic leaders of the Belizean Mayan resistance movement to Spanish rule and invasion were
Gaspar Puc who had been the alcalde of San Juan Extramuros (the new reduced town for Lamanai
residents), also Don Luis Kinil, the cacique of Pacha and one Andres Uxul. These three were imprisoned
by the Governor in Merida. The custom of the time would be torture, burning, or drawn and quartering.
The Belizean Mayan Resistance movement against the occupying Spanish had reached a full scale effort
by 1641 with the leadership coming out of the western Belizean town of Tipu. military, encouragement
and moral support was given from Tah Itza in the central Peten. Tipu as the head of the Belizean
Independence movement and rebellion became the Belizean Mayan political movement and a semi
independent political center of all Belize. This autonomy was retained by the Belizeans for the next three
katuns. It would be until 1695 on the eve of Katun 8 Ahau when the central Peten Itza political sphere
started to collapse, before the Belizean Mayan political sphere would be recruited once again by the
Spanish occupation colonial system.
The loss of Spanish Colonial control was replaced by 1642, by a new leadership of the Maya in the
western town of Tipu. In those preceding four years, there was much destruction of churches, burning of
houses and resettlement of hundreds of families around Tipu in western Belize. Anti-Spanish hostility
was now open and there was increased encouragement from as far west as the Tah Itza Flores) in central
Tipu residents before 1638 had been caught between two political forces. Spanish rent collectors, the tax
collectors, Catholic missionaries, and military men using the town as a base of operations. On the other
hand was the political influence and rebellion of the Tah Itza in the Peten and those around Tipu and
throughout Belize who were using the Mayan calendar to prophecy a time of political change and
rebellion. On the religious front the Maya were rejecting wholeheartedly the false religion imposed by the
invading Catholic Spanish and returning to their true Belizean ancestral faith, at one with nature and the
There was a fundamental difference in spiritual beliefs between the American Maya and the European
Spanish. The Maya expressed their spirituality through a pantheon of gods, while the Catholic Spanish
had three gods in one and a series of sub gods under different names, such as different saints and the
Virgin Mother, for the expression of spirituality. This history is not the place to get into the philosophy of
each, but the basic difference between these two peoples and their interaction with supernatural forces
was that the Maya dealt with the spirits on a here and now, in this current life basis, while the Catholic
Spanish did not concern themselves with this lifetime reality but worked for the expected reality they
would experience in the next afterlife. Both sets of spiritual systems had political overtones. The Maya
rituals were carried out by the political leaders as part of their duties of office, (there were no priests),
whereas the Catholic Spanish had a dual religious government that ran parallel to the civil government
and while sometimes they worked together, often they were in competition for political influence and
By 1638 there was a marked increase in piracy along the coast of the Yucatan peninsular. Fear of pirate
attacks, kidnapping of women, made the Maya move inland away from the shore to the interior. A new
era in history was being started in a European contest for supremacy over the seas, which eventually
would leave the Belizeans alone, to work out their destiny unchanged from before.
The whole province of Dzuluinicob was in a high state of rebellion in 1642 along the New River all the
way to the western border and Tipu on the Macal River Branch. The Belizean citizens of Lamanai, and
Tipu and all the communities in between, had shifted by this time from a state of passive resistance, to
active rebellion, by abandonment of productive orchards and crops, towns and now practiced destruction
of everything Spanish, or that the Spanish wanted.
We do not know the effects of the pirates along the coast of Belize at this time, but the coastal village
Maya were fleeing inland. Between the effects of the pirates on the Belize coast, the independence
political movement headquartered at Tipu by the native Maya and a very weakened Spanish ability to
administrate, due to absentee government from Valladolid in the Yucatan. Bacalar was abandoned by the
Spanish during this forecasted Mayan Katun.
The main Belizean town of Zacatan located at what is now the Salt Creek Estate was captured by the
pirates during these years sometime after 1638 and became a regular base of logwood cutters and inland
traders. There is some historical argument that Zacatan might have been located at Northern River
Lagoon. Chinam (Corozal) may also have been abandoned to pirates at this time.
Katun I Ahau successfully saw the collapse of the era of Spanish control in Belize and over these ancient
provinces of Uaymil, Chetumal (northern Belize) and Dzuliuinicob (central Belize) . This Katun also saw
introduced a new colonial era, which would eventually bring Belize under British control.
1641 A NEW CONQUEST OF BELIZE IS PLANNED
BY THE SPANISH
Spanish Franciscan priests tried once again to spread European Spanish control into the interior of Belize
and they and their train of warriors were repulsed by the Itza and the Tipu (Belizeans) residents just east
of Tipu at Hubelna.
The expedition to Tipu the Belizean capital, in western Belize was organized by the Franciscans as a
peaceful overthrow of the independent Mayan government of Belize in Tipu, which the Spanish
considered rebels from their viewpoint. This Belizean government indicated they would meet with
Franciscan representatives on the condition that the old secular priest at Bacalar, Gregorio Marin de
Aguilar be replaced. Fray Bartolome de Fuensalida was appointed as comisario because of his previous
travels in the area and knowledge of the local language. This new reduction planned by the Spanish
received 500 pesos of support for a six month period by the governor in Merida. The old priest willingly
gave up his position in Bacalar and received another one with a guarantee of lifetime income further north
in the Yucatan. Three other Franciscans arrived with Fuensalida. One of these was a creole lay Friar of
mixed Mayan and Spanish blood named Fray Juan de Estrada who had served as alcalde in Bacalar
A lottery was held to see which vecinos in Bacalar would accompany the expedition. Various tame Maya
would accompany the expedition in a position of carrying labor. It was decided that Fuensalida and
Estrada should go to the capital of Belize, which was Tipu, though the Spanish simply referred to it as the
center of the rebellion. Becerril would attempt to reduce the coastal towns and Tejero should stay behind
at Bacalar. There were fourteen tame Maya in the party from San Juan Extramuros under the leadership
of the alcalde Don Francisco Chable, recruited as paddlers for the dugouts. At Chinam (Corozal today),
the town alcalde Andres Pech joined the party as a skilled navigator and fisherman, along with three other
Corozaleanos (Chinam) and two women who would make tortillas for meals.
At Lamanai the party found the houses and church burnt. The residents had retreated to the bush to
observe and watch the party. Near the end of the lagoon, they hid their dugouts and walked the path to the
Belize River. Somewhere in here at a milpa, or rancho, there was disagreement on how to proceed.
Finally, Fuensalida convinced the two alcaldes Don Francisco Chable and Don Andres Pech to go in
advance to Tipu and arrange for dugouts to meet them on the Belize River bank. The Maya from Tipu had
placed warning statues on posts on the trail, to signify no Spanish should pass further from this spot.
Further on, when the party reached the Belize River bank they found what we today, would call a customs
and immigration post near a cacao orchard, but which Fuensalida called a party of rebels and his
messengers waiting for them. The so called rebels were from Holpatin which had been long abandoned
and burned and was now grown over. The Belizean Maya were in formal attire which consisted of being
painted and had let their hair grow long according to the olden customs, not permitted under the Spanish
colonial rule. The officials of the Maya government of Belize present, were Don Pedro Noh the previous
cacique of Holpatin, his sons and six other persons and had been charged by the Mayan Belizean
government authority in Tipu to refuse entry to any Spanish expeditions. In this regard Pedro Noh the
leader of the Belizean officials gave a wild f owl to the Spanish friars and the f riar was told by his Mayan
guides from the Yucatan that this was a declaration of war, not peace. Despite this, the friars pressed on
and were carried in dugouts upstream to the riverside town of Zaczuz, which had been burnt to the ground
like Lamanai before it. Even the bell had been cast aside into the forest, whereas earlier in 1631, the
Sibun River valley (Xibun and Soite communities had moved and carried the bells with them.
At this point Pedro Noh went up to two of the Friars tame colonial Maya from the Yucatan and checked
to see if they had coats of mail for protection from arrows and slapped them around, taunting them. These
Maya fled back to Chantome leaving the friars with only three tame Maya companions from Bacalar and
one Lazaro Pech from Kini, a servant. All the rest of the expedition then fled. Pedro Noh took the letters
of introduction from the Friars and proceeded upriver to Tipu and the authorities. The town of Zaczua had
been burned and the inhabitants had moved up into the hills to build a new town called Hubelna. This was
along Roaring Creek known then as Yaxteel Ahau, near Belmopan today. While the Friars and their
companions waited, they were generously fed by the previous cacaique of Zaczuz, Francisco Yam who
allowed them to camp in his cacao orchard.
A lot of days were spent waiting and eventually the Friars convinced the people to let them go to the new
town of Hubelna because they had no protection from the rainy season which had just started in the
orchard. Here they were unwelcome, but given someone's small home. Eventually after more days of
waiting, an official military party from Tipu arrived armed with machetes and bows and arrows. The
group were insulted, threatened and at one point tied up. Eventually they were permitted to leave and
return to Spanish controlled territory in the Yucatan, which the Friars and their faithful companions did in
post haste bereft of their belongings. The official Mayan officials that had first greeted them on the Belize
River at the control post, we would call an immigration point, Noh and his companions, came under
censure by the official party from Tipu as having violated orders by providing transportation up river to
Hubelna for the Spanish. They were threatened with punishment of 'pechnil, which was the punishment of
having your nose broken and then later be executed. This was not carried out.
The group finally made it back to Bacalar, but not without fear of retribution and pursuit and so traveled
fast and light. Their dugouts on the lagoon had been destroyed by the local Maya citizens and food
cachement had been thrown away, but they dug some old canoes out of the mud and repaired them
enough, to proceed past the burnt town of Lamanai. The tame Maya from the Yucatan with the group,
raided plantations and caught fish for food going down New River. At the entrance to New River a camp
was made and Andres Chi and Lazaro Pech went on ahead to Bacalar to get a more safe and seaworthy
dugout. The friars were hungry and attempted to cross Corozal Bay to a rancho known as "El Rancho del
Obispo", which is the location of present day Chetumal. This is when they nearly capsized and drowned.
Through all this forty day trip, Lazaro Pech had unfailingly served Friar Fuensalida and later the Friar
would write of him fondly.
By this time the Maya of Belize understood clearly that there was little difference between the catholic
clergy, or the civil military arm when a new conquest was coming. Both were functions of the
dictatorship of the crown in Spain. They were two arms with the same body and head, and while one
talked religion and peace, the other would enslave with harqebus, mail armour and metal swords. Either
way, the result would eventually be the same, slavery!
The recommendation of the Friars to Merida was that a military expedition would be needed to reduce the
Maya communities in Belize once again and since by that time there were insufficient military might
available for conquest by the Spanish, the Friars recommended that they come home from Bacalar and
give it up.
There was intermarriage between the nobility of the Itza in central Peten and the Tipu Mayan nobility in
western Belize for several hundred years during this period. Belize at the town of Tipu (now the
Negroman ranch) had control of the cacao and the river trade route to the north and to the Caribbean Sea
trade routes to the east, while Tayasal (FLORES) had more people and perhaps more military strength
along with the export product of cotton cloth. Immigration continued to come down from the north in the
Yucatan as the Maya fled the Spanish reductions and control.
Marriage between the Itza in the Central Peten was still recorded in 1695 and the people of Tipu in
The town of Tipu was at the end of a string of Spanish visita missions extending south-southwest from
Salamanca de Bacalar along the river routes and far upstream beyond miles of treacherous rapids in a
small fertile valley in the foothills of the Belize Maya mountains. Tipu was never visited by anyone
important in the Yucatan Spanish Colonial government as it was several days travel further than the
remote town of Bacalar, which itself was distant from Merida.
The Maya both in their religious and civil beliefs believed in recurring cycles. These were measured in
katuns. A katun measured 7,200 days. Thirteen katuns another cycle was 256 years. This meant the Maya
were able to believe and calculate recurring cycles of war and politics in a historical cycle, foreign to our
method of calculating linear time. Much of this was recorded and written in books called the Chilam
During the Spanish period beginning in 1539, a particular katun was identified by the name of it's first
day, beginning the year with a Katun 11 Ahau. The next katun began in 1559 and was Katun 9 Ahau. The
Itza's themselves were then able to predict by these cyclic histories, their own succumbing to Spanish
rule. The Spanish conquest of Tah Itza in fact occurred in 1697, the first year of the katun. The Maya
believe then and now, that the cycles of history repeat every 13 katuns.
THE COASTAL SPANISH EXPEDITION OF RE-CONQUEST IN
1641, IN BELIZE.
While Fuensalida failed with his expedition through mainland Belize, his two Franciscan companions
Fray Bartolome Becerril and Fray Martin Tejero had better luck in pacifying and reducing the coastal
towns accessible by the sea routes and paddling dugouts. By the same reasoning, the Mayan capital of
Belize at that time in the western hills at Tipu on the Macal River had difficult communications problems
to anywhere on the coastal plain running up to the Mayan mountains past the Sibun River. Between this
narrow coastal plain and the western reaches of Belize lie some very difficult terrain and rugged Mayan
Chanlacan was on the eastern side of the lagoon from former Lamanai which ha:4 been burned, the town
of Zacatan was at Rocky Point directly west of the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye today, situated
on a higher bluff along the swampy coast and shallow waters, Holzuz was a town situated where Belize
City lies today, Manan was a small town where Gales Point lies today in Manatee Lagoon, Soite was a
town located about three days paddling up Sittee River, Campin was a town on the coast, today called the
village of Monkey River, Paliac was a town up the Rio Grande River somewhat east of Forest Home in
Toledo today. All of these towns were accessible by paddling dugout.
Fray Becerril tried to recruit some of the Belizean Maya in the tame Spanish communities close to
Bacalar to travel with him, but they all refused having been warned by the Mayan government in Tipu.
Fray Becerril met no resistance at Manan (Gales Point), actually they were living on the shore, but heavy
rains flooded the spot and they abandoned the town, but some time later Fray Becerril returned from a trip
to Bacalar and brought a Spaniard named Lucas de San Miguel to be in charge of the people and they
resettled them on an island called Zula, which is believed to be Gales Point peninsular today.
Both the Dutch and the English were exploring the coast and since these new explorers and settlers were
considered to be trespassing on Spanish sovereign territory given to Spain by the Pope in Rome, they
were labelled pirates by the Spanish. Dutch sailors and explorers captured Tejero and San Miguel,
holding them prisoner for a while. These boats were in need of provisions and did indeed raid both Soite
and Cehake around Sittee River taking the stored corn and beans from the milpas. Tejero eventually
sought and sent down more maize and beans from Bacalar to these two towns in order to discourage the
Mayan inhabitants from moving away further inland to less inaccessible spots. Both Soite and Cehake
had a mixed population of two different speaking Mayan languages Some spoke Yucatec and others
spoke Manche Chol of the Peten.
Campin (Monkey River) was exclusively all Manche Chol Maya There was an alcalde for Soite on Sittee
River, whose name was Diego Canche, who was a Yucatec but who also spoke Manche Chol, much like
many western and southern Maya do today in Belize. There was fairly regular passage between Campin
and Soite at the time.
In October of 1642, Canche took Fray Tejero's message to the people of Campin up Monkey River, the
trip lasting about eight days round trip. Here they agreed to meet him at the mouth of the river with
passage in a dugout. The trip up stream took three days with paddlers and a small village was found with
ten families. They said they had not seen any Spaniards for more than twenty five years. People came in
from outlying milpas and family groups and eventually nearly seventy five families gathered together.
They spoke of another town over the mountains in the interior of Manche Chol speaking people. Fray
Tejero left the town with the promise to return in 1643, with the intention of forming a Spanish organized
town, but failed to do so.
The war between the Dutch, English and Spanish came to the western Caribbean at this time and a raid
was made on Bacalar, which was captured. Thereafter Spanish attempts to colonize south of the Rio
Hondo collapsed and were never more.
1643 - PIRATE RAIDS INCREASE ALONG THE COAST OF BELIZE.
By 1643, due to the frontier wars between the Spanish and their tame Maya and those Maya seeking to
expel the Spanish invaders, the population of the western capital of Belize, Tipu, had swollen again to
more than 1000 people fleeing from the violence up north and along the Belize river systems.
In late 1642 a pirate leader by the name of Diego Lucifer de los Reyes el Mulato sacked the Spanish town
of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico and began to raid all along the coast around the tip of Yucatan, along
the coast of Belize and to the Gulf of Dulce. The pirates were made up of many different nationalities and
colors. black and white, English, French, Dutch and others were among them. These were true pirates.
Their homesite was Port Royal on the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Captured men were
used as slave labor to repair ships and the women put into prostitution and cooking labors.
Some Spanish agents for the Governor from Merida were supposed to travel south along the coast to take
documents to Guatemala but were captured with four dugouts, off the Belize River mouth (Rio Balis)
where the pirates had set up camp. The whole party then returned to Bacalar with the prisoners to guide
To travel to Bacalar and get into Chetumal Bay, the boats had to be shallow draft, a maximum of three
feet deep would be all that is practical; so it is presumed the raid on the Spanish headquarters took place
in dugouts. Since they passed by the town of Punta de Chinam, the passage would have been very shallow
The pirates once arriving in Bacalar raided the houses and the church, succeeding in getting the church
treasury of 14, 000 pesos and the government treasury of 800 pesos. They also took the religious gold and
silver ornaments for Catholic ceremonies. The pirates were armed with machetes, harquebuses and one
shot ball pistols. Fray Becerril I s indian servant lost three fingers off one hand which were chopped off in
an altercation and Manuel Rodriguez and Sebastian Rodriguez the two Spanish agents which were
captured off the Belize River mouth were kept prisoner and Luis Fernandez a mixed mulatto and two
Maya were taken away as prisoners. The Maya who helped carry off the loot, were finally set free, but
nothing more was heard of the other prisoners.
The Governor in Merida asked for Royal permission to arm the thirty men from Bacalar, who were hiding
in the bush near the lake and purchase arms and ammunition for them from excise tax revenues, but this
never came to pass and the heyday of Bacalar controlling the frontier province of Chetumal (Belize)
1648- THE SPANISH COMMUNITY OF BACkLAR IS SACKED BY
Bacalar was sacked again in 1648 by a pirate leader named Abraham. One vecino was killed and three
others were wounded. The attractive women were taken prisoner to a place called cayos about twenty
leagues along the coast. They suffered under the pirates for about two months, when a party of Spanish
and Maya from Bacalar rescued them. Shortly afterward Salamancar de Bacalar was abandoned and the
community moved to an old Mayan town called Pacha along the road to Valladolid. Any remaining
Spanish influence or control over Belize ended at this period. The way was now open for British invasion
and occupation of Belize and a new era of colonial history for the native Belizean Maya.
1650 BACALAR TRIES ONCE MORE TO RE-CONQUER BELIZE.
During the early 1650's, Captain Francisco Perez from Bacalar tried to get the agreement of the
independent, autonomous Maya in Belize to accept renewed Spanish control of the territory. He was
trying to resurrect the failed attempt of ten years earlier by Father Fuensalida. Unfortunately, for the
Spanish, the British were now becoming entrenched along the Belize coast and without military support
from Merida the villa in Bacalar had become powerless and the population had abandoned it in favor of
exile at Pacha to the north, leaving Belize to the Mayan government out of Tipu in western Belize and
what they called the buccaneers, or British settlers along the islands and coast.
The towns of Uatibal and Chanlacan had remained loyal to the Spanish, at least in name. These were
located on New River on the east side of the lagoon. Dutch pirates though, had paddled in dugouts up the
river seeking slaves in December and to steal food supplies. The Spaniard Francisco Perez alcalde in
name of the Bacalar province succeeded in getting some maize supplies from interior Yucatan towns for
relief of the inhabitants of Uatibal and Chanlacan. They were after all his encomienda according to the
grant from the Governor in Merida, if Spanish military might could recover the Belizean territory and he
was protecting his future interests.
The native Belizeans that were left, though few in number, thought otherwise. They thought the country
was theirs by thousands of years of heritage and the Spaniards were foreign invaders to be resisted and
expelled if possible.
1654- CAPTAIN FRANCISCO PEREZ OF BACALAR ATTEMPTS
ANOTHER RE CONQUEST OF BELIZE, CONFRONTING PIRATE.
The two towns of Uatibal and Chanlacan on the New River lagoon had been abandoned and burned by
the inhabitants as too easy a target for pirates, but Perez was serving as alcalde ordinario of Bacalar and
trying to reinstate his wealth and encomienda. He formed an expedition of six armed Spaniards and
fifteen tame Yucatec Maya to pursue a second entrada to gather up the citizens who had f led into the
forest. He was using two old dugouts for the purpose. They found the runaway citizens in several small
family villages about twenty leagues south of Bacalar and managed a reduction by forcing about 200 total
adults and children back to the original towns. Perez suffered malaria on this trip and the winter October
rains flooded the lowland, causing difficulty of travel. At one point his group had an altercation with
pirates on Corozal Bay. Support troops were sent from Merida by the Spanish governor, but turned back
at Chunhuhub, halfway down the Yucatan peninsular to Bacalar because of the heavy rains and flooding.
1655 EXCESSIVE SPANISH TAXES (extortion) MAKE MAYAN MALES
FLEE THE SPANISH CONTROLLED YUCATAN, SWELLING THE
CAPITAL OF BELIZE AT TIPU.
A census taken by Perez in 1655 at Chunukum which was downstream from Tipu on the Belize River
counted 441 persons. But, the census was not allowed to go to Tipu by bad weather, swollen river
currents and rapids and poor travel conditions. Report estimates of the time indicate that over 1000 people
still lived in that area. The population of Belize by this year had drastically shrunk and most scattered
villages only had small groups of Mayan families. We do not know whether it was from migration, or the
importation of European diseases that caused the decline in population.
The town of Tipu had more males than females and this is believed to be caused by Spanish taxation. The
tax burden (extorted tribute by both clergy and civil arms of Spanish government) fell on the males and
when they could not meet it, rather than be tortured, they would flee from the Yucatan to Belize leaving
the women and children behind.
1677- THE BELIZEAN MAYA OF THE TOLEDO DISTRICT KILL
SOME SPANISH CONQUISTADORS WHO ATTEMPT TO INVADE
AND CONTROL THEM.
The Paliac affair gives a typical story of colonial methods in Belize. Paliac was a town on the banks of the
Rio Grande in the Toledo District of today. This is east of Forest Home today. The Spanish from Bacalar
at this time had given up trying to extort tribute from the central Belizean area, because of the rebellious
attitudes of the Mayan government in the Belize capital of Tipu. So they transferred their attentions to the
area of Manche Chol. This covered our current day Toledo District of Belize westward to the side of Lake
Isobel in present day Guatemala.
There was an expedition composed both of missionaries and traders from Bacalar. Among these
individuals was a mulatto overseer charged with extorting as much cacao tribute as possible from the
Mayan population. The method at the time, was to flog the leaders of the community, until the Maya
submitted and supplied the assessed amount. This had been the practice of the Spanish from Bacalar for
over a century and a half.
Apparently the trigger for the resulting murders was when Joseph Delgado of Bacalar, either an overseer,
or Dominican Friar, whipped one of the "kings" in the Toledo communities.
The expedition had found three Spaniards that had been captured by the British pirates but released in the
Rio Grande area, and unshaken by their ordeal were busily trading for cacao in the area of the Toledo
District (Manche Chol) and told Delgado they knew the area well.
One principal witness that gave testimony in Merida was Diego Martin who testified that on November
8th or 9th, he and a party of Bacalarenos had accompanied the three Franciscans as far as Paliac on the
Rio Grande in southern Belize. They left the three Franciscans at Paliac while they went exploring for a
week, to search for food supplies in Yaxal, which was on the Moho River and to another town called
Misit. While in Misit, the men were attacked by a group of ten local Maya militia soldiers. One Mayan
soldier was killed with a musket and Francisco Nunez was wounded. The Spanish party returned to
Yaxal, then Paliac, finding the town deserted and the houses and church burned. Apparently there was a
military party of thirty Maya local militia searching for them and they hid in the bush for the next month
before setting out again to the north and home. Some of the Maya in the area from rival communities
befriended and protected them.
It was later confirmed by the alcalde of Yaxal that Delgado, Fray Marcos de Muros and two other
religious Bacalarenos accompanying him had been executed as spies and bandit invaders at the Belizean
village of Has.
1678 - 1680. A SPANISH MILITARY AND RELIGIOUS EXPEDITION
VISIT THE CAPITAL OF BELIZE, ATTEMPTING TO RE-ESTABLISH
Franciscans accompanied by an armed expedition of soldiers visited Tipu and according to the records
baptized over 600 persons of all ages. The porulation was estimated at 700 persons and a 100 of those
might still have been the older folks who had participated in the war and rebellion of forty years earlier
and would not accept the Spanish civil and religious yokes.
1695- THE SPANISH MILITARY EXPEDITION LEFT PINCER
PASSES THROUGH BELIZE, WHILE THE RIGHT PINCER
APPROACHES FROM THE NORTH IN A DIRECT LINE, IN THE
CONQUEST OF THE ITZA-MAYA OF THE CENTRAL PETEN.
On July 7, 1695, Captain Francisco de Hariza y Arruyo, who was serving as alcalde of the Bacalar
Province under Spanish records at Chunhuhub, which was halfway up the Yucatan Peninsular between
Corozal Bay and Merida, wrote a letter to Governor Ursua from the town of Zaczuz in Belize (this would
be Roaring Creek today, near Belmopan) . He did in fact, along with one priest that he carried, reach the
capital of Belize at Tipu and baptized the community of about a 100 persons. Seven old leaders of the
community, each in their seventies had never heard of Christianity and were from a Mayan nation called
Muzul, what is now the Forest Reserve area.
Captain Arruyo was also trying to establish contact with Tah Itza at (Flores, Peten) He sent Mateo Uicab
with a gift of a machete and a letter. This visit to Tah Itza failed as Uicab reported that about a 4000 man
Mayan army was getting ready to do battle with Spaniards approaching from Verapaz at Lake Izabel on
the Golfe Dulce in what we now call Guatemala. There were about a 100 Spaniards approaching from
Verapaz armed with pistols, chain mail, and hargebus's. The Spanish party was part of a Guatemalan
entrada to Tah Itza led by Captain Juan Diaz de Velasco from Cahabon in Verapaz. He came through
Manche Chol and Mopan territory, separated from the Manche Chol territory in the Toledo District of
southern Belize by the swamps. The Guatemalan entrada came as a surprise to the Governor in Merida,
The letter that Captain Arruyo wrote from the capital of Belize at Tipu, had something about the change
of the Katun and Mayan prophecies, which probably was the work of the Franciscans, who read the Maya
books, even though they continued to destroy them, in order to weaken the cohesion of the Mayan
The entrada from Guatemala frightened the scattered remaining Mayan communities in the Peten and the
population of Tipu in western Belize swelled with refugees.
In the meantime approaching from the north, Spanish road building by soldiers and forced conscript labor
was going on, to link Campeche with Tah Itza in the Peten. The idea was to destroy with a single blow the
independent Mayan nation centered with it's capital at Tah Itza (Flores, Peten) By December 1695 the
road was completed deep into the territory at Tzuctok. A battle at the Lake between the Spanish and Maya
resulted in the Spanish retreating. The Franciscans knew of the Mayan prophecies from the Mayan
calendar books and were trying desperately to take advantage of the fact that a political and revolutionary
change was prophesied by the Maya to take place.
Fray Andres de Avendoano y Loyola did reach Tah Itza, but was forced out of the town by those Mayan
politicians opposing the rule of Can Ek who wished to appease the Spanish from Merida. At cross
purposes in the meantime, a delegation of four persons, including Can Eks nephew was already in Merida
from Tah Itza sent by Lord Can Ek of the Maya offering his submission to Spain. Fray Avendoano y
Loyola never knew this. They had gone to Merida via Tipu, the central western capital of Belize, taking
some Mozul citizens with them from the central southern interior of Belize, to see the sights and the
Spanish. Ah Chan, the nephew of Lord Can Ek had been living at the east end of Lake Peten Itza (Lake
Flores) at the town of Yalain. His mother was the sister of Lord Can Ek and his father was from the
capital of Belize at Tipu. While in Merida, the representatives from the Mayan nation of Mozul also
swore obedience to the crown on behalf of their nation. (It was probably somewhere near Millionario
today in the Belize Forest Reserve.) The Maya were adept at telling the Spanish what they wanted to hear
and showing just sufficient allegiance in village titles and religious ceremonies to keep the Spanish
satisfied and at a distance from their home life.
It seems the Franciscans knew that the delegation from Lord Can Ek did not have support back in the
Peten and might even be fraudulent, but the Franciscans seeing the symbolic and political advantages of
making some form of tie with a young man who was connected to both the Tah Itza leadership and that of
the politicians in Tipu decided to pass the small group off as emissaries from these nations to make local
political capital in favor of the Franciscans in Merida. The young men stayed at the monastery in Merida.
Can Ek after the conquest, stated that he never sent his nephew on an embassy to Merida.
It seems in hindsight the whole show in Merida of submission of the Maya was a staged event arranged
for political reasons by Governor Ursua and Francisco de Hariza.
A new entrada was planned out of Merida and Brother Gaspar de Guemes set off with the young men and
30 armed Spanish soldiers.
They eventually arrived in Tipu via the northern Belize Bacalar route staying at the twin townsite of
Baltok. Thirty five mantas of tribute was collected at this time. The party became afraid when they heard
another party that went to Tah Itza had received rough treatment and had been thrown out of the area.
This would have been the expulsion of Avendano's party, so they elected to stay in Tipu and Baltok.
About 10 Spanish solders were killed in a battle at Lake Itza and about 30 Itza soldiers from the road
building invasion coming from the north. Fray Juan de San Buenaventura was captured by the Itza and
several of the Yucatec Maya and the cacique of Sacal,chen. This was the last seen of them.
The young men that had gone to Merida and returned with this other Spanish exped1tion to Tah Itza
planned to approach from the east, via Bacalar and Tipu, these young men ran away from the Spanish
when they reached Tipu.
There had been a pitched battle, between the Mayan army and a Spanish armed troop of 60 soldiers and a
conscript t-,me Mayan army from the Yucatan, captained by Alonso Garcia de Paredes who had opened
the road to within a fairly short distance of Tah Itza. This armed road building party was headed by
Captain Pedro de Zubiaur Isasi and was accompanied by Franciscan friar Juan de San Buenaventura and a
In April 1696, there were still twenty one armed Spanish soldiers in Tipu. They had built a wooden
stockaded fort. They reported that they moved about 500 Belizean citizen Maya from the southeast
(around Millionario) in groups that were called Losaquins and Muzul to a new reduced town close by
Tipu. The Dominican Fr. Joseph Delgado had passed, through the towns of this southern Belize region
sheltered by the Mayan mountains to the east, when fleeing from the Manche Chol, the Belizean t-owns
in the Toledo District of today and reported them at an earlier time. Spanish troops at this time were
aggressively pursuing reductions around all the area of the Itza territory. The reductions around Tipu in
1696 finally forced the Belizean Maya into a posture of cooperation with the Spanish, or at least an
outward form of collaboration during the occupation by superior military technology. Tipu the capital of
Belize was reduced to powerlessness in the face of the first Spanish genuine military plans to conquer the
area of the independent nations of Maya.
1697- THE CAPITAL OF BELIZE SHRINKS AND DIVIDES.
In 1697, Tipu had an estimated population of 400 persons a nd many were known to
moved westward into the Peten, seeking privacy and independence. Tipu itself had now divided into two
smaller villages called Tipu and Baltok a short distance apart.
LATE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
Just before the final conquest of the Itza by the Spanish expeditions; dominance, political superiority and
economic relationships had bypassed the Itza in the Central Peten and been taken over by the town of
Tipu in western Belize. This was further strengthened by the town of Tipu control of European steel tools
being traded into the interior. The trade routes to the Western Highlands of Guatemala had collapsed and
been overgrown with jungle, as also the roads leading north into the Spanish controlled Yucatan. Only the
river routes were now open.
The final conquest of the independent Maya Itza occurred on March 13, 1697 when the forces of Martin
de Ursua attacked the Itza of Tayasal (Flores, Peten) from a ship. The battle was one of gunpowder and
firearms against Mayan warriors in dugouts armed with only bows and arrows. The Spaniards invaded the
island and destroyed the idols building a church on the old Mayan worship sites. This occurred according
to the Mayan calendar just 136 days short of a Katun 8 Ahau and seems to reflect Mayan prophecy, for
this was going to be a cosmologically mandated period of change and upheaval for the Maya.
While the event of the final conquest was trumpeted in the Royal Court in Spain as a great victory, on the
ground in the Peten the conquest turned out to be a dismal failure. The population had fled, leaving an
empty town with no food supplies and the Spaniards found they had no supplies and were in a panic
trying to raid the surrounding towns to secure provisions. They were literally starving.
The Spanish dreams of truly governing the Itza evaporated and the Spanish soon found themselves adrift
in a green expanse of jungle, without food to eat, souls to convert, or slave labor to exploit. The
conquered had drifted away, abandoning the conqueror.
The wet Peten and heavy rain forest was not like the dry Yucatan.
1698 THE SPANISH VANISH FROM THE SOUTHERN YUCATAN
Following the conquest of the Itza, the government of Bacalar, which had been moved to Chunhuhub
seems to have disappeared for the next thirty years. Even though there were people living at Chunhuhub
there is no Spanish record. record.
1696 - 1697.
There were still attempts by native Mayan political governments to stimulate continued independence and
resistance to both the Spanish invasions of conquest from the north and the British from the east. Can Ek,
lord of Tah Itza (Flores, Peten) undermined the efforts of the Maya in Tipu though, with his separate
overtures to the Spanish in Merida for a separate peace and incorporation into their colonial empire.
Tah Itza and the potential for military support and political encouragement and refuge in the Peten were
the backbone of the ability of the Belizean Maya to resist the Spanish. When this was lost, the outlook for
local Belizean independence became bleak.
There was also the Mayan calendar which showed cycles of repeating history occurring. The imminence
of Katun 8 Ahau would be in 1696 or 1697 which the Maya regarded with foreboding. Then also, the
invasions of Europeans who were militarily organized with superior arms and unafraid of committing
wholesale destruction, filled the native Maya with a sense of helplessness before the onslaught of superior
organization and technology.
Spanish troops began a series of incursions toward the Peten from the Yucatan in 1687 and these were
climaxed by three separate entradas from Guatemala in 1695 and two from the Yucatan in 1695 and 1696.
Belize and it's capital of Tipu were sideshows in the big picture of conquest, which was the Peten and the
Itza towns. Tipu was just a small footnote in the conquest of the last stronghold of native central
In 1678 an entrada from the Yucatan pushed down from the north and supposedly reached Tipu, where
the leaders were returned to Merida and punished publicly. Most Maya of the time had fled Spanish
controlled towns, and thus they were regarded as rebels and the punishments were severe. The problem
the Maya citizens faced were rapacious officials who taxed and taxed again, and if they could not pay
would suffer punishment (torture). The flight of most Maya from Spanish controlled encomiendas was
primarily caused by forced labor, required tributes, church contributions, excessive repartimient demands
and punishments. Poverty and the inability to produce enough, or pay the demands of extortion (taxes)
was considered disobedience and rebellion by the officials in the mafia, style of European governments,
in particular that of feudal Spain.
About this same time, Spanish officials were also fending off attacks by pirates on their coastal towns
around the Yucatan peninsular. There was a larger effort by the Spanish in 1680 to expel pirates and
logwood cutters from a very large widespread area. This included the Laguna de Terminos in Tabasco
(far from Belize to the northwest) , from the east coast of Cabo Catoche (250 miles north of Belize) down
to the Gulf of Honduras which included Belize.
The Maya of Tipu did not see any Spanish officials or missionaries after the 1678 entrada and
successfully played the political strategic game of tolerating, or appearing to acquiesce to enough external
contact to stave of f military rule, or the hated permanent missionary presence. Unfortunately, this hiatus
lasted only until the year 1707 when Spanish colonial forces would climax the final irreversible encounter
with the Itza in 1707.
1707- THE SPANISH TAKE BELIZEAN SLAVES AND BELIZEAN
CIVIL WAR OCCURS IN THE WESTERN, SOUTHERN PART OF
The Spaniards after the battle at Tah Itza carried off the Belizean citizens at Tipu and other places as
slaves. Even though many of the Tipu Maya had helped the Spanish in the conquest of Tah Itza. The
difficulty of the Belizean Maya had been compounded several times over the previous fifty years by great
general famine, notably in 1647 and 1650. With epidemic European diseases going through the
countryside, populations were declining. Then the English themselves after the Spanish left, also raided
Tipu for slaves. There was a marked increase in logwood cutting in the coastal regions known as Las
Cocinas and Governor Ursua sent troops to displace the English in 1696. He eventually decided to
move the Belizean Mayan citizens a round Tipu, furthe r into the Pete n to Lake Peten.
Civil War in Belize.
There also developed a civil war in western Belize between the Mozul Maya and the Tipu Maya. The
Mozul were against the Spaniards and the Tipu Maya were assisting them in their own policy of
appeasement. In 1708, Captain Aguilar sent 25 Spanish soldiers with firearms and chain mail and nearly
200 Tipu Maya soldiers to wipe out the Muzul Maya in central southern Belize. After the Mozul Maya
were wiped out, the town of Tipu finally ceased to exist, with the reduction and transfer of it's inhabitants
to Lake Peten by the military Spanish arm.
1729- THE SPANISH GIVE UP BELIZE AND THE MAYA TURN THE
FIGHT AGAINST THE BRITISH
In 1729, Governor Antonio de Figueroa sent a reconnaissance mission to Lake Bacalar to build a new
fort, meant to stop the encroachment of British logwood operations coming north out of Belize.
Immigrants from the Canary Islands were brought in by Governor Antonio de Figueroa to re-establish
Bacalar. There were no longer any encomiendas in Belize and Spanish hopes of a reconquest in Belize
had been abandoned. The era had been completed.
The Maya in the collapsed Belizean nation of Belize still attempted to retain their lands in the west and a
sense of nationhood over the next 100 years and fought the incursions of the British logwood cutters with
their teams of black workers. Attacks on mahogany cutters camps still went on into the 1800's.
Even today in 1996 this battle flared up once again in Toledo, when the Maya communities perceived
themselves betrayed and attacked by Belize northerners led by the new capital Belmopan, who imported
surrogate Malaysian logging companies to destroy their economy, instead of providing the marketing
education and export leadership to keep the work at home.
There was now, no major political center to direct Mayan activities and political warfare and organized
efforts to repel the new invasions coming from the coast had no organization. The Belizean Maya of the
west were now just refugees fighting helplessly against superior technology and arms. Captain George
Henderson of the Fifth West India Regiment wrote about the attacks on the mahogany camps in 1809.
1750's THE SPANISH ENCOURAGE SMUGGLING OF LUXURY
GOODS FROM BELIZE.
It was not until the mid 1700 1 s that the Spanish had expelled the English from the area of Campeche
and in turn had started logwood operations. Even then, the size of the Spanish attempt to export logs,
provided only a very small dent in the English operations and none at all with the logging operations
found in Belize. The English were able to ship directly to the major European markets, thus bypassing the
restrictions that inhibited and controlled the flow and raised the price of Spanish colonial goods.
Spanish records of 1766 and 1764 showed that there were no shortage of goods in Spanish communities
for fine linens, cambrics and other European textiles, yet the customs records showed no entry via
Spanish controlled ports. So re-exports as it is called, or smuggling was a lively trade between the English
and Spanish communities. The miserable little settlements of dyewood loggers in Belize managed to
sustain a brisk connuerce in luxury goods out of all proportion to their size and wealth. Spanish officials
have always been accommodating for a price.
The Spanish clergy had their own little financial rackets going at the expense of the Maya in the Yucatan
and Belize. Their official income was from tithes, which was woefully small, so long as commercial
agriculture remained undeveloped. The first resident Bishop usually set up his own tribute system on the
side, organized around the diocesan visitations. While the Bishops of those years might deplore episcopal
greed, they found tours of inspection to be a most lucrative side income. Demands for accommodation,
travel costs and supplies, the surplus of which would be shipped back to Merida were common. The two
wealthiest orders were the Jesuits and the Concepcionists nuns. They even had quotas of maize assigned
as tribute. This is not counting the fees assigned for fiestas, services and special arrangements such as
funerals and marriages. There was even a head tax by the clergy and the Maya were burdened with a
variety of head taxes from parallel sources, ecclesiastical and civil government.
Everyone lived off the peasants labor.
THE CONFLICT OF LAND OWNERSHIP SYSTEMS, BETWEEN THE
MAYAN AMERICAN SYSTEM AND THE EUROPEAN FEUDAL
The land ownership system of the native Belizean Maya and that of either Spanish or British colonial
authorities plagued the early settlers of the 1700's and still does in modern day Belize nearing the year
The colonial European system was to delineate boundaries and give out parcels of land, but due to the
inability of the land to sustain continuous crop yields on the Yucatan peninsular, milpa cultivation
requires land to have long fallow times, the Maya had evolved a 30 year rotational method of farming.
Most of the land used by the Maya was always owned in common. Indeed, the Maya did not really think
land could be owned, only the improvements that one would make on it, such as fruit trees. There are no
permanent boundaries in the Maya system, yet each person is quite familiar with each tree and bush,
hummock and hole. The Maya were aware of subtle differences in moisture, soil depth, and evenness of
terrain. Since any location could not be farmed more than 2 or 3 years before the nutrients would be gone,
milpa locations were chosen by more different requirements. Perhaps closeness to the village, or further
away if you wanted privacy. High bush that had not been cultivated for many years was of extreme
importance. The communal lands provided shared resources such as firewood, materials for house
building, furnishings, clay deposits for pottery, wild fruit and source of game meat, or fodder for cattle,
mules and horses.
The requirements of high hill farming in the arid Yucatan peninsular with it's thin soil brought about
conflict between colonial governments and the European concept of land ownership and that of the Maya.
The Maya were never concerned about geographical boundaries and surveys, for they would only use the
land for a couple of years, they were more concerned about access to water, or a stream, or cenote. The
crops, trees and other materials from land, is what they recognized as ownership and still do. These things
were only valid for the lifetime of the production. The land itself was nothing. A cenote was one item that
could be owned, because it was non- perishable, a continuous resource. The rights to a cenote usually
gave certain rights to the land around it.
Misunderstandings occur between colonial feudal methods and land ownership by the Mayan
communities, for to the Maya, when they were selling land, the buyer in the European system understood
the land itself was being transferred, but to the Maya all they were transferring was the title to use the
land for a purpose, for a period of time.
The Maya elite in a community was the repository of the collective memory and it was to them the
individual turned to settle differences of opinion on boundaries. The Mayan community was extended
family and communal, with a division of labor organized in a corporate fashion. Most Mayan
communities and the land they use, are owned by the Corporation and divided and used by consensus. In
recent times in Belize, this conflict still goes on in 1996, with the Belmopan government selling out the
trees and use of land to outsiders for industry, which puzzles and confuses the Maya as the land is
rightfully theirs and is already allocated for use, perhaps in 30 years from now after suitable fallow time.
The Maya did not like the European legal system, for it worked too slow. Because judges are on salary,
they have infinite patience and the litigants can obstruct the proceedings by prolonging lawsuits
indefinitely, through various strategems, like objections, motions, interrogatories and appeals. The cost to
the Mayan farmer was prohibitive, with many lost days of work and long trips to sites for court cases.
Colonial rule and today absentee political and bureaucratic rule in a place like Belmopan has always been
too inconsistent and too self-contradictory, tinged with the tar brush of paternalism from a distant central
authority, which has consistently ignored the basic infra-structure requirements for rural Mayan
communities, despite supplying the needs of rural communities of other ethnic groups closer to the
corridors of power. At the time of this writing in the year 1996, the rural Maya were still ignored by the
Belizean central authorities.
THE MAYAN FAMILY AND GOVERNMENT.
The extended family, was a three-generational patrilineal descent group that functioned as a single
residential and economic unit and is still common in the rural highlands of Belize today. The members
share the same compound and sometimes the same household. They held joint rights to land and worked
the land cooperatively, or sometimes in common. There was a heavy interdependence for mutual
assistance. There were also shared community obligations.
The attempt by colonial authorities to divide these communal units of family into individual conjugal
units of responsibility played havoc with the Maya.
While the European and today the Belmopan insistence on separate households for legal purposes living
in contiguous house plots, lacks the advantages of multifamily residence with communal gardens,
household equipment, larder, cooking and domestic chores, including child care. The biggest interference
comes primarily from the clergy.
The Maya rule of inheritance strictly through the male line was based on the principle that only sons and
their wives were responsible for parental support and production of the family assets. Daughters became
attached to the husbands family group and received any support from there. The colonial administrations
continued to make rules that made inheritance bilateral, distorting the system used by the Maya and was
completely incompatible with the rules of corporate, patrilineal principles. The clergy in colonial times by
imposing Spanish rules of inheritance often did cause confusion and many were the accusations that
priests practiced extortion and swindling of inheritors. Local priests were known to sell orphans to Merida
and confiscate property, whereas in the Mayan system there are no orphans, somebody always is
responsible for another. Many were the complaints that the priests were shipping off orphans because
their biological parents had died from disease, but in local community eyes these had kinfolk who were
It is true, both epidemic disease and famine, especially diseases decimated the Mayan extended family
system at times. Smallpox and other infectious diseases could leave strange gaps in the family group.
1848 to 1901.
Bacalar itself, slipped back and forth between control of the Santa Cruz Maya and the Spanish with the
onset of the Caste Wars in 1848, until about 1901, ninety five years ago.
Tratado de Límites Mariscal - Spencer
ADMINISTRAR LA SELVA :
Desguarnecida la frontera con Belice, los colonos ingleses habían
avanzado en el corte de maderas preciosas y de palo de tinte hasta las
márgenes del río Hondo y el extremo sur de la bahía de Chetumal; y los
indígenas sublevados, en contacto con ellos, se abastecían fácilmente de
armas y pertrechos. El 8 de julio de 1893 el gobierno de México convino
con el de Inglaterra el Tratado de Límites Mariscal - Spencer, por el cual
se cedieron a esa posesión británica 22,810 kilómetros cuadrados de
territorio. La imprecisa fijación de la frontera, motivó al presidente
Porfirio Díaz enviar al comandante Othón P. Blanco a esa zona, con el
doble propósito de hacer respetar la línea divisoria e impedir el tráfico de
armas. El Artículo 20 del tratado prohibió ese comercio, para facilitar la
paz, pero el 30 previno que ninguno de ambos gobiernos podía hacerse
responsable por los actos de las tribus que se hallaren en abierta rebelión
contra su autoridad.