An entrada, written in 1618, made by two members of the Franciscan Order. As we shall see, their coming inaugurated a new period in the conquest of the Itzas. The record suggests that from 1524 to 1614 the Itzas of Tayasal or Peten were left alone by the Spaniards. There are numerous hints of their formidableness during this time, but ultimately the Spaniards prevailed, with the spread of Christianity playing a pivotal role in undermining native culture.
The Name Canek. Cortes, when he visited Peten, found the governmental power in the hands of a personage bearing the name or title of Canek. Cogolludo and Villagutierre both say that this term was a name arrived at by combining the family names of the ruler’s parents. This seems to me difficult to believe. Rather, I think the word Canek to be a title. My reason for so thinking is this: in 1524 the ruler was called Canek, and ninety years later the then ruler was also Canek. It could hardly have been the same individual, and it is equally unlikely that the parents of two rulers should have exactly the same name. It is possible, of course, that the first king of Peten or Tayasal had the name of Canek, derived as the two historians suggest, and that this family name later took on the attributes of a title. The same thing happened in the case of the Pharaohs, the Seleucidae, the Roman emperors (Caesar), and the Incas.
While the northern part of the peninsula was being made a Spanish dominion, the southern woodland remained unconquered, causing much annoyance to the authorities. If we look upon the year 1545 as marking the completion of the conquest of northern Yucatan, we may say that a century and a half elapsed before the subjection of the Itzas was consummated. To gain an idea of the events of the time we can do nothing better than to give Villagutierre’s account. (Lib. ii, cap. 1.)
Increased Power of the Itzas. “It is now many years that the Barbarous Itzaex, more than any other Nation of Infidels, have been terrifying all those Provinces. For, since the time when D. Fernando Cortes passed through their land and those events which have already been told happened to them, no further attempts had been made to bring about their Reduction or to make war upon them in order to subjugate them, and this was on account of the prohibition given by the King in Cedulas and orders.
“They had increased greatly in numbers, pride, cruelty and Power, making war upon and capturing and eating others of the Gentile Nations who dwelt in those Mountains and Forests, and also infesting, by their Raids, the Reduced and quiet Villages on the Confines of their Lands, and especially those of the Province of Yucatan, destroying them, and causing the Indians and Spaniards great agitation.
“They trusted in the great Fortress and the great security they had in their Lake, and especially at the City or Great Village of Tayassal which was situated on the Peten or Island in the Lake; because of which nothing molested them nor was it possible even to pass near their Confines. And although the Governors of the Province of Yucatan regretted this extremely, yet they did not venture to make war upon them because the King had prohibited it by his orders and Royal Cedulas, as has been said elsewhere.”
The Mock Embassy from Tayasal. “In the year 1614, while Don Antonio de Figueroa was governing those Provinces of Yucatan, some of the Itzaex came to the City of Merida, feigning an embassy (?) in order to cover other and more private ends. Or perhaps because it seemed to them that they could thereby make derision or sport of the Spaniards, they gave out that they had come voluntarily to render obedience to His Majesty, and in his Name to the Governor of those Provinces, saying that their King and Lord, Canek, and all his Vassals, were desirous of the Friendship of the Spaniards and were coming to ask for Peace.
“As nothing was to be lost thereby the Governor believed them, and received their obedience which they gave. He appointed Justices from among themselves, and gave them the usual Staffs of Alcaldes; and having shown them all sorts of kindness he let them go, well pleased. And the Governor was well-satisfied, judging that now they would voluntarily be his subjects and that they would be Christians. But later it was seen that all this was a fantastic make-believe, poured out in the Mould of their mendacious evilness, which they frequently indulged in, as we shall see further on.
“The Governor, considering it as an insult to His Majesty and to himself, or else being zealous or piqued by the sly treatment given by those Barbarous Infidels, in order to convert them and knowing that he could not make war upon them, he appealed to the Council of the Indies, asking that the Authority be granted to him to overcome and subject them by force of arms. And he pointed out the continuousness of their wickedness, the perfidy of their idolatry, the wariness of their tricks, the terror and fear in which they held those Provinces, and what was necessary in order to punish and subject them by force.”
The Mock Embassy Considered to be a Rebellion. “Especially, since they had now given their obedience (though pretendingly) and since they had departed from it, the prohibition to make War on them was at an end. For, if His Majesty had indeed so prohibited War, these Indians were now Vassals of the King, and failure in vassalage was a species of Rebellion and Uprising. And if they had given their obedience feigningly and craftily or with any improper end, it was a piece of rudeness worthy of not being left without very severe chastisement.
“It does not appear whether this Governor divined what was to occur in the future from the obstinacy, cruelty, and malevolence of these Barbarians, and how many efficacious Means were to be insufficient to reduce them to Peace; but that of War (is the best). But he pressed for permission to make use of it in order to bring them to subjection.”
Here it may be well to compare Cogolludo’s account of these same events with that of Villagutierre. Cogolludo (lib. ix, cap. 1) says that these events took place in the reign of Bishop Don Fray Gonzalo de Salazar. In 1609 a great plague did much harm in Yucatan. In 1610, at the end of August, Salazar arrived to take the post of Bishop of Yucatan. At about that time two Indians called Alonzo Chable and Francisco Canul gave out that they were respectively the Pope and the Bishop, and they made the wretched Catholic Indians venerate them as such. All the most sacred mysteries of the Church were profaned by them, even the Host itself. This deplorable state of affairs was brought to an end by the intervention of the Governor of the village of Tikax in the sierra. He was one Don Pedro Xiu, a descendant of Tutul Xiu, Lord of Mani. Owing, perhaps, to the influence of a convent in his region, this chief was a good Christian, and he severely punished the offenders for their sacrilege. He even forced the Spaniards to attend Mass. In short his virtue was such as to earn him the hatred of all malcontents. Finally, being pursued by his enemies, the cacique sought refuge in the convent of Tikax, the guardian of which was the Reverend Padre Fray Juan de Coronel. Xiu was hidden behind the sacristy altar while the search was going forward. In due time the more orderly portion of the Spanish population came to the aid of the cacique, and his enemies were put to death by order of the Governor of Yucatan, who at this time was the Mariscal Don Carlos de Luna y Arellano. His qualities as a governor receive the following terse tribute from Cogolludo: “His term of office completed, he came forth from his post in debt, whereas others, in a short while, pay great debts and come forth very rich.” Luna had been rich when he went into office.
A New Period in the History of the Itzas. We have now reached a sort of natural break in our history. Beginning with a review of the pre-conquest history of the Mayas and of the Itzas, we have studied the entradas of Cortes, of Montejo, and of Dávila into the regions formerly occupied by them. We have seen the manner in which the northern portions of Yucatan and of the Maya-Itza stock were made subject to the crown of Castile; we have just examined the best two accounts of the events leading up to the conquest of the southern tribes, and especially of the Itzas of Tayasal. From the year 1614, which we have now reached, the main interest centers about the small nation whose chief town was at Tayasal on Lake Peten. They and their subject tribes resisted the Spanish onslaughts from 1614 to 1697. It took eighty-three years for the Spaniards to subject this nation, which cannot have numbered more than one hundred and fifty thousand souls. The Itzas resisted successfully for a much longer time a power more their superior than was that of Caesar to that of the Gauls.
Having noticed the beginning of a new period, we will continue the translation of Villagutierre. We shall thus see how the conquest of the Itzas began as a more or less desultory evangelical affair, and how no real vigor was injected into it until a commercial motive (the building of the Yucatan-Guatemala road) was introduced.
Fuensalida and Orbita. The account continues thus:
“Three or four years later, when the year 1618 was already running its course, on the 25th of March, while Francisco Ramirez Briceño was governing these Provinces, the Provincial Chapter of the Religious Order of San Francisco was held in the City of Merida; before it, … Padres Fray Bartolomé de Fuensalida and Fray Juan de Orbita offered to go and preach the Holy Evangel to the Itzaex; both of these were Learned Men and of consummate Virtue, they were Priests well versed in that Maya Tongue which was natural to those Itzaex as to the Yucatecs, where they had been before.
“… It was determined that they should set forth on that Holy Errand; and they, well pleased, and trusting in God, determined to depart without delay and without other arms than the loving force of the Divine Word, thus fulfilling the will of the King that only Religious should go, and without the clangor of Soldiery. The Provincial gave them their patents which were presented before the Bishop, Don Gonzalo de Salazar, who was so overjoyed at their holy resolution that had his presence not been needed for the Government of his Bishopric, he would have gone with the Padres.
“Since this could not be, the Bishop despatched to them with great pleasure very ample Authority, in which he gave them as much Power over the Spaniards as they would have had if he had been present with them; and especially in regard to the People of the Town of Salamanca de Bacalar and its territory, commanding the Beneficiado of that Town and District, which includes Tipu, under penalty of the greater Excommunication, in no manner direct or indirect to embarrass or to expel the Religious while they were in Tipu, from which point they were to make ready for their Entrada to the Itzaex.”
Briceño’s Opposition. “And the Bishop perceived that the Religious were going without attention to temporal matters, for the Governor Francisco Ramirez Briceño, in spite of His Majesty’s command that in such Cases the Necessary Funds for the Divine Worship and the Viaticum for the Religious should be given from the Royal Chest, did not wish to give anything to these men; nor did he wish to give them even the Despatch for which they asked in order that the Villages through which they passed might give them assistance, his excuse being that he did not have orders from the King, and that if they were killed by the Barbarians or by some Native Indians they had with them, or if any other misfortune should come to pass, the Blame would be upon him. The Bishop gave them, beside the Appointment, orders and aids which I have spoken of, many Crosses, Knives, Shears and other trifles and Charms from Spain so that they might treat the Indians well; and he comforted them, and put new life into their zeal for this good purpose.
“The Citizens of Merida joined the Bishop in his joy and also in giving the Padres increased Alms; and the Former Governor Don Antonio de Figueroa gave them Rosaries, and Glass Beads, and the Citizens gave them these and many other things, and still others were bought with the Alms contributed by the Encomenderos. Even the Indians of the City and the Villages through which they later passed, the Chiefs, and Indian Women, gave them Clothing of the sort they were wont to use for the improvement [of the Itzas], in order that they might be given to the King Canek and to his Wife and to the other Chiefs of the Itzas.”
The Padres Set out. “The present Governor alone, Briceño, gave them nothing, and he even swindled them out of the Despatch of Favor and Assistance, saying that he would give it to them the day of their departure; then he said that they should wait for it at the Convent of Tikax, which is the last one in the Sierra. So that without the Despatch, but with the Blessing of God and that of the Bishop and their own Prelate, and asking all to recommend to God the good outcome of the Voyage, they set out from Merida for Bacalar, rejoicing, and on naked feet.
“In a short space of time they arrived at the Convent of Tikax, for they feared that the rains would begin. When they had waited some days for the Despatches of the Governor, they received only a letter from him in which he said that he did not intend to give them the Despatches for the reasons he had already given them. The Padres greatly regretted the coldness on the part of the Governor merely because they feared that they would not have in Bacalar good Aid without the orders of the Governor; for it was necessary to take Boats from there to go up the Rivers from that Town to the Village of Tipu, where they were to make their Headquarters, according to the instructions of the Bishop.”
Their Route. “But nevertheless, and confiding only in God, they continued their journey accompanied by some Indian Singers and Sacristans who were at the Convent and whom God moved to offer themselves as companions, although they knew the perils of the journey, and thus they went alone, without human defense, to place themselves in the hands of those Barbarous Caribes, of whom it was known for certain that they ate human Flesh; but they placed all fear behind them.
“And the Padres, seeing that they had with them those who would aid them to celebrate the Divine Services solemnly, traveled very contentedly. They arrived at Calotmul, five leagues from the Convent. And on leaving this Village, they traversed the Sierra to the Village of Chunhuhub, which is another fifteen leagues of deserted country full of swamps and marshes very difficult to cross. From there they journeyed to Pacha, another fifteen leagues of deserted country, with roads even worse than those before on account of their very swampy nature, which is so great that in the rainy season it is necessary to take to Canoes in order to pass those Places, and in the dry season the Canoes are beached there.
“From the Village of Pacha they went to another called Xoca, almost another ten leagues. This place was later deserted and overgrown with trees. From Xoca they went to the Town of Salamanca de Bacalar, which is five leagues. And there they were regaled and favored by the Alcalde, who, at that time, was Andres Carrillo de Pernia, a Citizen of the Town of Valladolid de Yucatan, who showed so much hospitality and kindliness while they were there to them and to the Indians whom they had with them, that in nowise were they made to feel the want of Despatches from the Governor of Yucatan; for he gave them more favors and assistance then and later, this Alcalde, than if they had carried the Commands, orders and Despatches of all the Tribunals of the World.
“Notwithstanding the great favors which the Alcalde Carrillo showed to the Missionaries, they desired to set forth with all speed for Tipu so as not to be overtaken by the Rains; and as they found themselves, like true Sons of Saint Francis, without any money with which to pay the Indian Rowers who were to conduct them, and with which to buy the ship-stores necessary for all in order to navigate the Rio Nohukun, which means Rio Grande, in order to go up by the river to Tipu, and not being able to ask aid of the Alcalde because of the absence of orders from the Governor, they were saddened and became exceedingly disconsolate.
“But the Noble Zeal of that Honorable Creole, Alcalde Carrillo, once more aided them. Learning the cause of their sadness, because the Holy Eagerness which they had was not cooled, he provided a Piragua of his own, very capacious, with Indian rowers and Supplies necessary for all. And not content with having fitted them out, he embarked with them and accompanied them in person as far as Tipu so that the Indians should not leave them, and so that aid should be offered more promptly; and all this was done at the expense of his estate without being necessitated by orders from any Superior.”
The Journey up the River from Tipu. “They made the Navigation of that great River and of others which flow into it, with great contentment on account of the deliciousness of its Banks, Isles, great and wide-spread Lagoons, Woodlands, Forests, and Pine Groves which spread away as far as New Spain. And what caused them no less diversion was the Indians of the Piragua, who, without stopping the boat, continually captured Fishes with Harpoons; the only thing that annoyed them was the multitude of Mosquitoes which there are thereabouts and which caused them much pain and disquiet.
“To refer in detail to the Events and Places through which they passed either by Water or by Land, would be too much of prolixity, and it is not intended to do more than to let it be known from what will be said later, that from the City of Merida to the District and Village of Tipu it is a very long, and at times, toilsome Journey. And so it is sufficient to say that in three days, (after many of Traveling), they mounted the ascent to Tipu by the River which comes from there and which is very full. And as the going is against the current, which is of so much violence, in those twelve leagues that to go up to Tipu the Oars are not sufficient and it is necessary to go up by means of Poles; and at every mischance the Water whirls the Canoes backward; and at times the Indians throw themselves upon them with arms outstretched to stop them and to draw them forward….”
The account of these events given by Cogolludo (lib. ix, caps. 4, 5, 6) is almost identical. The place names mentioned by Villagutierre are all to be found on Costello’s map (MacNutt, 1908, vol. ii, p. 232) save Pacha (between Chunhuhub and Xoca). The distances from place to place are inaccurately given by Villagutierre, being invariably too short.
Arrival at Tipu. We will now continue by translating Villagutierre. (Lib. ii, cap. 2 ff.)
“The Alcaldes, Caziques and Chief Men of Tipu learned before their arrival that the Padres were coming to their Village, and they set forth with their Canoes to go more than two leagues down the River to receive them with Refreshments in Food and a Drink called Zaca, which they make of Cacao and Maize. They saluted the Padres with much contentment and joy, and they returned with them to the Landing place, a stone’s throw from the Village, and there they had prepared Dances according to their usage, and to the accompaniment of these and much rejoicing, they took the Padres to the Church, where they offered up to God their thanks for having permitted them to arrive safely at that Village on the outskirts of Christendom and the Plaza de Armas of valiant Spirits.”
Events at the Village of Tipu. “And when they had said their Orisons, the Indians quartered the Padres in the house of the Beneficiado next to the Church and the Alcalde Carrillo was placed in the house of a leading Indian woman, called Doña Isabel Pec, who was the Widow of the Cacique Don Luis Mazun, who had died while a prisoner for Idolatry in Merida. When the Religious reached this Village there were Vespers of the Feast of the Holy Ghost….”
The Friendliness of Carrillo and the Indians. “The Alcalde Carrillo inspected the Village as it was of his jurisdiction, and not having anything further to do there because the Citizens aided the Padres even more than was necessary, he wished them well and took leave of them all, returning to Salamanca de Bacalar.
“The Padres now remained alone with the Indians of Tipu, but they were very much the companions of God and of His fervent Spirit and of the gladness which it caused them to see those Indians so occupied with the affairs of good Christians such as attending with much punctuality the Divine Services, sending their Children to all the classes for the Catechism. (What passed in their hearts God alone knows, as will be told later.) The Padres saw that the Indians aided them with much generosity as time went on and until they set forth for the Itzaex, because the people of Tipu were very rich and got much Cacao, Vanilla and other things of a noble sort.”
Don Christoval Na, Cacique of the Indians of Tipu. “There were then in the Vicinity of the Village of Tipu more than one hundred Citizens, all Indians. Don Christobal Na, their Cacique, was very devoted to the Religious. There was another Chief Indian called Don Francisco Cumux, who was a Descendant of the Lord of the Island of Cozumel, who received Don Fernando Cortes when he passed to the Conquest of New Spain. This man in his Habits, and actions showed very well his Nobility and good Blood, although he was but an Indian. He was very much the Servitor of the Padres and a great Singer, and he was often present in the Church, singing the Offices, as if he were a common Indian.”
It was decided to send Cumux to the Itzas to ascertain their attitude toward the Padres. “… Cumux accepted the Embassy with a very good will, although he was not eager for the danger; and when all had been made ready he set forth with the Indians that were assigned to him. The contents of the message were: To say to the Canek how the two Padres had remained in Tipu and that the reason they had gone thither was to pass to [the Itzas] to see and communicate certain things which were for the good of Canek and his people; and so the Ambassador was to ask him to assemble his Captains in order that they might see that their coming was a peaceful one, without Soldiers or arms, only two Poor Padres of San Francisco; and Canek was urged to send his Chief Men to see them at Tipu, and they said that they would like, with his leave and permission and safe-conduct to pass to see him, and that if he gave it, as they hoped, it would give them great pleasure, for without his consent they would do nothing.”
Francisco Cumux Goes with an Embassy to Canek. “Don Francisco Cumux set forth on his Journey, very well-pleased; he traversed those Mountains and deserts, leaving the Padres in the hands of God and making continual Sacrifices and Orisons. He was six days in arriving at the Island, Capital of the Itzas; and when he was brought into the presence of Canek, he was received with affability, and he gave his message as he had been ordered. The Itzaex entertained him and those whom he brought with him according to the quality of each one. Then Canek called to Council all his Captains and Chiefs in order to consider what he should reply to the message and Letter which the Religious had sent him.
“And as some of those Indians already knew a little of what the Religious were, through having seen them in the City of Merida, at the time when they went there to give that false obedience of which I have spoken, and they also knew that they could do them no harm if they were alone as Don Francisco Cumux asserted, they resolved not only to give License to come and see them, but also the Canek sent two Captains of his, together with some Indians, in company with Don Francisco and his Indians, in order that they might visit the Padres in his behalf and tell them that they might come with all safety to his Land whenever it might please them, for he and his men were ready to receive them and talk with them in good feeling. And with this good Reply, farewells were said by Don Francisco Cumux, who set forth at once very happily, returning with the rest to Tipu.”
Cumux Returns from Canek with Two Chiefs of Tayasal. “He arrived in the presence of the Religious fifteen days after he had set out from there, greater speed being impossible because the road was closed up and surrounded with marshes. In his company came the two Itza Captains, one was called Ahchatappol, and the other Ahauppuc, with more than twenty other Indians. The two Captains bore their Lances with points of Flint, like ours, which differ from them only in being of Steel, and at the heads of them are many Plumes of divers and beautiful colors like the Ribbons our Standard-bearers use on their darts; and the points are as much as a quarter of a vara long and have two cutting-edges, and the point is like a very sharp Dagger.
“The other Itzaex Indians bore their Bows and Arrows with which they always march when they come forth from their Island and Territory in case they meet the Chinamitas, a Nation for whom they have always had enmity, and continual wars; for they hold themselves as brave warriors like the Itzas themselves.”
The Two Chiefs are cordially Received. “As soon as they arrived, the two Captains saluted the Religious according to their usage (which is to throw the right arm over the shoulder as a sign of Peace and Friendship). The Religious replied with many urbanities and courtesies. The Captains were quartered in the house of the Cacique and the rest in the houses of the Chiefs of that Village of Tipu, care being taken to regale them as had been done in their Island to our Indians.
“And later Don Francisco Cumux gave the Religious an account of how he had been received by Canek and by the other Chiefs and Heads of the Districts of the City, and of how they had shown joy and of what had gone forward, and of the opinion that they had that the Padres should go to see the Itzas. The Padres were full of joy, and they thanked Don Francisco and his companions for the trouble they had had on that Journey, and they told them that it was certain that God would reward them, for they had gone in His service and in His Holy Name….”
A rather verbose account of the services held for the benefit of the Itzas closes this chapter. The account of Cogolludo (lib. ix, caps. 7, 8) is much the same. Villagutierre (lib. ii, cap. 3) continues his description of the entrada of Fuensalida and Orbita:
The Padres Prepare to Travel to Tayasal. “The Religious tried, after the Itzaex Indians had gone thence, with their Indians of Tipu, to make ready for the Journey and to prepare the necessary food for traveling. This was done in a short while; so that on the Day of the Assumption of Our Lady, 15 August, 1618, they set forth from Tipu in company with the Cacique of that Village, Don Christoval Na, and with more than twenty important Indians besides those others which were needed as servants, their Maestro de Capilla, their Singers and their Sacristans, all of whom had offered to go with them from the Province….
“Two leagues from Tipu, in the direction of the Itzas, there was a Great River which, because the Waters had not risen greatly, it was possible to wade; and the Cacique, Don Christoval Na, who was a very corpulent man of great personal strength, placed the two Religious on his shoulders [and carried them across]. The River having been crossed, they journeyed some eight or ten leagues, and came upon a Great Lake which they called Yaxhaa. And finding no Canoe with which to traverse the Lake’s two leagues of length, the Indians told the Religious that they should return to the Village of Tipu, since they could not go forward on account of the necessity of crossing the Lake, and because of the lack of Vessels.”
Delays; the Padres’ Anger. “The Padre Commissario Fuensalida became exceedingly angry with them, saying that it was not possible that they should have been ignorant of that Impediment, since they were so well versed in that Land and Road, and that they should have remedied it; and he declared that he would not go back upon the Road so well begun and that he would continue upon his Journey until he reached the Itzaex, for which place he and his Companion had set forth. And so, as to think of floating on any makeshift was to think of the impossible, and as to the left of that Lake it appeared that one might break through the Forest and proceed by opening a Road [through the jungle], passing around the edge of the Lake, they decided that they might thus continue their Voyage in a straight line.
“The Indians made this seem to be very difficult and they replied that it was far, and that it would be too toilsome to open a Road through the places the Father mentioned, and that the Supplies that they had with them were not sufficient for so many days, and they would want for them later on. Besides the time was coming on when it would be necessary for them to take in their crops from the fields and they said that while they were doing that a Canoe should be built on purpose for them all to cross the Lake and that they would carry the Padres with much pleasure and little toil to the Itzaex.”
The Return to Tipu. “Padre Fuensalida insisted and persisted that what he had first proposed should be executed, namely, to cut around the Lake. And the Indians asked Padre Juan de Orbita to dissuade the Padre Commissario since what they said was more fitting. It seemed, at last, indeed to be so, and that the Indians were right, and all agreed to return to Tipu, and to build there a Canoe in which to pass across the Lake as they offered to do.
“When they had returned to Tipu, the Cacique Don Christoval soon sent Indian, carpenters who, on the very shore of the Lake, were to make ready the wood for a very good Canoe. There are in that region great logs of Cedar and other trees from which can be made and are made many large Canoes. They built it very capacious and suitable; and the other Indians, in the interim, gathered in their crops and assembled new provisions in order to set out once more with the Padres for the Land of the Itzaex.”
All Precautions Taken, they Set out Once More. “Once more they all set out as before from Tipu. They crossed the Rio Grande, which is two leagues away, with much more trouble than before because the Waters had risen and were still rising, as it was already near the end of September. And having arrived once more at the Lake of Yaxhaa, where the Canoe was in readiness, the Persons who were journeying and all that they had with them were carried across the two leagues of water in four trips.”
Lake Yaxha is Crossed; Arrival at Lake Zacpeten. “Everything and everybody being now on the other bank, they continued their march by Land for some fifteen leagues as far as another Lake, which was called Zacpeten (which is the same as saying White Island), which was shorter than the other, being not more than a league in length….”
Here follows a short passage describing how the devil made the Indians choose the wrong path. The reason for this suggested by Villagutierre seems plausible, namely, that the Tipuans did not want the Itzas converted, because if they were the Tipuans would have no place to take refuge should they themselves become apostates.
“When the Tipuan Indians saw the Constancy of the Padres (for, although they knew the malice of the Indians, they bore it with patience, and encouraged them, saying that God would bring them out on the right Road since He had brought them there) and perceiving that the intention of the Padres not to turn back was unchanged, or else, because they saw that the Spirit of the Padres became more determined the greater the difficulties they experienced on the way, the Indians at length brought them out upon the right road. And after they had followed it for two days and eighteen leagues, they came upon the Great Lake of the Itzaex called Chaltuna, with great relief and joy.”
The Padres Camp beside Lake Peten. “They encamped on the Shore of the Lake and there built a very capacious Ranch in which they set up an altar in order to say Mass. Then they sent off a very important Indian of Tipu (who later was Cacique) with some others who were in his company, with orders to say to the Canek that the Religious were there, and to hand over to him a present of the trifles that had been given them in Merida for this purpose and also a little Cacao from Tipu, which was very fine (and is so even today), and a very good hanger (cutlass). They warned the messenger also to tell the Canek to send them good Canoes for them to cross to his Island, and some of his Chief men who should take them thither.
“The Important Indian, Don Gaspar Cetza (for so he was named), set forth for the Island with the others who were going with him. And when eight days had been spent in waiting (which caused the Padres anxiety) Don Gaspar returned, accompanied by the Captains Ahchatappol and Ahauppuc, who had been in the Village of Tipu, and by other Itzaex Indians, as well as by four large Canoes which Canek sent in order that all might cross over in one trip.
“With this good provision they embarked, all feeling very contented and happy, on that same day after having said Mass and eaten. And with the Itza Captains and the other Indians, they navigated, in good time, the length of that Lake to the Island which, from that direction, is some six leagues. The Itzaex, who were in sight in order to see when they were approaching the Island, and others who in Canoes came out to a great distance for the same purpose, gave notice to the Canek of how the Religious were already arriving and were approaching. And the Canek sent a son-in-law of his with others of his Family, in two Canoes, who came out more than two leagues to salute the Padres and receive them in his name.”
The Padres Arrive at Tayasal and are well Received. “They brought them some of that Drink which is called Zaca, together with frothed cacao, which is highly esteemed among them (and, in short, though they were Barbarians, they did not fail to have their own sort of politeness in some matters and signs of urbanity and good manners). They arrived at the Landing place very near the Village, and there was the Petty King or Cacique Canek with his Chiefs and a great crowd who had come out to receive them. And it was already about ten at night when they arrived at the Island, but there were many lighted torches of Oçote or Candlewood: so that all was clear and visible.
“When the Religious had set foot on Land, Canek received them with demonstrations of great love and good will, and with much content. He invited the Religious to a House which he had made for them, although it was not very large, near his Palace, or rather, large House where he resided, and which was some twenty paces from that of the Padres, which was ample for their necessities. Two very good Barbacoas (=?) were set up, according to their usage as Beds, and all those who were with the Padres were quartered nearby.
“The House of Canek was some forty paces from the Lake and before it was a small Square in which was the House which he had had built for the Religious and with which they were much pleased, seeing how near it was to his own and how easy it would be to communicate with him frequently. Besides, the site was a very good one. And on the day after their arrival they embellished a Room in their House and erected there an Altar so that they might say Mass; and Padre Fuensalida chanted that of Saint Paul the Apostle, to whom they gave the Patronage of that Island.”
Mass is Said. “Very many of the Itzaex were looking on from outside with profound silence and without making a single sound that could disturb what the Religious were doing. They, after having said Mass, went to see Canek, and after having saluted him, they remained in conversation with him a great while, for they knew the Language very well. They asked his leave to go all through the Village and to see its Houses and all its Cues or Temples, which were numerous. Canek conceded it, and gave them important Indians who were to go with them through the Village and show them all that they wished to see. The principal purpose of the Padres in soliciting this permission was to make a beginning to their preaching; from that time on, in the presence of Canek, of the Chiefs and of a great crowd of Zamaguales or Common People, they began to preach the Law of God….”
Fuensalida Preaches; Orbita Destroys an Idol. “With great attention the Indians who were congregated there listened to the discourse of the Padre Fuensalida….” For a brief time it looked as if the Padres might attain success in the errand, but as we saw in Chapter III, Padre Orbita, in anger, destroyed the idol of the horse and also the tolerance of the Itzas.
“Having returned to the guest house, and having rested a little from the toil of the Spiritual Battle and of breaking the Idol, the Religious went to see Canek, who, although he already knew what had happened in the Temple, and though they themselves spoke of it to him, did not say a word about it, nor did he show anger on account of it. So that the other Indians, seeing their Lord calm, became entirely appeased, and spoke no more of the affair to the Padres. But it is true that the Canek did not leave off wondering that they should have dared to do such a thing as that.”
The Padres Urge the Itzas to be Christians. “He made them sit down on something which was like a small throne and on which he was wont to sit himself; it was then raised and placed in the midst of them, and being thus raised, the Padres discoursed for a long time concerning the affairs of God and the Holy Catholic Faith….”
They Refuse because the Appointed Time has not Come. They told the Canek that a previous Canek had promised Cortes to receive Christianity. “… Canek replied: That the time had not yet arrived in which their ancient Priests had prophesied to them they were to relinquish the worship of their Gods; because the Period in which they then were was Oxahau, which means Third Period … and so they asked the Padres to make no further attempts in that direction at that time, but to return to the Village of Tipu and then, on another occasion, to come again to see them.
“Despite all this, Canek was the first to receive, with great pleasure, a Cross which the Padres placed in his hands, and afterwards some of his men received others. Canek gave the Padres permission, during the days they were his guests, to chant the Christian Doctrine; they did so in the seventh Tone as they were accustomed to chant it in the Province of Yucatan.”
After a Few Days the Padres Leave Tayasal. “In this way several days passed, and the Religious, perceiving that they could in no wise proceed with the execution of their good desire, on account of the fact that the Indians would not change their minds, determined to return to the Village of Tipu in order to obtain the benefit of the good-will of the people there with their suavity and patience.
“They imparted this determination to the Infidels, who readily agreed to it. The Indians who had come with them made ready a Canoe; and the Itzas gave the Religious some figures of their Idols, which they took to Yucatan that they might be seen, and some Clothing of the sort the Indians use.”
The Padres left Tayasal under rather unpleasant circumstances; some of the Indians seem to have harbored a grudge against them because of the incident of the idol, and these malcontents hurled insults after the canoes in which the Padres were going away. They returned to Tipu by the same way they had come, arriving there at the beginning of November. The Beneficiado of Bacalar would not let them stay in Tipu; he was reprimanded by the Bishop for his surliness. Finally Padre Fuensalida returned to Merida, leaving Orbita In charge of the Indians at Tipu.
Thus ended the entrada of Fuensalida and Orbita into the country of the Itzas.
Source: Indian Notes and Monographs, edited by F. W. Hodge, Vol. IX No. 3, A Series of Publications Relating to the American Aborigines. Reports on the Maya Indians of Yucatan. New York, Museum of American Indian Heye Foundation (1921)
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.