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10 The Ch′orti′ Maya of Eastern Guatemala under Imperial Spain Stewart Brewer [Hernando de Chávez] mandó avanzar los caballos al socorro de los infantes . . . siguiéndolos la infantería con ánimo de no apartarse del combate hasta ocupar la trinchera, mas aquí fue donde se trabó el encuentro más sangriento, y lleno de atrocidades , que vieron con horror aquellos siglos, y en que los espa ñoles manifestaron al mundo á donde llegan los esfuerzos de su valor y bizarría, cuando hace reputación de las públicas acciones. Hernando de Chávez sent his cavalry on to help the infantry . . . the infantry followed, not wanting to abandon the fight until the trench was taken, and it was mainly here where they were engaged in the bloodiest, most horrifying combat ever seen in those ages, full of atrocities, in which the Spaniards proved to the world how far their valor and bravery could go, when they established their renown. Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán (1933 [1699] II: 207) One of the major frustrations that accompany any historical, documentary study of the Ch′orti′ Maya during Guatemala’s colonial years (1524– 1823) is the general absence of documents that provide the Ch′orti′ perspective . Authors have previously lamented this lack of documentation for the Ch′orti′ region as a whole, and although Spanish sources for eastern Guatemala during the colonial years do exist, the outlook of the Ch′orti′ themselves remains noticeably absent from much of the historical record (Flores 1973: 29; RamírezVargas 1994: 620; M. MacLeod 1973: 209). Documentary sources for the Chiquimula region—including the holdings in both the Archivo General de Centroamérica in Guatemala City (AGCA), the Archivo General de Indias in Seville (AGI-C and AGI-G), 137 138 · Stewart Brewer and local church archives in Chiquimula and Esquipulas—provide a good glimpse of colonial life in eastern Guatemala, and the information contained in these repositories remains among our best tools in understanding the Ch′orti′ Maya during the colonial period, bridging the archaeological past with the anthropological present there. Contacts and Conquests The initial encounter between the Ch′orti′ Maya and the Spanish conquistadores occurred in 1524 when Pedro de Alvarado, one of Hernán Cort és’s captains from his conquest of Tenochtitlán, led Spanish troops into Guatemala from Central Mexico. Following the conquest and subjugation of many of the Highland Maya groups, Alvarado ordered some of his own captains to explore other regions of Guatemala later that year (Luj án and Cabezas 1994: 60). Alvarado sent four explorers to Chiquimula de la Sierra in eastern Guatemala: Hernando de Chávez, Juan Durán, Cristóbal de Salvatierra, and Bartolomé Becerra. This 1524 expedition to Chiquimula represents the first recorded historical contact between Ch′orti′ Maya and Europeans (Girard 1949: 52). By 1526 the Spanish presence in Chiquimula was more or less insignificant , but the Ch′orti′ Maya staged revolutions against the Spaniards in several prominent towns in Chiquimula de la Sierra, such as Chiquimula, Esquipulas, Jilotepeque, Acasaguastlán, and others. These hostilities were likely related to the revolts that also occurred in 1526 in the Guatemalan highlands to the west (Carmack 1981; Kramer 1994: 38). In response to these insurrections, Pedro de Alvarado sent to Chiquimula a veteran captain, Cristóbal de Salvatierra, along with newcomer Jorge de Bocanegra, and enough soldiers to quell the 1526 uprisings (Kramer 1994: 58–60). In order to establish firmer control over the region, Alvarado also ordered increased Spanish settlement in eastern Guatemala and began issuing encomiendas, or grants of Indian lands and labor. By the end of 1526, however, Spanish habitation in the Ch′orti′ area was, for the most part, sporadic and inconsequential (Kramer 1994: 26, 57–58, 60). In 1529, some Ch′orti′ Maya near the town of Jilotepeque killed a local Spaniard landowner, then rallied against the local Spanish settlers. So two of Alvarado’s captains with experience in Chiquimula, Hernando de Chávez and Jorge de Bocanegra, along with another newcomer, Pedro Amalín, returned to the Ch′orti′ area to put down the renewed violence and restore order (Brewer 2002: 33–35; Fuentes y Guzmán 1933 [1699] I: 63–65, 233–37, 367–72; II: 170; AGCA, Actas de Cabildo de Guatemala , L. 1, F. 87v; AGCA, A1, E. 50016, L. 5094). In the early months of 1530, this Spanish military expedition engaged the Ch′orti′ in sev- The Ch′orti′ Maya of Eastern...


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