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 of silence.
1627 & 1630 FAMINE & PLAGUES OF LOCUST DEVASTATE THE YUCATAN
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 roads.
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.
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 prophecies.
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 their oppressors.
1636 WAR! BELIZE BECOMES FREE OF THE HATED SPANISH
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 EXTINCTION
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 rule.
1638- BELIZEAN INDEPENDENCE AND THE PROPHECY OF POLITICAL CHANGE
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 truth.
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 Peten.
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 world.
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 power.
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.
Early History Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8