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.

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.

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.

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, Yucatan.

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 communities.

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 lay companion.

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.

In 1697, Tipu had an estimated population of 400 persons and many were known to have 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.

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.

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 American independence.

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.

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 remove the Belizean Mayan citizens around Tipu, further into the Peten 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.

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 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 2000.

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 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 responsible.

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.

Early Belize History Home | Glyphs | Timeline | Future | Links
Early History Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services Search Messages AIM Info

Copyright by Casado Internet Group, Belize