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 century.
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 safer parts.
1562 THE INFAMOUS CRUEL BISHOP LANDA, FRANSCICAN PRIEST
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 devil".
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 america.
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 old days.
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 died continuously.
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
1582 IN BELIZE (THE FAMOUS BELIZEAN AGRICULTURAL WEALTH OF CACAO)
1600 - 1610 ABSENTEE COLONIAL SPANISH CONTROL FROM VALLADOLID
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 FOR SPAIN
"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 Tayasal?"
"The Lord will protect us and let us carry on his work, if it is his will, so I am not worried."
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 state capital.
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.
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