Index  Previous  Next 


The Indians took the yoke of servitude grievously. The Spaniards held the towns comprising the country well partitioned, but there were some among the Indians who kept stirring them up, and very severe punishments were inflicted in consequence, resulting in the reduction of the population. Several principal men of the province of Cupul they burned alive, and others they hung. Information being laid against the people of Yobain, a town of the Chels, they took the leading men, put them in stocks in a building and then

p. 25

set fire to the house, burning them alive with the greatest inhume, y in the world. I, Diego de Landa, say that I saw a great tree near the village upon the branches of which a captain had hung many women, with their infant children hung from their feet. At this town, and another two leagues away called Verey, they hung two Indian women, one a maiden and the other recently married, for no other crime than their beauty, and because of fearing a disturbance among the soldiers on their account; also further to cause the Indians to believe the Spaniards indifferent to their women. The memory of these two is kept both among the Indians and Spaniards on account of their great beauty and the cruelty with which they were killed.

The Indians of the provinces of Cochuah and Chetumal rose, and the Spaniards so pacified them that from being the most settled and populous it became the most wretched of the whole country. Unheard-of cruelties were inflicted, cutting off their noses, hands, arms and legs, and the breasts of their women; throwing them into deep water with gourds tied to their feet, thrusting the children with spears because they could not go as fast as their mothers. If some of those who had been put in chains fell sick or could not keep up with the rest, they would cut off their heads among the rest rather than stop to unfasten them. They also kept great numbers of women and men captive in their service, with similar treatment. It is affirmed that Don Francisco de Montejo was not guilty of any of those cruelties nor approved them, but condemned them severely, yet was unable to do more. *

In their defense the Spaniards urge that being so few in numbers they could not have reduced so populous a country save through the fear of such terrible punishments. They offer the example from the history of the passage of the Hebrews to the land of promise, committing great cruelties by the command of God. On the other hand, the Indians were right in defending their liberty and trusting to the valor of their chiefs, and they thought it would so result as against the Spaniards.

They tell of a Spanish cross-bowman and an Indian archer, who being both very expert sought to kill each other, but neither could take the other unawares. The Spaniard feigning to be off guard, put one knee to the ground, whereupon the Indian shot an arrow that entered his hand and going

p. 26

up the arm separated the bones from each other. At the same moment the Spaniard shot his cross-bow and struck the Indian in the chest. He, feeling himself mortally wounded, cut a withe like an osier only much longer, and hung himself with it that it might not be said that a Spaniard had killed him. Of such instances of valor there are many.


25:* This reduction of Cochuah and Chetumal was entrusted to Captain Gaspar Pacheco and his son, who had already served against the Zapotecs. For sheer lusting cruelty for its own sake, their record there vies with that of Pedro de Alvarado among the Quiches of Guatemala. For another side of the story, that of the burning and destruction of entire towns to concentrate the Indians near the great central monasteries, and the conduct of the Franciscans and Landa himself in their assumption of Inquisition powers, see elsewhere.

Next: XVI. State of the Country Before the Conquest. Royal Decree in Favor of the Indians. Health of the Admiral Montejo. His Descendants

Commons Island Community History Visitor Center Goods & Services
Belize Search Messages Belize News

Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, by Diego de Landa, tr. William Gates, [1937]