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Yucatan in 1549 and 1579

The Tax List of 1549 and the Relaciones.

In 1517 Hernández de Cordova coasted from Ascension Bay around to Campeche; in 1518 Grijalva landed on Cozumel island and then sailed to Campeche, attempting occupation, but was driven off at Champotón. On March 4, 1519, Cortés made a peaceful stop at Cozumel, received Gerónimo de Aguilar, and continued on to Tabasco and Veracruz, for the conquest of Mexico, Montejo being one of his captains.

Montejo received from the king the capitulation authorizing his conquest of Yucatan on Dec. 8th, 1526, after his successful defense of Cortés against the pretensions of Governor Velazquez of Cuba, and then made his own landing at Cozumel in September, 1927. After his attempted settlement at Chichén Itzá, and the great battle at Aké, he was driven off from the northeast; then after abortive efforts in the west this first attempt was abandoned in 1533, save for the retention of a base in Tabasco. He was then made governor of Honduras, was forced to surrender this to the control of Alvarado, the conqueror of Guatemala, and was allowed the governorship of Chiapas.

From this point he organized a second effort against Yucatan, placing in charge his natural son Francisco (previously legitimated by royal decree), himself being then at the age of 62. From this effort came the formal establishment of Spanish rule at Tiho, renamed Mérida, on Jan. 6, 1542; and this was then only made possible by the voluntarily offered alliance of Tutul Xiu of Maní, just as the Cakchiquels had aided Alvarado in Guatemala to subdue the Quichés, to the final loss of their own independence.

Long before the Xius, themselves incomers from Mexico, had founded (perhaps re-founded) Uxmal, and later had become part of the League of Mayapán, founded by Kukulcan in the eleventh century, which governed Yucatan united under the headship of the Cocoms, an eastern family deriving from the ancient Itzá stock, for over 300 years. Then under Xiu leadership the League was broken up, Mayapán destroyed in 1420, leaving inherited rancors as bitter as those that are preparing the fall of Europe today, when 500 years after their expulsion from Spain, Moors are brought back in, by Spanish Christians to kill other Spanish Christians. To strengthen themselves against the eastern faction, the Xius gave allegiance to Montejo and Spain, surrendering their own independence. To this association was soon added the Canuls, themselves earlier incomers from Mexico, later than the Xius; also others of the western families or chiefdoms. It was Jan. 23, 1542, when the Lord Tutul Xiu came to Tiho.

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Montejo at once in 1542 began the allotment of the towns as 'encomienda' grants to his 80 soldiers, 'conquistadores.' But the news of the entry of the Spaniards and the action of Tutul Xiu had quickly spread through the peninsula, and under the leadership of Nachi Cocom, descendant of the only member of his family left after the sack of Mayapán by the Xius, an army said to have numbered 40,000, or even 60,000 men, from all the regions shown on the eastern half of our accompanying map, with those of Sotuta, attacked the Spaniards and their Yucatecan allies at Tiho, on June 11, 1542. Actually a combination of civil war and a drive for conquest from without, the superior arms and discipline of the compact 'foreign legion,' prevailed.

With this success behind him Montejo set out in 1543 to subdue all the eastern territory, from which he had been driven by superior valor sixteen years before. In 1544 Valladolid was established as the second city, on the site of the ancient Saci, with forty resident encomendero distributees of the population and towns; and next Salamanca at Bakhalal, with twenty, as the third capital center. Then in 1546 a great uprising took place in all the east, which after four months mercilessly exterminating warfare, and with the aid of the Xius and their neighbors, the Canuls, those of Hocabá and probably the Peches, was suppressed.

Montejo had brought with him a single priest of the regular clergy, not a friar, one Francisco Hernández, who soon returned to serve at Campeche, leaving padre Martin de Alarcon as cura at Mérida. No friars came to Yucatan until 1545, when four Franciscans came from Guatemala to Campeche under Luis de Villalpando, and four others from Mexico. Villalpando was one of the most active, as later to be noted, and seems to be the pioneer in the conversions, around Valladolid and further in Cochuah; but this was not until 1548, over a year after the uprising of 1546 was suppressed. In this same year Kukum Xiu and others of his party were baptised, and the beginnings of the later great monastery at Sisal, the suburb of Valladolid, were made. The foregoing thus brings us to the year 1549, when Landa arrived, and when the Tax-List was drawn up, as seen below.

Landa became provincial of the Franciscan order for Yucatan in 1561, was censured by Bishop Toral on his arrival in 1562; he then went to Spain to defend himself before the Council of the Indies in 1563, wrote his great work in 1566, certainly as a move to increase his own standing, while his friends back in Yucatan were carrying on the campaign for his return, and to establish their own authority over that of Bishop Toral. The latter finally went away to Mexico, where he died in 1571; Landa, appointed in 1572 to succeed him, returned as Bishop to Yucatan in 1573, and died in 1579, the same year as the Relaciones were drawn up, from which we gather our final data for the preceding thirty years in Yucatan.

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We are told that the peninsula of Yucatan at the coming of Cortés and Montejo was divided into nineteen independent Chiefdoms. * It is with the purpose of giving what picture we can of it as a native Maya realm when the List was issued and Landa arrived, and then when the Reports were made, and Landa died, leaving it a Spanish colony, that the data herein are summarized. The Tax List has been known, but never yet published, to our knowledge. The Relaciones were published in 1898-1900, and often referred to, but are still a mine of uncoordinated material, especially for English readers.


Our knowledge of Yucatan, before and after the Conquest, rests (apart from the results of field archaeological work and our still inchoate study of the hieroglyphic Dresden and Madrid codices) on the native chronicles in the Maya language, Landa, the Xiu Papers, and these 1549 and 1579-81 documents. The Tax List we give in complete digested form; the Relations when studied and compared throw strong light on points of history, and on Landa's own story and position, far too wide to compass here, but which will be brought out later in a much fuller work on the whole Maya area and times. We are using them here for the single purpose of shown,; the immediate results of the invasion and conquest on the population of the country. That story is best told by a sort of commentary on the Map, as it was and is; about as we might read racial movements, animosities, wars, and history, around Dantzig and the Polish corridor, Memel, and what is left of Armenia. We shall thus seek to give a 'population picture,' of each native chiefdom * in turn, as it was when Villalpando, Landa and then the Auditor Tomás López came, and then left it, pacified in the west, unpacified in the east, but 'reduced' in all senses of that word, in the east, north, west and south.

The Tax List in 1549 fixed the levy, to be paid by each of 175 towns in Yucatan, and 10 in Tabasco, to its encomendero, or in certain towns for the Crown. Starting in the northwestern corner, the order of listing proceeded quite closely in geographical order, a fact helping much in the many cases where the towns in time disappeared from the map, or history. The listing followed a formula of which we give a sample below, of which the rest are

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merely duplicates save in their figures. In many cases the population as such is noted in the margin, but this always corresponds to the number of mantles, mantas, to be paid in the year, each manta being made up of three breadths, one to be woven and delivered each four months. The proportions of the other items were fairly regular, but not sharp. Certain amounts of salt and/or fish were to be paid by towns with access to the sea, and in Tabasco (with which we are not here concerned) cacao-and chile were also called for. The document thus runs as follows:


The Royal Audiencia in the City of Santiago de Guatemala.

In the City of Santiago, in the Province of Guatemala, on the second day of February, in the year 1549 of our Lord, by the President and Justices of the Royal Audiencia and Chancery of His Majesty the King, seated in the said city.

The town and people of Zamailco (Samahil, in Zipatán), which is in the encomienda of Rodrigo Alvarez, a citizen of the city of Mérida, are taxed as follows. The people of the said town are ordered to plant each year six fanegas (bushels) of maize and one-half fanega of beans, fencing, cultivating and reaping in the said town. They will also pay annually 400 mantles of the usual kind, and of the value of two tomins (pieces of eight, or reales) each; 22 arrobas (quarter 100-weights) of beeswax; 2 arrobas of honey; 400 fowls, of either the native or Spanish variety, as they prefer; 4 fanegas of salt and 3 arrobas of fish.

The above tribute they shall deliver to their encomendero in the city of Mérida, at the rate of one-third every four months, and with pack animals or carts which their said encomendero will supply to them they shall transport the said tribute to him in the said City of Mérida. They will also give him four Indian workmen for his service. During the period of their service the said encomendero is required to feed the Indian workmen and have them taught the doctrines of Christianity. They do not have to give any other thing, neither may the said Indians be levied upon in any manner whatever, nor may they substitute any other thing for any part of the tribute, under pain of the penalties in the law and ordinances laid down by his Majesty for the good government of the Indies.


Under this order there was then levied a total of 53,285 mantles per year, with the other above items, upon the 175 towns named as granted in the peninsula. Many of these towns have disappeared, 30 indeed in the chiefdom of the Cupuls in the ensuing thirty years; but thanks to the arrangement of the list and the fact that many of the grantees had several towns is assigned, we can separate them into their chiefdoms with little uncertainty.

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A comparison of the list and the map will make clear that as an actual population index the figures must fall very short of the facts, partly because of what is to be told about the eastern half of the map, and partly because of the absence in the list of so many known towns, for reasons we do not know, in the western half. Further, to the Spanish administration, population meant only so many tax-payers, heads of households; and since the house (as well as the larger unit, the town) was itself a 'community' organization only releasing its sons when they had so far advanced in status as new 'family heads,' we should at least multiply the taxable population by five or more, to reach what we understand as population.

Now, in comparing 1549 with 1579, we have a certain amount of definite reduction figures in the east; and in the west few of the grantees reporting through Mérida (or else Gaspar Antonio Chi, who helped most of them in their reports) seemed to consider actual figures worth mentioning, and a very large proportion said nothing even of losses, even in a vague way. But one way or another, we have continued positive evidence, confirmed by similar testimony at various places, that the reduction in the intervening thirty years ran from one-half as the smallest loss (and that in few cases only) down to a very common reduction to one-third, and frequently to one-fifth, then even to one-tenth; and over most of the eastern region, to nothing.

The ’49 Tax List is then our one definite base from which to visualize what happened in Yucatan in the thirty years we are considering; and it only gives the number of 'man taxpayers' reachable and assigned as tribute-payers to Montejo's captains and soldiery. Since we are also trying to remake for ourselves a native Maya map and its political and governmental set up when the Spaniards arrived, the following table should aid readers interested enough in the work of friar Landa. The figures stand for heads of households.

































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Testimony outside the Tax List indicates that the figure for Chauac-há must have been 4000 at the very least, and double that more likely. Similar testimony as to destroyed towns in the concentration calls for a like increase for the Cupul chiefdom, up to at least 18,000 in the towns we are told existed. Out of the 3365 above given for households taxed in 1549 in the first five regions in the list, 633 survived in 1579.

The Island of Cozumel.

At the coming of the Spaniards Cozumel was less a chiefdom than a sacred place of pilgrimage from over the whole peninsula and even the regions beyond, ruled by the high priest of Ixchel, the Isis of the Maya pantheon; he was of the Pat family. Stretching almost in a line to the west we had three, possibly four, other major sacred centers; the greatest Itzamal, the seat of Itzamná, the Great Initiator, in a way corresponding to Osiris, whither came pilgrims from all "the four roads," to worship and be healed. The sacred well at Chichén Itzá was another, and so also Cobá, whose greatness as a center we are only now beginning to learn. All these belonged to the most ancient times, of the Itzás. What place was held by Ti-ho, "at the Place of the Five," the present Mérida, we do not know.

Cortés was received in friendship at Cozumel, which is described as 'populous'; as the grant of Juan Núñez in 1549, it was taxed as for 220 'heads of families'; by 1579 the region generally was said to have lost two-thirds its people, and Cozumel reduced to 20. The blame for this loss, along the whole east coast in the earliest period, lies first at the sweeping smallpox brought in 1520 by one negro on a Spanish ship; then from 1546 on to the merciless cruelty of the Pachecos, let loose to 'reduce' the revolt of that year.


The name is an abbreviation of ek-cab, 'black earth,' and the province extended to an undefined southern boundary near Lake Bacalar. Of its once great population, strong enough to keep the Spaniards off until they came with Xiu backing from the west, we have little left but names. Across the 15 mile channel lies P’ole, the mainland port of Cozumel, through which passed all the pilgrimages; Juan Núñez held it, with Cozumel, in 1549, with only 17 tribute payers. Halfaway down the coast was Samal, once 'populous,' but in 1579 only taxed for 50; and today its very location is in doubt. Its description would well fit Tulum, were it not for an early statement that it lay by a creek, near a place Muyil, halfway between Cozumel and Ascension Bay. This latter is supported by the still marked trails from the interior

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[paragraph continues] (always a prime help in such cases, since made trails persist), and Samal was a main port on the Honduras trade. Bitanché was held in ’49 taxed for 60 married men; today its location is wholly lost. Of the original capital of the chiefdom, Ekab, we know it was at the north, about as shown on the map; held as a grant in ’79, its population was not reported.

And of Isla Mugeres the grantee of Ekab reported it "uninhabited" in 1579. That is all we have for Ekab chiefdom.


Of Cochuah, which includes the largest inland lake left today in Yucatan, Chichen-kanab, we know somewhat more, and it also has some practically independent native population today, away from the end of the railroad at Peto. Its ancient capital, Chikin-cenote, the 'West Cenote.' held the remains of great ancient temples and buildings, and was thus taken for one of the four great convents of the Franciscans in the western half of the peninsula; the others being at Chaan-cenote, the 'Fair Cenote,' among the Tazees, and at Sisal a suburb of Valladolid, and Tizimín, both among the Cupules.

Only one town appears in the 1549 list, Chunhubub; as part of the concentrations to be told more fully when we come to the Cupuls, four towns had been destroyed and the people driven in to Chunhubub by the Franciscans, and the tax levy in ’49 for its grantee was 300 tribute payers, reduced in ’79 to thirty. Ixumul, chief town of the province in 1579, was then taxed as for 400; it is close to, or perhaps once the same as Tihotzuco, which joined with Cisteil in the great uprising of 1731. Of the only other town on either list, Kanpocolché, we are told by its grantee in 1579 that to his knowledge the population had been cut in half.

For many years the head of the 'indios rebeldes' in back of Bacalar has been General May; it is understood that his successor-to-be is a Cochuah, by name.

Chauac-há (Choaca), or 'Long Water.'

Of this once great province we are only now able to map two towns, and those but in approximation: the capital Chauac-há and the port Conil, or Conitzá. The expulsion of Montejo's force in 1527 has been told in the previous pages. The land was arable, not stony. giving two crops a year, with plantations of copal. Offshore are the famed fresh-water springs rising from the sea. The public buildings at Chauac-há were of stone, the private house, of strong wood, thatched. The Spanish reports agree in allotting high intelligence to these people of the coast regions, both Chauac-há and the Tazees, and as using "very correct language."

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We are told that in 1529 Chauac-há had 3000 houses, and in 1543 when Montejo attempted to found the new town of Valladolid near the Indian city, there were only 1000 houses. After the revolt of '46 the incoming friars burned the native town to drive the inhabitants inland to the vicinity of the coming convents at Chaan-cenote and Tizimín, and the official Valladolid Relation says there were only twenty houses left in the ancient town in 1579. Urrutia received it in grant, and reports his tribute payers as thirteen, due "to the removals and the sumptuous stone convents the Indians were impressed to build"; this was in ’79, his earlier tribute having been 200. Another writer speaks of a time previous, with 250 houses, and 600 to 700 population.

The port town of Conil is said by one writer to have had 5000 houses; in ’79 Díaz Alpuche, then 75 years old, says he witnessed the town burnings and that nearly all the people died of grief or destitution; that it was all done "by the official order" of the Auditor López, in support of the friars’ plan of removals for doctrination and church attendance. In ’79 it was still taxed for Contreras in 80 payers.

The only other town name that has come down to us is that of Samyol; in ’79 Sarmiento says that his predecessor Cieza received from 900, but he only has from 160. Its location is lost.

The Tazees.

The name is most probably a corruption of Tah-Itzáes, 'among those of the Itzá.' The chiefdom shared with Chauac-há in reputation for high civil order and polity, free from any tyranny. Its capital was Chaan-cenote, named for the beauty of the land at its chief cenote, with 600 on its first tax list. Surrounding it were five other towns, including Temasa with 400; then came friar Francisco Aparicio and without warning burned all five towns over the heads of the people, totally destroying all five, including a good church in Temasa, and driving all the people in around Chaan-cenote. There is no report on these five burned towns for 1549, but when Urrutia received in the grant he had 900 tribute payers for his support and income, which were reduced in 1579 to 300. He further says that when Aparicio burned Temasa, with its 170 houses, and the rest, he did not even give time to remove the household goods; that he burned all the fruit trees, and so "within eight days" the head men and many others died. The rest were then made to work on a monastery fit to accommodate 100 friars, to serve actually for four.

Kantunil once had 120, was taxed for 50 in ’49, and in ’79 there were but 2 to pay and provide living for the grantee Bellido.

Dohot is a site now wholly lost. The people, numbering 600 in ’49, were removed to near the convent at Tizimín, and less than 100 were left in ’79.

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Of Sinsimché Sarmiento tells us in ’79 that it was once a place of great population, numbering 600, and was taxed on his predecessor for 80, but "now, because of the heavy tributes, I have only 8 left."

Two other towns, now entirely lost to the map, had paid Cieza 900 in ’49, reduced in ’79 to 150. Of all this removal Díaz Alpuche tells us it was by the orders of Tomás López, "coming with power thereto from the Audiencia" (corresponding to our Supreme Court in such matters) of Guatemala. This López was one of the committee to which Landa's appeal against Bishop Toral was referred in Spain, resulting in his absolution of "any wrong or usurpation of power," and his return in 1573 as Bishop.

The Cupuls.

The region we have up to now surveyed became in later days the Territory of Quintana Roo, covered in the Díaz-Molina days with "exploitation grants" to some half dozen concessionaires, shown on the Espinosa map, but who found it profitless. That map aids us chiefly in its almost total lack of even settlements marked, but also in the different trail complexes such as those at the probable site of Conil, Chaan-cenote, Kantunil, Chemax, the two Muyils, Tabi and Ixmul. A thousand years ago we know it to have been in full flower as ancient Itzá territory: Tulum alive, Cobá with its branching system of great built up stone roads that we have only learned about in the past few years, and the great sac-be, or 'white road' of stone almost certainly from Tulum or P’ole to Cobá; then as now known from Cobá to near Chichén, and then Itzamal, thus linking all the great Itzá sacred places.

What happened after the incoming of the Mexicans soon after that, we have still to learn; difficulties were certainly foreshadowed, but that it was still populous even after the rise of the Xius and the fall of Mayapán, and up to the coming of the Spanish invaders, the atrocities of Pacheco constantly told of and even referred to by Landa as something wherein the friars "were protecting the Indians," and then the torches of Aparicio, Guevara and Villalpando, and the Ordinances of Tomás López, is certain. But passing from this region where even the great monasteries at Chaancenote and Chikin-cenote, among the Tazees and the Cochuahs, were early abandoned when the drive for conquest and conversion had died down, we next come to the regions actually 'made Spanish,' and marked by the railway lines of today: Campeche, Muna, Peto, Valladolid and Tizimín, outside of which impenetrability and a practical independence under the Indian leaders was grudgingly allowed. The civil power and administration became settled under Mérida, Valladolid and Salamanca de Bacalar, and under that protection the political functionaries, the grantees and their successors the 'científico' hacendados of the Díaz period, and the clergy settled down.

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All this continued until our own great machine age, with its thousand acre farms and tractors, began to need fuel (oil and Sisal hemp) to threaten us with a tenant farm régime, and our own 'dust-bowl' with its threatened depopulation, put the final pressure on the screws of exploiting the Indian of Yucatan, and Mexico proper, for the amassing of wealth by those in control, through the sale of things extracted for the foreign trade. In no whit was there any difference from the protests to Montejo in 1543 for leave to sell off their Maya slaves to Cuba, to buy the 'luxuries' from abroad. The only difference was that this last turn of the screws broke the screws themselves, and set the Indian on his strength to become again a man and a producing, educated, economic citizen of his own country.

Fortunately for our present purpose, the Tax List of 1549 followed a geographical course from one province or chiefdom to the next, with occasional slips at the overlappings; also most of the grantees had more than one town, helping us in a sufficiently close location of names that have disappeared from our map, or from the 1579 reports themselves. Many places named in ’49 were lost, 'removed' or their people driven away or absorbed, in ’79. In this connection the basic and destructive, merciless evil of the 'removal' system cannot be appreciated except by remembering the universal 'community' system of agriculture, not only native to the Indian (and not realized by ourselves, as 'individualists'), but necessary particularly in Yucatan with its thinly covered limestone and corn its staple.

To a town lot pertained a cropping lot outside; each town had its ejido territory in common, that of Ebtun near Valladolid (for instance) comprising no less than twenty-seven ejidos, each with its own special name; all such belonged to that community. Every townsman had the right to select his coming milpa site for clearing, planting and harvesting for two, rarely three years; then the maize had exhausted the soil nitrogen below the profit level of cultivation, and he selected another site. On these community rights the life of the people depended, and they were respected; but they also meant the possession of a goodly town-owned region, proportioned to the population needs. The towns had to be moderately sized, but also reasonably close set; on the balance of these two factors the whole life of the whole country depended.

It is obvious that when half a dozen such town centers, with a total of perhaps 1800 households (man, wife, children and young married couples living as by custom the first few years with the father-in-law) were suddenly uprooted from the soil in which they not only rested the social order but drew physical life itself, and with houses and possessions burned, were suddenly driven to 'the city,' famine, despair and death were inevitable. Add

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to this the labor of tearing down their old stone buildings or pyramids to build what were described as veritable fortresses fit to hold several thousand soldiers instead of the few friars for whose use they were erected, it is little wonder that first the natives died off, and then as inevitable retribution, the monasteries themselves decayed as did the Missions in California, from the identical causes. Excessive concentration of every kind, whether of great cities, trade monopolies however supported—privately or governmentally, or bureaucracies, must go on drawing from the weaker outposts until they too must die, from lack of more resources to 'tax.' But the medial processes are not pleasant, even to read of; neither are they a work of civilization. In the chiefdom of the Cupuls we see this working process, in the raw.

Allotment of encomiendas or town grants was made in Mérida in 1542, and in Valladolid in 1544, at once on its removal from the unhealthy Choaca location to the site of the ancient Saci. The 1549 List, besides ten towns in Tabasco, taxes 175 under the jurisdiction of Mérida or Valladolid, to some 100 grantees. Valladolid at its founding had forty Spaniards, its citizens, each entitled to his share of the whole population in the region covered by the eastern half of our map. Not all these forty names appear in the Tax List, and for whatever reason the reports of only twenty-four grantees appear in ’79. In all the eastern region we have 69 towns listed, of which 60 are among the Cupuls; nine towns taxed in ’49 are not reported in ’79, but we have instead five that were apparently not taxed in ’49.

Of the 60 Cupul towns we can list one-half as 'survivals,' that are left on the map; the other half we only know as Cupul from their being in the Cupul section of the List. They were either burned or otherwise directly depopulated, or else abandoned. But from the double record in ’49 and ’79 we can reconstruct the picture. As to locations we are further helped by tributes of salt and/or fish being called for in ’49, showing nearness to one or another coastline. The population for every town taxed in ’49 is fixed by the levy of one manta or triple breadth of cloth per year from each head of a household; this is then to be compared with the statements of how much less the grantee in ’79 was getting; at times additional figures are supplied; in all this we usually have concrete figures at both dates, but at times the statement: "reduced to less than half," etc.

Thirteen of our surviving towns show an annual tribute of 5000 mantles reduced to 1100 in the thirty years between Landa's arrival and his death. Five towns not mentioned in ’49 are reported in ’79 as having gone down from 2040 to 786; also Chocholá as gone to half. Nine towns mentioned in ’49 as paying 2630 mantles per year, have become 'non-survivals' in ’79.

Thirteen neighboring towns were burned and the people removed to Popolá, taxed in ’49 at 430; all these towns together went down from 2000 to 900, and finally to 300; today Popolá is there, but abandoned.

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Tizimín (misnamed Peecemy in ’49) stood for 360; Cismopo and six others had the torch applied by friar Guevara, to drive them either to Tizimín or the nearby Temozón, and the tribute fell from 600 to 140. Nabalá with a once great population fell to a third. Yalcón went down in twenty years from 50 to 18. Kaua fell from 360 to half. Cacalchén from 100 to 28. Sotzil and Tecay together, 600 to 200. Xocén, taxed in ’49 at 110, once paid 200, then 150, then 30. At Temul out of 460 one-third were left. Of the various towns about Kikil only about half the people were left, in ’79. The grantee Juan Cano, the son of Juan, tells us that Tinum covered seven towns, two of which had paid 390 in ’49, to his father, whereas in ’79 he only received 70 from all together.

Pixoy went from 300 to 100; Casalac from 180 to 35, and Tancuy from 60 to 21. Four towns around Ekbalám, an ancient Cupul capital, were depopulated, and the tribute fell from 600 to 200. Tekanxó from 400 to 190, and two towns on the main highway to the port of Conil, now lost on our map, in ’79 had fallen from 400 to 28. And finally, Villanueva tells us that Sicab, close to Valladolid, had fallen from 500 to 240, "due to the forced removals of the people, their flight away into the forests, after the heavy labor" on the building of the great monastery at Sisal. He also tells us that "now 26 surrounding towns come in to Valladolid, for doctrination" and church attendance; on this see the López Ordinances, below.

On our ’49 list we find the names of 21 towns, directly reported as 'concentrated' or else lost on our map, but probably all within the Guevara work of centralization of the 'teaching' at Tizimín (whose monastery was said to have been one of the most sumptuous in the whole country) and the neighboring Temozón; these 21 towns were in ’49 listed for 4290 mantles per year. To this total must be added other known towns, by reports, probably concentrated at Valladolid, raising the above figure to 5330 mantles—towns off the map in ’79. And yet other data, assignable to 'somewhere in Copul,' raises the total of 'lost towns' for that chiefdom, on our known and existing reports, to 36, with tribute originally of over 8000 mantles per year.

To these bald figures we are added the following. Juan Cano, the 'old man,' one of Montejo's original company, tells us that he had been granted at the settlement of Valladolid Tinum and six towns near by. That to concentrate the Indians for 'doctrina' there came Fray Hernando de Guevara, and at once set on fire all the towns, driving everybody to Tinum or Temozón; that he complained of this to the Alcalde Mayor, Ortiz Delgueta, and was non-suited and charged the costs, as the acts were done by "order of the Auditor from Guatemala, Tomás López." The same thing happened under friar Luis de Villalpando, around Valladolid; 13 towns burned and the population moved, to build the Sisal monastery.

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Juan Rodríguez, the elder, tells us that five towns were gathered in to Sucopo, now a sorry little hamlet a couple of leagues east of Tizimín, when the present writer saw it in 1917. (Two leagues further into the 'unknown' I then came on an unlisted ancient site, with stone buildings around a large plaza, still I think unknown even to archaeologists.)

And nearly every single informant in the twenty-five Valladolid Relations of 1579, tells the same story. To which we must add the reports, nine in number, that are known to have been called for by the Instructions sent out from Spain in 1577, but which are missing from the volume in the archives from which the twenty-five Relations were taken and printed. Given then that by the 'married men' taxed we must understand only heads of a household, and not including the newly married youth who had to work for and with his father-in-law for several years, we have a total in sight on our records of some 18,000 households with anywhere from five to ten times the actual number of individuals, in Cupul territory, after the decimation by war and flight following the 1546 revolt; and that again following losses we can only guess at from pestilence and the earlier wars of 1527-9, when Montejo was allowed to settle at Chichén Itzá, and then driven from the country when his purposes became understood.

The Chiefdom of Ahkin-Chel.

As we now pass from the eastern to the western half of our map, we find a distinctly marked cleavage, and therewith a great difference in both the quantity and character of the information given us in the Relations. This too, in spite of the fact that both Chels and Cocoms belong in the eastern group, politically. The reader will remember that the first Ahkin-Chel was that son-in-law of a high priest of Mayapán, who after being deeply instructed by the elder man in their writings and wisdom, then after the fall of the city carved for himself his own barony, settling first at Tikoch, where many stone remains are left today. The Cocoms also became by the destruction of the Federation the implacable enemies of the revolting and victorious Xius, a story told in deep colors in all the later history.

Nevertheless the line down the middle of the map divides the jurisdictional authority of Mérida and Valladolid, as self-administering centers under the general provincial government, which until the last century also included the Campeche local administration. From the Spanish side of things, this brought them into the western influence, notwithstanding that we are told by the relators that the Chels were highly respected by their neighbors, except those of Ceh-Pech on their western border, with whom they constantly warred; and that the Cocom-Xiu enmities overrode all other factors, on the Maya side of things.

p. 151

The 1549 Tax List, with slight exceptions, from Nos. 1-14 covers Zipatán; 15-35 Ceh-Pech; 36-59 Chel; then Hocabá; 61-70 Cocom; 74-91 Xiu; 92-108 Campeche, Champotón and the Canuls; and then goes through the eastern chiefdoms we have above summarized, to and with ten grants in Tabasco. As we then go through the western group of Relations, dated in 1580-1, and sent in to Mérida direct, we find a constant repetition of ancient historical and native cultural data; in brief, the background of the Xiu influence, of Kukulcán or Quetzalcóatl, the League, the subsequent "evil conduct of the Cocoms," and their surprising importation of Mexican mercenaries from Tabasco and Xicalango, these latter finally accepted as 'good Mayas' by the Xius, and "allowed" to settle on the west coast—the Canuls; finally joining with the Xius in welcoming and then defending Montejo against the Cocoms. The story does not easily make sense. But twelve of these Relations directly credit Gaspar Antonio Chi with aid in their preparation, and five others show his cooperation without actually naming him; in these seventeen are included every one of the nine grantees of towns in Ahkin-Chel, and even the two from Sotuta and Tabi, of the Cocoms. In the quite scanty reports we get from the west coast, Zipatán, the Canuls, and Campeche, he evidently did not aid directly, as e did for practically all the Pech, Xiu, Chel and Cocom towns.

This, together with the constant treatment of the Indians in these reports as lazy, worthless, stupid, ignorant in their proper food, medicine, and their use of cold baths and bleeding, simply shows that the whole western division had come to take on Hispanization in thought; and one sees the same difference today between the atmosphere of things in Mérida, and that of Valladolid—where uprisings (even that for Madero against Díaz) always start, just as in Guatemala it is San Pedro Carchá that has to be 'watched out for.'

The threads of this same story, politically, run all through Landa's text, with the hand of Gaspar Antonio Chi again clear. For all that he has thus told us, through the Relations and the work of our Franciscan friar, concerning past Maya history and mythology, and especially of the ancient customs and laws, we are deeply grateful. But the plain simple fact is that in both these contributions we have the Xiu side of the story of 'Things' in Yucatan. And we lack the Cocom side.

 In another respect, directly involving our present summary, we find the demarcation equally marked. In neither the general Mérida Relation nor the twenty-four other individual ones, do we find more than the scantiest reference to the reduction in population, save as sometimes referred to as a result of their bad habits, or their flight back into the forests and hills to the south. About the most we can do is to add up the total taxation as set in 1549, and do without the later figures or data.

p. 152

Thus among the Chels in ’49 Tz’ilam paid Montejo 580 mantles and the rest, plus fish; Tz’tz’ontún 600, and fish; Tekal 420; to the Quiros Chalanté paid 700; two lost places, Cuxbil and Chaltundehad paid 600 and 550. Brizeño had Tikal in ’49 for 420 mantles, and still had it in ’80, but does not tell his later income. San Martin had Euan in ’49 with 320, and Cansahcab in ’80, but tells us nothing more. The Sanchez minors held Tixjocapay in ’49, for 680 mantles; one son in ’80 held Tekantó and Tepacán, where he tells us seven or eight surrounding towns had been moved in, to be near the Tekantó monastery. As a total we can tell that the Chel towns were at the start taxed at least for 5000 mantles, and the only information we are given as to losses in population is where Paredes says he received Sitilpech and Kisil from his father, and the income had gone from 300 down to 120.

The Cocom Chiefdom.

Here again we find the same story to tell. In ’49 Sotuta itself paid two grantees together 720 mantles; Chomulná paid Nieto 740; Chilultel 350 to Sánchez, and Chachetunich 70 to one Cea; García received 270 from Vayacus, which later with two other towns was moved to Tabi, García telling us that his income on the three had fallen off from 400 to 150; Tiquinabalon paid Ponce 290, and another town, probably Sahcabá, paid Manrique 300. Finally, Alonso Julian tells that his town of Ixtual, a league from Temax, once contributed 500, but "now only 150; the Indians are stupid and bad."

Through these western Relations generally we are told that the chief ailments are fevers, asthma and lamparones or scrofula; we find no mention of syphilis or tuberculosis of the lungs, to both of which the Shattuck report, confirming the testimony of the old Maya medicinal texts, shows almost complete immunity among the Maya. They cured with herbs, bleeding and baths, but were generally in much poorer health than in the old days, owing to the break-up of their ancient customs, and especially their native drink, the balché, with its purgative and clearing effects, instead of which the Spanish intoxicants had been forced on them by the prohibition of the balché as having been a part of ancient ceremonial uses, and so constantly harped on by Landa, except when now and then he forgets.

The Cocoms in the older days, we are told, traded into Honduras, Tabasco and Mexico; we even are told of tuchumite stuffs imported from the Mizteca into Cocom territories.

p. 153


Twenty-two Ceh-Pech towns are listed in 1549, as follows: Motul 1450; Ixil 280; Maxtunil 500; Mocochá 500; Tixcunchel 220; Ekmul 180; Baca 480; Sauanal 250; Quibil (probably Kini) 480; Yaxkukul 60; Nolo 120; Tixkokob 530; Motul 600; Muxup’ip’ 300; Telchac 1030; Yobain 740; Sinanché 320; Euan 320. All these are known towns today; to them must be added, now off the map, Treveca 160; Texiol 200; Chaltún 130; Pacat 370; in all a total of 9610

Click to enlarge
mantles annually, plus the usual beans, honey, wax, and salt and fish from towns near the coast. Of this total 2280 mantles went to Montejo and 1920 to the Crown.

As to causes and conditions Pacheco, to whom we have before referred for his brutalities in the east, says the population has decreased because of pestilences, the Indians themselves being lazy and worthless; he also refers to their having been gathered into towns by the friars "with holy zeal." Another encomendero tells us that this concentration was "good for their souls but bad for their bodies." At Sinanché we are told the same—concentration and pestilences; population decreased at Chuburná, Mocochá (but now increasing again); Buctzotz, one of largest towns, now greatly decreased.


This small province (if either it or Chakan, wherein lies Mérida, were really ever independent chiefdoms) seems to have played a very minor part in Maya affairs; so also here in this connection. Of ancient Acanceh with its marvelous facade (now at last destroyed) we hear nothing, even from Landa. In the uprising of 1546 at Valladolid, it joined the Xius and Canuls in aiding Montejo against the Cupuls and other eastern Mayas.

Monasteries were built at both Hocabá and Humún, and the first of these was taxed in 2400 mantles, 1200 each to Pacheco and Alvarez while Cusamá (probably the town of that name near Acanceh, if not that in Zipatán) gave the Crown 900 mantles, besides salt.

p. 154

The Xius of Maní.

All of which brings us to the chiefdom of the western hegemony, yet with a quite surprising tax situation. Corresponding well to the dense settlement shown on the map, Molina Solis lists 57 Xiu towns, most of which are known and inhabited today. But in the list for ’49 only 16 are named, and of these Yaxá 460 (4 leagues to south in the sierra) is reported as since depopulated to be sent to Oxkutzcab, although many fled back to the forests; Ateque 140 and Cisnuache 360 are in doubt as to location, as is also the identity of Hayan, which was taxed 390 to one grantee and another 360 to a second. After this our list reads Maní 970 and Ticul 790, both to the Crown; then Tekit 400; Mamá 440; Muna 350; Sacalum 220; Pencuyut 250; Yotholín 160; Tekax 940; Izuná 60. Then Xul far down in the sierra 630, and Cantemoy near Pew 310: a total of only 7290 for the whole district. Oxkutzcab does not appear in the list, but Pacheco tells us it had 1200 residents. *

Of specific information, Muñoz Zapata estimates the population (meaning certainly the family heads) when the taxes were levied, at 50,000, "now much reduced by the removals for doctrina." Bote tells us his three towns are losing, and that the children die young. Julian again tells us the Indians are stupid and bad, and that Tetzal had dropped from 500 to 108, and Ixtual from 400 to 90. Practically all the above reports on the western region, down to here and also including the next, Chakán, are substantially one in matter, with a great deal of information as to history and 'things of the country,' manifestly coming from Gaspar Antonio himself. Most of them also refer, for further details, to the report of the cosmographer Francisco Dominguez, and his report prepared in 1566—the same year in which Landa in Spain wrote his book.


For this district, which besides Mérida included both Mayapán, and also Acanceh on the Hocabá border, with 23 other towns in the list given by Molina Solís, we have but the one long general report, at Mérida, and signed

p. 155

directly by both Martín de Palomar and "Gaspar Antonio Chi." The information is all general (this is in 1580, Mérida not having been allotted as a grant in ’49), and as told in the other Chi documents.

The foregoing thus gives us a listed, known, taxation in 1549 of some 29,000 mantles for these six interior districts, between the Cupul border and the line of west coast provinces. How to account for the absence of so many known towns from the very definite list of ’49, in both the east and especially the west, is difficult. The towns were certainly there, and it is equally difficult to think of their being ignored by Montejo's soldiers in their applications for exploitable and helpless economic fodder. But with those still to follow in Zipatán, the Canuls and Campeche, they reach a recorded total of well over 50,000 Mayas, for whom "the taxes began by the aid of those at Maní," in 1542, as so frankly confessed by Juan Xiu, as above.


This district was chiefly the home of fisherfolk and salt gatherers, and played some part economically, and less politically. Of its past native history and relationships it is safe to say we know nothing. Sihunchén was a friars’ concentration point for shore people, but it fell from a one-time tax of 80 mantles to 10.

In ’49 Samahil was taxed for 400; Ucú 250; Timucuy 160; Yabucú 130 before the people were moved to Hunucmá; Tetis 210, and Caucel, the capital, 150. Besides these we have Acalaxán 250; Muca 250, Aquimihil 150; Taubain 150; Atimzizibique 200, and Alinacama 180—all lost names. Finally the first name on the ’49 List, Ayucalco, allotted to Montejo himself, and which from its size and tax of 860 we should probably identify as Hunucmá, this name not appearing itself listed. A total of 3640 mantles, with salt or fish, or both, in every case.

The region was not regarded as healthy, although now it plays a larger part owing to the passage through of the railroad and other trade factors due to the nearness of Mérida and its port, once at Sisal in Zipatán, and later changed to Progreso.

The Canuls, Campeche and Champotón.

In our Tax List, immediately following the Xiu towns, and before those of the Cupuls, are 25 others that clearly belong to these three chiefdoms. Campeche being however the jurisdictional capital for this region, we have no Relations corresponding to those returnable at Mérida and Valladolid, leaving us only with the earlier population figures, and no means of knowing the

p. 156

falling off in the term of our present inquiry. They should however be added here to complete the record of the full 1549 taxation, and are as follows.

For the Ah-Canul chiefdom: Calkiní the capital 70; Maxcanú 260; Halachó 200; Becal 100; Pomuch 130; Pocboc 250; Tuchica, probably the place where the younger Montejo was forced to halt on his march from Campeche to Mérida, 360; Nocacao, on the road from Becal to Maní, and after passing lake Yibá; 100. The important modern town of Hecelchakán, the seat of the present Federal Normal School for the whole peninsula, is not named, but since all the rest are identifiable it may be represented by the largest of the above towns, Tuchica with its 360 tribute payers. A total tax in ’49 of 1470 mantles, with salt in no instance save at Pomuch.

For the towns of Campeche: the capital itself, taxed for the Crown in 630 mantles, with the usual additions, and with both salt and fish; Chulilá, 360; Quinlacao, probably for Kinlacán, 300; Sahcabchén, southwest of Bolonchen-ticul, 350; and Ticul, probably for Bolonchen-ticul, 480. A total of 2280.

For Chakán-putún, or Champotón: the city itself, to the Crown for 420, with fish; and Sihó, probably the one in this province, to Triana, a citizen of Campeche, in 400. Then in company with this Sihó four other towns only placeable by their position: Con or Tecon, also Triana, 480, with salt; then three towns to one Ricalde, Ixcacauché 360, with salt; Sisia, 420; Enasir, 130. Assuming the location of these six towns in Champotón, from the data we have as above, we have as a total, 2110.

One other name occurs, ten places earlier than this Sihó, and named Sihot, taxed at 210, and probably the- town found in the Ah-Canul territory.

For the remaining chiefdoms on our list of seventeen districts, namely Tixchel, Chetumal and the country of the Guaymiles, and finally the independent kingdom of the Itzás, Tah-Itzá around Lake Petén, we have no data in either of our present sources. All this region has been left quite severely alone by the governmental authorities, and its Itzá-Mayas greatly feared by the border inhabitants, with an ever-present threat of a new uprising. A status of practical 'self-dependence,' at Xkanhá and two other centers, was even recognized by definite convention at one time.


140:* We are using the word 'Chiefdom' as most nearly descriptive here. They were essentially, after the fall of Mayapán, like the independent city states of Italy, or the seigneuries of France, or again like Athens and Sparta. They were essentially also family regimes, clans, baronies or earldoms if one will; but the use of any of these terms is tinged with European political memories. Chieftainship is equally unavailable, as that implies merely the headship of a tribe, frequently a moving one, and semi-barbarous. These were civilized, settled community states,' with established polity, code of laws, and customs; also with far-reaching trade relationships. As a term for the territorial divisions so covered and ruled, the term Chiefdom thus seems best fitting.

154:* The following paragraphs from the elder Montejo's instructions, given to his son, in Chiapas, in 1540, probably throw light on this:

"You shall make partition to one hundred citizens, and not less, because the provinces are large and the Indians many, and it is necessary that the citizens resist and subdue them; and this (Ti-ho) must be the chief city of all. And after you have made the partitions, and what I have taken for myself, you will leave various towns without assigning them, for persons suiting to his Majesty's service; for so it is done with all the grants in these new lands."

"Also, you shall make the entries duly of those towns I have taken as for myself and in his Majesty's name, and my part which is in the province of Tutul Xiu with all attached thereto, the town of Telchac with all attached thereto, the town of Campeche with all attached thereto, and the town of Champotón with all attached thereto."

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