Reductions and Upheaval in the Seventeenth Century
Reductions and Upheaval in the Seventeenth Century
Abstract and Keywords
In this chapter, the integration of data from archaeology and ethnohistory extends to the end of Spanish activity in Belize in 1708. Reduction efforts by Spanish authorities, which focused on Tipu in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, are described, as are the Maya rebellions that took place between 1638 and 1641. Tipu's relations with the Peten Itza are described, as are entradas reflecting continued Spanish and Franciscan efforts to control apostasy and resistance.
Ironically, the community of Lamanai—closer to Bacalar, more susceptible to monitoring, and the site of two churches—comes across as more rebellious than Tipu, the distant community. Then again, detecting irony reflects a point of view that assumes a direct relationship between Spanish energy investment and Maya compliance.
As described in chapter 8, Tipu was the focus of at least two reduction efforts in the early seventeenth century, in 1608 and in 1615, with concomitant changes to encomienda restructuring effected by 1622.1 This was also the period marked by Bacalar's weakening control and by flight from a number of its encomienda towns.2 The state of affairs for Bacalar and communities to its south stands in contrast to communities north and northwest of Belize, in which the period from about 1602 to 1615 was a time in which Franciscans were reasonably successful in gathering apostate and pagan Maya into mission communities at places such as Champoton and Tixchel (map 5.1), and even the east coast.3 These successes were, however, dependent on keeping Spanish soldiers and settlers at bay, and the only reason for holding back seems to have been that military expeditions were repeatedly failing. Once some success in establishing reduction communities had been achieved by the friars, the Spaniards stood poised to expand economic exploitation.4 Overall, the small-scale reductions of the first decade or so of the seventeenth century seem not to have satisfied the Spaniards in terms of bringing their idea of order to the frontier, and such a climate simply intensified concerns about the influence of the non-Christian Maya of the Peten lakes.
Two major undertakings reflected the “problem-solving” of this period. First, the colonial government based in Mérida sought to isolate the alcaldes and secular priests of Bacalar from control over territory they had sought to (p.240) exploit, which included the Belize missions.5 The encomienda restructuring of 1622 represented this first effort, and the absentee encomenderos of Bacalar, already resident in Valladolid, had control of their encomiendas wrested from them and assigned to people in Mérida. This was certainly bad for Bacalar, but could have gone either way for the Maya of Tipu or Lamanai, depending on the economic contribution of their tribute and the regularity with which it was collected.
Second, and in this case bad for the Mayas of Tipu, a new entrada was conceived in 1618 that deeply affected the town. Beginning in 1614–15, problems began emerging in the recently reduced communities in Campeche and along the east coast, apparently the result of incursion by Spanish colonists and soldiers.6 The entrada into Tipu at that time is a well-known venture, undertaken by the Franciscan friars Bartolomé de Fuensalida and Juan de Orbita. It was originally described by Lopez de Cogolludo,7 but is richly contextualized by Jones on the basis of further documentation.8
Several factors are important to highlight here. First, the friars Fuensalida and Orbita were happy to make the journey without military escort. Several Spanish officials had been trying to obtain permission from the Council of the Indies to lead an armed entrada to the Peten, but they had so far been denied and the Franciscans hoped to persuade the Itzas to convert without armed conflict.9 This emphasizes the competing agendas that existed in the colonial period, of which the Maya were aware, and which almost certainly factored in their decision making.10 It is also interesting that the friars needed a special commission from the bishop to administer the sacraments at Tipu and other towns. In 1618, and probably since the 1568 reductions, the secular priest based in Bacalar had jurisdiction over Tipu and presumably other Belize and New River mission towns.11 That the order from the bishop forbade the secular priest to visit Tipu while the Franciscans were there says something about the strained relationships between Mendicants and seculars, and perhaps also about the quality of ministration by seculars.
Also of interest is the description of the items the Franciscans carried with them as gifts for the Mayas:12 crosses, knives, needles, rosary and glass beads, a chalice, vestments, white raiments, other ritual items for the Mass, a crucifix, and religious paintings for the church.13 The friars left Mérida in mid-April of 1618, recruited Maya maestros from towns around Tekax (map 5.1), stopped in Bacalar, and then made their way to Tipu via Lamanai and other towns on the New River (map 9.1). At Tipu, which at the time had a population of about 340,14 they were met with ceremonies of prayers in the church, and we learn that the church's patron was San Pedro. (One of the possible functions of the feature excavated on the north side of the Tipu nave, just west of the north doorway [Figs 8.23, 8.26], was to support the requisite statue (p.241) of the church's patron saint.) The friars were lodged in what Jones describes as “the house of the secular priest, located next to the church.”15 This is almost certainly Str. H12–18.
The alcalde of Bacalar accompanied the friars, and he was put up in the house of Doña Isabel Pech, who was one of the principales of the town and the widow of a former cacique, a post also known as a batab, or governor.16 Her house is described as being adjacent to the church,17 and is most likely to have been Str. H12–14, just south of the church (fig. 1.1, map 8.3), where
The Pech chibalob allied themselves with the Spaniards early on in Yucatan; in the Ceh Pech area, 90 percent of cahob were ruled by a Pech batab (cah governor).19 Doña Isabel's presence at Tipu exemplifies the close ties Tipu must have had with Yucatan. The fact that Doña Isabel's husband had died imprisoned in Mérida—Jones20 thinks that idolatry figured in the accusations—suggests that effigies other than Christian might have been kept in the house, but no such “idols,” even in fragmentary form, turned up in the excavations of Str. H12–14.
I noted above that a pre-Columbian-style cache was found in the core of Str. H12–7 (map 8.3), along what appeared to be the transverse axis. The cache, probably an offering, comprised a small pottery maskette of a supernatural (fig. 8.30), whose pursed lips suggest association with breath or the wind, and a bivalve (Antigona listerei Grey). Spanish artifacts, such as olivejar fragments recovered from the core of the platform, anchor Str. H12–7's construction firmly to the historic period, but as noted in chapter 8, we do not know whether this could have been as early as the later sixteenth century or during the 1618 reduction.
(p.243) The context of the maskette is reminiscent of the contexts of the saurian, shark, and centipede effigies reported from Lamanai, except that the effigies at Lamanai date either to construction of the first church or to after the rebellion of 1638–41. The Tipu cache—typically pre-Columbian on the primary (transverse) axis of the residence—seems to have been deposited during a time when Tipu was expanding as a Christian community, at least in Spanish eyes. It suggests that Fuensalida was right to worry about “what was going on in their hearts.”21
While the friars were there, the Mayas of Tipu attended Mass and sent their children every day for catechism.22 Such instruction would have gone on normally in any case, under the direction of the maestro de capilla or sacristan mayor, although the adult community would have been expected toattend Mass just on Sundays and feast days.23
After seeing to the regularization of daily Christian rituals and activities, the friars then organized a delegation of Tipuans to send to Nohpeten in Peten (map 9.1) to announce the friars' intention to visit the Maya ruler there, Can Ek, and extract a commitment to Christianity. After receiving an invitation from the Itzas, and after minor setbacks, a delegation left Tipu for Nohpeten on 28th of September 1618. Orbita had recently visited Nohpeten in 1616 or 1617,24 and Jones believes that the friar must have received some encouragement from Can Ek, because his expectations were high on the return visit in 1618; other factions at Nohpeten seem, however, to have won out.25
The Itza respectfully received the friars in 1618; they were just not prepared to convert. They were hospitable, but they made it clear that they were not yet ready to become Christians. Things might have succeeded in passing un-eventfully, but the story is that the friars saw an “idol” of a horse in one of the temples along the lake. Cortés had passed through this area on his way to Honduras and left a horse with the Itzas. The horse died, and the Itzas apparently created an effigy of it, which would in any circumstance have been a logical step, because horses were not an animal familiar to the Itzas and an effigy would have served as a mnemonic device, or at least a reminder of what a horse looked like. Had this been nineteenth-century Europe, the effort would have been seen as good science. The friars, however, claimed the statue of the horse was an object of worship. Orbita could not contain himself, and destroyed the effigy, which did not please his hosts. Although the friars and the delegation from Tipu were still treated civilly, they left in a few days without achieving their goal. It is notable, however, that Can Ek never said “no”; he simply said it was not the time. A cross left by Cortés was still standing in the town,26 which is somewhat difficult to explain unless it was believed to have some importance or efficacy. In any case, the visit was a failure, and the Itzas remained non-Christian.
(p.244) Jones relates that Fuensalida and Orbita, with the unwelcome “help” of Gregorio de Aguilar at one point, found a resurgence of idolatry at Tipu in 1619.27 Mounting fears that an alliance was developing between Tipu and the Itzas were to prove correct.28 The friars made another trip to Nohpeten in 1619, the success of which was apparently foiled by Can Ek's wife.29
In the meantime, Bacalareños continued their excessive demands for cacao from the southern Maya towns, and the restructured encomienda that included Tipu in 1622 (noted above) probably reflected the encomenderos' efforts to keep the supply of cacao flowing in the face of flight and shifting allegiances among the Maya. Tipu leaders sent complaints to Mérida, but apparently to no avail.30
Tipuans Join the Ranks of Christian Martyrs In 1623
An ill-fated visit to Nohpeten (Tah Itza) was organized from Tipu by another Franciscan, Fray Diego Delgado, in 1623. Delgado originally worked in La Florida, and then served in Franciscan administrative posts in Yucatan before turning to the saving of new or recalcitrant souls by “reducing” fugitives.31 In 1621 he was assigned by Governor Diego de Cárdenas, who by Jones's account was both ambitious and ill-informed, to accompany a military entrada, with aims to conquer the Itzas, under Captain Francisco de Mirones y Lezcano. Such an entrada was strictly forbidden by the Crown, but this did not seem to faze either Mirones or Cárdenas, and Delgado had his own agenda based on religious zeal.32
Delgado reported to his Franciscan superiors in Mérida on Mirones's cruelty and exploitation of the Mayas at Sacalum and Ixpimienta in early 1623 (map 9.1). The response was that Mirones's expedition—despite the fact that it had gone ahead—was officially prohibited, with the implication that Delgado need not follow Mirones's orders, so the friar left shortly for the land of the Itzas. Delgado, along with the cacique from Tipu, Don Cristobal Na, plus eighty Tipuans, reached Nohpeten in July of 1623. All were promptly killed. One of the reasons given by the Itzas was the insult they had received from Orbita's destructive acts in their temple.
More Martyrs at Sacalum In 1624 and Emerging Resistance
Mirones and his men were subsequently massacred at Sacalum in January of 1624. They had settled themselves at Ixpimienta and then Sacalum the previous year, and had been treating the Mayas badly. Mirones had difficulties, in fact, in replacing Delgado once he had left Mirones's party for the Peten (p.245) region, because news of the conditions at Sacalum had reached the Franciscan provincial in Mérida. A friar was finally sent to Sacalum, but he left after only fifteen days, disillusioned by the behavior of Mirones and his men. Mirones's fall-back position was to ask the governor for a secular priest, but even this was refused. Eventually, a friar volunteered, but he was killed along with Mirones and his men at Sacalum.
The leader of the Maya attackers, described as a non-Christian Maya priest named Ah Kin Pol,33 allowed the Spanish soldiers to confess to the friar before their death. The Maya under Pol apparently pleaded for the life of the friar, but he was nonetheless killed by Ah Kin Pol himself.34 In Franciscan terms, this manner of death granted martyrdom to the friar. Given pre-Columbian religious beliefs, Ah Kin Pol's action was also in keeping with an honorable death. In war in pre-Columbian times, elites put their lives on the line in hand-to-hand combat with the intention of capturing the enemy and bringing him back to the community to be killed in the temple by a priest. Ah Kin Pol may therefore have reckoned that by allowing the Christian soldiers to confess, and then killing them and the friar himself, he was acting within the strictures of both Maya and Christian faiths. He cut out the hearts of Mirones and the friar, but not those of the soldiers. Jones's recent reinterpretation35 suggests that Ah Kin Pol (now rendered AjK'in P'ol) was the Itza territorial ruler, priest, and military leader (also known as AjChata P'ol and Nakom P'ol) who fairly treated Fuensalida and Orbita in 1618 and 1619. If so, then this strengthens my suggestion that Ah Kin Pol, as a Maya leader, was acting within the boundaries of the rules of elite warfare at the same time that he granted Christians an honorable death.
Not long afterward, the Maya governor of Oxkutzcab (map 5.1), Don Fernando Camal, and 150 men from the town, were commissioned to kill Pol and his followers.36 Thus, Maya were recruited by Spaniards to kill Maya. After Camal's success, he was rewarded with an inherited (Spanish) title as well as exemption from labor and taxes.
The question remains as to the extent of cooperation among the Maya of Tipu, Nohpeten, and the Sacalum region. Jones observes that “the massacres of 1623–1624 at Tah Itza (Nohpeten) and Sacalum” were “a major departure from previous Maya strategies of rebellion,”37 and he suggests the unusual violence reflects a katun prophecy: the time had come to deny the right of Spaniards to impose control. The character of the violence, however, in which the enemy was captured and beheaded, is consonant with pre-Columbian Maya warfare. This supports what Jones later argues, which is that the uprising reflected the tactics and regional influence of the Itza.38 An argument could be made, based on the evidence, that if Mirones had acted differently at Ixpimienta and Sacalum, or had been held back, and if Orbita had not destroyed (p.246) the effigy of the horse in the Itzas' temple, things might have been different. Even so, this chapter in frontier history, from about 1600 to 1624, exemplifies the conflicting and competing agendas of both Spaniards and Mayas, and the complexities of what so often is simply called conquest and resistance.39
Flight from the North to Belize, 1628–1638
Governor Cárdenas was replaced in 1628 by Juan de Vargas, who was as self-serving and exploitative as his predecessor,40 and clearly the wrong man to solve the problems of the times. Reports began to trickle in of non-Christian Mayas killing Christian Mayas in Cehach (map 5.1). Even though Franciscan efforts continued in the frontier at this time, greater numbers of Spanish colonists and soldiers began penetrating the remote regions.41
To add to excesses perpetrated by Spanish officials, the peninsula was struck by four shortfall harvests, and famine resulted. This alone stimulated many people to flee to the forests of Belize, southern Campeche, and Peten. At the same time, the depredations of pirates along the eastern coasts increased, and many Mayas from coastal villages in Belize fled inland to the area around Tipu.42
The 1630s come across at first glance as a period of confusion, and yet as Jones points out, what caused confusion to Spanish authorities—the restricted pool of labor owing to flight—strengthened communities in Belize and elsewhere on the southern Maya frontier.43 The documents pertaining to communities along the Sibun River (map 9.1) are illustrative of this period.
In 1630–31, Mayas fled the towns of Xibun and Soite. The position of Soite is known to have been near the mouth of the Sittee River (map 9.1); Xibun was on the Sibun River, but its exact location is not yet known. Those who fled were persuaded to return through Spanish intervention, with the help of Mayas from the nearby town of Zacatan (map 9.1), but their flight is believed by Jones to have been a response to a call from a center of resistance, and that the call was legitimized by religious or prophetic claims.44 According to the Spaniards, the Maya were found in the forest with many idols; but they had also, in the case of Xibun, brought their church bells and church ornaments with them.45 They returned to their towns, but this acquiescence turned out to be the calm before the storm.
The year 1638 ushered in a new katun, and with it, resistance to Spanish control in the Belize Maya communities intensified, influenced no doubt by powerful pressure from the Itzas.46 Despite the deaths of the Tipuans at the hands of the Itzas in 1618, Tipu seems to have thrown its lot in with the anti-Spanish movement. A contributing factor seems to have been Bacalar and its (p.247) abuses.47 When the Yucatan governor sent investigators to Bacalar, the local Spanish inhabitants prepared to hang them. The same governor reported in a letter to the king of Spain on the 10th of July, 1638, that the lone secular priest based in Bacalar, Gregorio Marín de Aguilar, was too old to do his rounds any more. The priest who was sent to assist Aguilar behaved so tyrannically that he had to be sent back.48
Just days after the governor had written this letter, Bacalar advised the governor that the inhabitants of Tipu had rebelled and had disclaimed their obedience to the Crown. A Tipuan then in Mérida was sent back to Tipu with a “friendly letter” from the governor in order to report back to Mérida on what had happened. He returned with Tipu's cacique and others, who brought with them the results of their elections for confirmation (as was annually required of Maya towns).
All this behaviour certainly argued for normalcy. The cacique reported that Tipuans had indeed fled, but it was owing to fear of the Bacalareños and their cruelties. On the strength of the governor's friendly letter, the cacique said that he would attempt to bring everyone back who had run away.49 This blend of adhering to Spanish bureaucratic demands (having results of elections confirmed in Mérida), and resorting to unauthorized behaviour (such as flight) with placement of blame on cruel local officials, conforms to a pattern in Yucatan,50 and in retrospect can be seen as highly effective.
Later on, in September 1638, Mayas from Manan claimed that they received threats from the Tipuans to abandon their town, as did those from Holpatin, which was just north of Lamanai (map 9.1). Some of Lamanai's inhabitants had apparently been moved to San Juan Extramuros, which was the Maya town just outside Bacalar. Similar reports of threats and flight were emerging from throughout Belize, and there were repeats of the Soite and Xibun incidents of flight.51
From 1639 to 1642 the situation would worsen. So few towns and villages remained loyal that congregation of those who did not flee was limited. Apparently, some people were resettled at both Tipu and Lamanai during this time, but most had fled.52
Fuensalida Returns To Tipu, 1639–1641
By 1639, Maya passive resistance had turned to open rebellion. The governor in Mérida decided to send a secular priest to Bacalar to encourage the rebels to return to their towns. The rebels, however, sent him packing, although they indicated that they would meet with Franciscan representatives if the despised secular priest, Gregorio de Aguilar, who had been based at Bacalar since 1632, was replaced by members of the Franciscan order.53 Chuchiak, in (p.248) fact, places some of the blame for the Maya rebellion on the harsh treatment of the Maya by local secular priests.54
Plans were then made in Mérida to recruit Franciscans, and Fray Fuensalida, in recognition of his prior experience at both Tipu and Nohpeten, was appointed to return with three other Franciscans. One, Fray Juan de Estrada, had godchildren in Tipu. All were fluent Maya speakers.55
When the friars reached Bacalar, Father Gregorio was sent back to Valladolid, apparently not unwillingly. Fuensalida and one of the other friars, Estrada, went on to Belize with a party of Mayas. (Fray Becerril went to reduce the coastal towns, and Fray Tejero stayed behind at Bacalar.) When they reached Lamanai, Fuensalida and Estrada found the houses and church burned56 and the inhabitants gone; apparently, the approach of the friars had been closely watched by “spies” sent by Tipuans.57 It is also possible that Lamaneros abandoned the community of their own accord. No standing stela was reported in the ashes of the nave, which supports the contention that the stela erection associated with YDL II probably occurred after the period of rebellion.
The party then traveled south for the length of the lagoon until they reached the community of Colmotz, which was on the western shore at the lagoon's southernmost point (known today as Hill Bank) (map 9.1). Here they left their river transport, a falca, and began the walk overland to the Belize River. When they reached the banks of the river, they encountered some of the inhabitants of Holpatin, the village situated north of Lamanai on the New River. Holpatin had also been abandoned and burned.58
The group from Holpatin, including the cacique, then took the friars and their companions in canoes upstream to Zaczuz (map 9.1), where the houses and church had also been burned and the church bell thrown into the bush. Here, some of the Maya accompanying the friars fled out of fear. Zaczuz had been abandoned (for another location called Hubelna [map 9.1] three leagues into the mountains), so the cacique of Zaczuz let the friars stay in his cacao orchard. Eventually, the friars' party was met by Tipuans, who warned them not to proceed to Tipu. One of the Tipuans, who appeared to be moved by the friars' pleas, promised to come back with canoes, but this never materialized.59
The rainy season began, and the party tried to seek shelter at Hubelna. There was an emotional scene in which Fuensalida assembled a throng to read letters from the governor, but one by one the audience disappeared until the friars and their servant were left alone with the cacique. It was not long before the house where the friars were staying was surrounded, and the friars and their Maya servant, Lázaro Pech, were thrown to the ground and their hands were tied behind them. The attackers then tore open the boxes with church ornaments and clothing and broke the images. Itzas seem to have (p.249) been present, because shouts from the attackers reminded Fuensalida of Orbita's attack on the horse effigy at Nohpeten.60
Surprisingly, the friars and their servant were set free, although they were thrown out of Hubelna. The other Mayas who had travelled with the friars from Bacalar had been hiding in the bush, but they joined the friars and the entire party went first to the Zaczuz orchard to retrieve a canoe left for them, and then journeyed as quickly as possible down the Belize River, overland to Colmotz, where they found their falca and supplies destroyed. They discovered old, abandoned canoes, which the Mayas from Bacalar repaired, and they set out toward Lamanai.61
Fears of being attacked kept them wary, however, and they paddled through the night at one point in order to reach the mouth of the New River. Eventually, they reached what is now modern Chetumal (map 1.1). Estrada carried the news to the governor in Mérida that only a military solution was now feasible.62
The Rebellion and Its Aftermath
By 1641 it was clear that Tipu leaders, or at least the most powerful of them, had joined the Itzas in a full-scale effort to establish hegemony over central and western Belize.63 Along the coast of Belize, things could conceivably have turned out better for the Spaniards, because the coastal towns of Manan, Soite (map 9.1), and Campin (map 5.1) seemed less influenced by Tipu's aggression. Campin was in Manche Chol territory; Soite (Sittee) had both Yucatec and Manche Chol speakers. Fray Becerril and Fray Tejero, who had set out when Fuensalida and Estrada started their journey to Tipu, had some success in converting and reducing the Mayas of coastal towns. Jones provides a fascinating description of Tejero's experience in first-time conversions of Manche Chol.64
Unfortunately for the Spaniards, and in this case for Mayas as well, all this came to nothing, owing to the activities of pirates, who attacked towns along the Belize coast and forced the inhabitants to flee. In November 1642 the pirates attacked Bacalar, and by 1643 Bacalar seems to have been severely decimated.65 It received a final blow in 1648, when the few people left were attacked again.66 The villa of Bacalar was then moved to a town called Pacha (map 9.1), on the road to Valladolid.
The Pérez Entradas Into Belize, 1654–1656
One would think that at this point the Spaniards might have given up, but between 1652 and 1654 a captain based at the new villa location in Pacha, (p.250) Captain Francisco Pérez, attempted to regain what had been lost in Belize, partly because he held several towns, such as Uatibal and Chanlacan (map 9.1), in encomienda. Pérez was serving as alcalde at Bacalar/Pacha and thus was interim governor of the Bacalar province. His reports were first analyzed by Scholes and Thompson,67 but Jones was able to place Pérez's efforts in context, and he details the Pérez entradas, which took the captain on one trip to Holzuz (apparently near the Belize River mouth) and on another to the upper Belize River, to Holpachay and Chunukum but never to Tipu itself, between 1654 and 1656.68(The proposed locations of Holzuz and Chunukum are shown in map 9.1, but the location of Holpachay is not known.)
Basically, the entradas produced records of population counts as well as individuals' names. People traveled to a location on the Belize River and reported to Pérez there. Most individuals claimed to be from Tipu; one was from Lamanai; nine other towns were represented,69 as were “indios del monte” (forest Indians, who were not Christianized and who retained pre-Conquest naming practices). According to Jones,70 the non-Christian Maya were elite Itza residents of Tipu, some of whom were members of a royal Itza lineage. As representatives of Nohpeten, these non-Christian elites were simply allowing their subject population to be counted to keep Pérez at bay.
Although no Spanish official returned from Bacalar/Pacha after 1656 to administer the region, it is significant that Tipuans and others cooperated in completing the census, in partaking of the sacraments, and in having town officers named, even if the action was a ploy of Itza masters. Also interesting is that the names recorded revealed that the population of Tipu was heavily Yucatecan in origin, and the diversity in names that existed was consistent with what would be expected for a mobile population with a high rate of immigration and emigration.71 Despite being subject to the Itza, as Jones claims, we do not know that Tipuans had no decision-making power, and their alliance with the Itzas was clearly undergoing some adjustment.
From 1678 To 1707
In 1678 there is evidence that Tipu was contacted via an entrada that originated at Sahcabchen, near Champoton on the Gulf Coast (map 5.1). Six hundred persons were said to have been baptized, but this did not change the fact that Tipu remained beyond the Spanish orbit.72 Although an effort was made in 1687, via an entrada to Chanchanha (map 9.1), to open a route to Nohpeten that would pass through Tipu,73 it was at this juncture that Tipu became peripheral to the Itza conquest. In 1696, Governor Ursua began the camino real that was to connect Mérida directly with the Peten region along a north-south axis that bypassed Tipu.74
(p.251) In 1695 an important event occurred. Tipu was contacted by an alcalde of Bacalar, Captain Francisco de Hariza y Arruyo. Upon reaching the town, Hariza sent seven Tipuans to Mérida to render their obedience and to request that their elections be confirmed.75 The Tipuans also requested that priests be provided to the community. Thus, with Hariza's visit, Tipu's rebellion can be said to have ended, and Tipuans quietly changed strategy to one of cooperation with colonial demands.
Of Lamanai during these years, we know little. The town is not mentioned in the documents, but this does not mean that it had been abandoned. The archaeological evidence from YDL II—the animal effigy caches and the use of the stone chapel as a residence—and from scattered locations around the site, suggests that the Maya returned after 1641, but they seem to have lost all contact with Bacalar/Pacha. Further excavation aimed specifically at illuminating the late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century occupation is called for, but we need to know more about what to expect of the material culture of this period.
In the meantime, pressures on Nohpeten steadily increased.76 As Governor Ursua continued his road, a Spanish party set out from Guatemala to conquer the Cholti-speaking Lacandones in western Peten (map 5.1). This party had encountered some Mayas near the lake, and fighting broke out in which Mayas lost their lives. The Guatemalans had other agendas, however,77 and did not wish to pursue the Itza conquest; it was thus left in Ursua's hands. In June 1695 Ursua sent the Franciscan Fray Andres de Avendaño y Loyola to Nohpeten, but the behavior of the friar's military escort disturbed him, so he returned to Mérida and started out again in December, carrying a letter to Can Ek from Ursua. Despite initial positive overtures, Avendaño was forced out of town by those hostile to Can Ek. An Itza delegation had apparently gone to Mérida in December of 1695, but Jones observes that such a delegation was in fact probably staged by Ursua as a means of legitimizing his planned conquest.78
With regard to Tipu, the governor had promised the Tipu delegation that priests would be newly assigned to their community. The Franciscans tried to gain control of this mission, but they were restricted by the Crown to the entradas and reductions along Ursua's new camino real. The Tipu mission remained in the hands of secular clergy because, it was argued, Tipu had been part of Bacalar. As a result, nine secular priests were sent to Tipu in 1696. The priests had hoped to go on to Nohpeten, but news reached them about Avendaño y Loyola's expulsion, with the result that they decided to stay on at Tipu. Apparently, Captain Hariza had twenty-one soldiers stationed at Tipu at this time.79 They are reported to have constructed a fortification; we did not find evidence of a fortification archaeologically, but there is a strong possibility (p.252) that Str. H12–8 in its final phase of construction served to house the soldiers (map 8.3).
After a couple of months at Tipu, the mission leader and seven other priests became ill and returned to Mérida, leaving two priests behind. By this time, the road to Nohpeten was almost completed, and a skirmish ensued between Spanish soldiers and the Itzas. The Francisan friar who had come with the Spaniards, Fray Juan de San Buenaventura, was last seen being carried off, along with his lay brother, by the Itzas.80
As described by Jones,81 Nohpeten was attacked early on the morning of the 13th of March in 1697. In effect, the Maya of Nohpeten were dispersed rather than beaten, and the Spaniards took possession of the island.
What Happened to Tipu and Lamanai
The establishment of a presidio at Nohpeten in 1697 (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios y San Pablo, Laguna del Itzá) comprised a formal, if small, impoverished and embattled Spanish settlement.82 Such Spanish presence in Peten was, however, the source of intermittent missionary and military activity which stimulated the flight of Mayas into the Belize forests.83 The date of 1707 marks the year when Tipuans were forcibly removed to Lake Peten Itza,84 presumably to facilitate being administered by the small number of Spaniards then based in Peten. There were several reasons for the move: the administration of Tipu was difficult, given its location; Tipuans were being carried off by Spaniards from Yucatan as forced laborers, despite Tipu's cooperation in pacifying Lake Peten and also in attacking English logwood cutters who had settled lower down on the Belize River at Zacatan; and, finally, the British had raided Tipu for slaves. By early 1708, there was reportedly a settlement near the presidio known as the town of the Tipuans.85
Even with this move, the record reflects the fact that Mayas who had been moved to Peten were repeatedly forced to relocate, because they continued to flee eastward to Belize and to forested regions. How large the population was in Belize, however, is unknown, and it is clear that the British in Belize continued to present a threat, first in the form of slave raiding and later in the extraction of timber.86
Archaeologically, there is evidence that a battle took place at Tipu very late in the community's history. Unusually large numbers of small side-notched points (arrowheads) and small, bipointed bifaces (spearheads?) were found in surface deposits (fig. 9.3).87 Jones reports that Tipu had indeed been attacked by “Musuls” (Mopan Maya) in 1708.88 They killed Tipu's cacique, his lieutenant, and as many as fifteen principales. Why this happened remains (p.253)
As for Lamanai, it seems simply to fade into obscurity in the documents, although the archaeological record points to occupation and use after church abandonment. The residence I have referred to as the rectory, Str. H12–12, exhibits modifications and additions that suggest, although do not yet prove, that occupation in the area continued on into the eighteenth century.89 The stelae described in chapter 8 had to have been erected after the rebellion of 1638–41. Before that time is unlikely, because stelae cannot be easily removed to please visiting clerics, and Fuensalida made no mention of their presence in 1641. Except for the offering at the base of one of the stelae, which is associated with the stela in time, it is hard to date stelae erection or the other cache deposits found within and outside of the chapel with any security, except to say that they are likely to post-date 1641 and may even be much later.90
Other evidence for continued activity and apparent occupation takes the form of an individual who was interred in a sitting position in the south part of the sanctuary,91 the center room of the three that formed the chapel. This subfloor burial, as well as the occurrence of midden material around and outside the walls, suggests that the chapel was used as a residence.92 The ceramics from the midden are interesting in that they are indistinguishable from pre-Columbian pottery; for example, fragmented censers were found that are very similar to those found both at Mayapan and at Lamanai that normally would be dated to the fifteenth century.93 Taken together, these occupational, caching, and burial activities must certainly have contributed to the obliteration of evidence of the burning of YDL II in 1641. If any evidence or church-period stratigraphy remained after these events, it was destroyed in the nineteenth century when the chapel was used as a smithy by those associated with the British sugar mill operation.94
Pendergast also reports small structures on a low escarpment at the lagoon edge: “From some of the mounds close to the churches we recovered pottery and other evidence of sixteenth-century (or later) occupation, but a good many that were clearly built by the Maya yielded almost nothing but 19th-century English crockery and ironmongery.”95 It is hard to know whether the nineteenth-century structures represent reoccupation of Maya structures by British (or Chinese) residents,96 or whether Maya in the area were using British pottery, a phenomenon that characterizes the British colonial period in Belize.97 Pendergast's view, however, is that “there was no link between the 19th century British sugar producing community and the settlement of three hundred years earlier, save for use of the same territory, including the second church.”98 Stone platforms that appear to have supported houses or other buildings can be found south of the church, on a line stretching almost to the (p.255) boundary of Lamanai Outpost Lodge, which is about one kilometer from the church zone. These are post-Columbian, but the style of construction differs from the domestic architecture of the Spanish colonial period. They are almost certainly post-Spanish colonial in date.99
The End of Spanish Colonial Influence
Spanish records of the encounter reflect either Mendicant zeal in spreading Christianity or settlers' justifications for exploiting the Maya economically. Under Spanish colonialism, the Maya were subjects (or objects) of inclusion, but a problematic inclusion. The British invaders, on the other hand, viewed the Maya as interlopers in a land that was exclusively British to exploit. The British colonial record is thus one of exclusion. Jones characterizes the Maya of the post-Spanish period in Belize as “only refugees … fighting helplessly as they witnessed a new invasion of British colonists whose interests were single-mindedly focused upon the extraction of timber.”100
With timber extraction, one would think that the Maya would be given respite, because logwood grew along rivers near the coasts and British logwood extraction would not have extended too far upriver, or inland. In addition, the suppression of privateering after the Treaty of Madrid in 1667 encouraged a shift from slave-raiding to logwood cutting and settlement.101 However, as described above, the British raided Tipu for slaves sometime around 1707, which is why the Spaniards sought to move the town to the shores of Lake Peten.102 In fact, during the decade following the routing of the Itza in 1697, Tipuans remained cooperative with Spanish forces in Peten. According to Jones,103 this had less to do with sympathy for the Spaniards than with a desire to seek protection from the British and their allies, the Miskitos of the Nicaraguan coast. As I described above, Jones reports that in 1701 Spaniards from Yucatan attacked British logwood cutters in northern Belize, and heard reports that buccaneer slavers were plying the Belize River in search of Maya captives. Thus, the English raid at Tipu for slaves in 1707 may have been an extension of this activity.
Jones104 recounts a horrid tale told by an alcalde mayor of Tabasco in 1733. The individual, Francisco López Marchán, had been traveling in a Spanish fleet from Cádiz when his ship had been attacked by a British war frigate near Campeche. He was taken to the port town of Hampton, in Virginia, where he encountered Yucatec-speaking Maya held as slaves. The same individual was then taken to Jamaica, where he encountered another fifteen Mayas. One was a nine-year-old boy who, “upon seeing him and realizing that he was a Spaniard, began to cry; at this point an Englishman grabbed the boy and took him away.”105 At an inn, López Marchán spoke with two Maya women (p.256) from the town of Tenosique on the Usumacinta River, but he never saw them again because they were kept hidden. In the countryside, he met another Maya woman, who reacted as the boy had reacted when she found out López Marchán was a Spaniard, and she asked him to rescue her and her sister. They had been enslaved six years earlier when Miskitos attacked their town and apparently carried everyone off. She said that in Jamaica an infinity of Mayas had been sold to work in the plantations.
López Marchán was released and reached Campeche, where he told his story to the Bishop of Yucatan, who instructed him to write to the king. Given the attitudes of the Spaniards toward the British, and vice versa, we have to approach such accounts with caution, but the news of illegal traffic in Maya slaves apparently caused a huge reaction in the Council of the Indies. Many other instances of Miskito attacks on the Maya had been documented, most outside of Belize itself. Jones suggests that because relatively few Spaniards ventured into Belize during the eighteenth century, British attacks on Maya villages were seldom recorded.106
Colonial History in Perspective
Although recent documentary and archaeological research is beginning to add flesh to our skeletal picture of Spanish-Maya contact in Belize in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, no material evidence has been recovered at Lamanai or Tipu, or elsewhere in Belize, of settlement by Spanish colonists. By 1700, active Spanish interest in colonization had evaporated, although re-active interest was maintained, owing to the perceived threat of the expanding British presence.107
We learn about Spanish responses to what was seen as British incursion into Spanish territory through the documents,108 but there is nothing in the way of archaeological remains to argue for continued Spanish presence. In fact, one reason it is difficult to date eighteenth-century Maya occupation in Belize is that artifacts associated with Spanish occupation—such as olive jars or locks from chests manufactured in Spain, or Venetian glass beads or jet or amber jewelry transported to the New World—disappear from the record. As indicated by the evidence of activities associated with reuse of the YDL II chapel, the Maya continued to use and to circulate locally produced goods.
Archaeological evidence from Tipu and Lamanai suggests that the Maya continued, if intermittently—which is completely in keeping with Maya residence patterns—to live in Belize after 1700109 when Spanish interests focused elsewhere. As we have seen, the Itza and other Maya groups of the area around Lake Peten were routed and resettled by the Spaniards in 1697, (p.257)
Based on stratigraphy and relative dating alone, the censer is no earlier than the beginning of the eighteenth century, and could be later. Thompson, who builds a strong case for continuity of Maya settlements in western Belize,112 also classifies the style as post-Columbian, and observes that it was a type of censer still used by modern Lacandon, hence its name. He reported in 1977 that two other Lacandon-type censers had been recovered many years earlier from “Negroman.”113 Taken together, the evidence indicates that the upper Belize Valley was at least intermittently a region of Maya activity, and very possibly a locus of settlement after 1700. At minimum, Tipu lived on in Maya memory, and both Christian and non-Christian Maya considered the location to be sacred space, not just in the colonial period, but for some time thereafter.
The idea that sacred space can be both Christian and pre-Christian is consonant with my emphasis in this book on Maya appropriation and internalization of Christian ideas and beliefs. At one time, the Maya of Belize were accustomed to conditions in which cities, towns, villages, forests, and the complexities of the marine environment—mangrove coast, coral reef, deep sea, and atolls—formed a highly integrated peninsular urban system (see chap. 5).114 The arrival of Europeans changed all this, and Belize became a frontier to Spanish colonists and a frontier of frontiers to the British. The Maya from Ambergris Caye to the Toledo District (fig. 5.8) were forced inland relatively early in the colonial sequence, and throughout the eighteenth and part of the nineteenth century the Mayas' main option in Belize was to settle and manage forested landscapes, away from Spanish and British villages and towns. Much of their territory before the arrival of Europeans had been cleared, was densely inhabited, and had been well traveled, but it was rapidly becoming forested. These forests provided, among other factors, both a physical and a psychological environment critical to Maya survival. Other factors contributing to survival were the humid lowland setting, which was generally shunned by Spanish settlers; the fact that the British in the region did not encourage farming or the spread of extensive agriculture and cattle-raising;115 and the fact that the forests could serve as havens, if sometimes only temporarily, for Mayas fleeing Spanish colonial activity or British raids. Inadvertently on the part of the colonials, conditions were created which may well have facilitated the persistence of indigenous ideas of landscape, and this is a possibility which archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians need to consider.
What does this have to do with Christianity? Of all the areas that the Spaniards attempted to control, the land that became Belize was home to communities that became Christian, remained elusive, and yet persisted in the absence of Spanish religious or secular control. Even Lake Peten, the center of Maya resistance, had a presidio plunked down on its shore. We therefore need to consider the possibility that the Christianity practiced by the Maya in Belize may have been a key to their survival strategies. In the first instance, as Christians, the Belize Maya were not seen to be as dangerous as the pagan Itza. If the Maya of Belize had openly refused Christianity, Spanish colonial authorities would have found a way to bring troops to the region and declare open war. As it was, because the Maya became Christian at an early date, and because they were so far from centers of control, they were at greater liberty than the Maya of Yucatan or Guatemala to integrate Christian beliefs with a range of pre-Columbian views of the world, not least important of which were sacred landscapes. This is not the old argument for the existence of (p.259) pristine pre-Columbian thought; it is instead an argument that the Maya of Belize should be considered on their own terms. From the very beginning, the Mayas' adoption of Christianity involved investing it with local traditions, rituals, and supernaturals. Although the core of Christian belief is said to be the concept of Jesus Christ as redeemer and savior of mankind, there is no barrier to holding this as an article of faith at the same time that rituals are celebrated and new supernaturals are interpreted with local traditions, histories, and landscapes in mind.
One Last Tale to Tell
There is one last tale to tell which bears on the post-Spanish colonial occupation of Lamanai. I have stated that YDL I was viewed simply as a cemetery before it was recognized as the remains of a church. In Pendergast's words:
In the course of work on the church and burials within its platform in, the presence of the interments came to the attention of Pastor Mesh, a Maya from the northern Orange Walk District who had settled near the northern end of the site in. In establishing a small farm at Lamanai, Don Pastor was simply returning to the place of his birth; his parents were part of a group … who settled on the land, which was then owned by the Belize Estate and Produce Company Limited, some time prior to, the year of his birth. In, the company drove [them] from the spot and destroyed their settlement. Fifty-five years later, Don Pastor and his sons returned to what he regarded as his land. …
Upon being told that we were excavating burials from what we subsequently determined was the first church, Don Pastor informed us that his grandfather, together with others who died in the eight- to ten-year life of his village, was buried in the building. He also stated that the choice of the burial spot was dictated by the fact that the villagers knew the featureless mound to be consecrated ground that had been used as a cemetery in times past. It is apparent that this knowledge led the villagers to transport their dead almost two kilometers south for burial. … The knowledge on which their choice rested cannot have come to them by any means other than oral transmission, for it was to be another seventy years before the identity of the church became known through archaeological research.116
This story adds weight to the argument that further work at Lamanai will yield information on greater continuity of occupation in Belize than has heretofore been acknowledged. It is curious, however, that the cemetery of YDL I became part of collective memory, and not the cemetery associated with YDL (p.260) II.117 We have always assumed, because of its proximity to YDL II, that use of the cemetery discovered in 1985 replaced the use of YDL I. Don Pastor's story suggests, however, that the practice of burial in YDL I may have continued long beyond the building's life as a church, in preference to use of the YDL II cemetery. Alternatively, the burning of YDL II and the fact that it was used as a setting for pre-Columbian-style rituals may have changed the nature of its sacred space in the eyes of some Christianized Maya in the community; we simply do not know. We can say, however, on the basis of Don Pastor's story and the presence of the two cemeteries, that social and cultural changes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were nothing if not complex, and it is clear that we must never underestimate the variety of responses to colonial conditions.
The churches and the features associated with them seem to have lived on in Maya memory, both at Lamanai and at Tipu. This tells us that the appropriation of sacred space—by both converters and converted—is a key part of the process of what, for lack of a better term, can be called culture contact. Hence, a key anthropological inference that can be drawn from the colonial experience in Belize is that sacred spaces long outlive, and serve beyond, the particular beliefs that generate them.
(13.) An expedition under Fray Juan de Santa María in the region of Champoton and Tixchel in 1604 carried several silver chalices decorated with jewels; two wooden tables to serve as altars; two silk cloths to adorn the front of the altars; two larger silk corporales to cover the altar stops; two small iron bells; two crosses, one fixed on an iron pole and another, smaller one to rest on the altar; two new missals; two breviaries; one book of Scriptures; a Book of Saints; a book to aid in the taking of confessions and administering penance; and a book on the rule of St. Francis (Chuchiak 2003, 226–27). One wonders if the “two wooden tables” included an ara, or portable altar, or whether the tables were supports for consecrated portable altars, which would be kept only by the friars and would not constitute gifts.
(54.) Chuchiak 2003, 239. This is consistent with what has been said about Gregorio de Aguilar, but it is not clear in Chuchiak whether the criticism of the seculars comes from Franciscan or government sources.
(56.) This was YDL II.
(64.) G. D. Jones 1989, 225. In this case, the Manche Chols asked to become Christian. They were given the choice of a patron saint from among the three “images” Tejero brought with him, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Jerome, and St. Francis. The word “image” is in Jones's translation; presumably these were pictures, although I wondered if they could have been small statues.
(69.) Zacatan, Zaczuz, Mayapan, Holpatin, Lucu, Chanlacan, Chinam, Xibun, Soite (G. D. Jones 1989, 236). For Zacatan, Zaczuz, Holpatin, Lucu, Chanlacan, and Soite, see map 9.1. Xibun is not marked, but was situated somewhere along the Sibun (Xibun) River (map 9.1). Chinam is believed to have been located where the Rio Hondo empties into Chetumal Bay (G. D. Jones 1989, 66). Mayapan (other than the one in Yucatán) was among the Belize encomiendas, but its location is not known (G. D. Jones 1989, 194).
(82.) It took many years for the Spaniards to adjust to Peten and to establish a presence there, but that they persisted, if in small numbers, is attested by the fact that some cofradias in Yucatan supplied beef to military posts (presidios) in Bacalar and Peten in the eighteenth century (Restall 1997, 186).