« PrécédentContinuer »
much enigmas as they are to-day. Still travellers and scientists are not wanting who pretend that these strange buildings were constructed by the same race now inhabiting the peninsula or by their near ancestors 1-regardless of Cogolludo's assertion" that it is not known who their builders were, and that the Indians themselves preserved no traditions on the subject; " unmindful, likewise, of these words of Lizana: "That when the Spaniards came to this country, notwithstanding that some of the monuments appeared new, as if they had been built only twenty years, the Indians did not live in them, but used them as temples and sanctuaries, offering in them sacrifices, sometimes of men, women, and children; and that their construction dated back to a very high antiquity."3
The historiographer par excellence of Yucatan, Cogolludo, informs us that in his day-the middle of the seventeenth century-scarcely a little more than one hundred years after the Conquest, the memory of these adulterated traditions was already fading from the mind of the aborigines. "Of the people who first settled in this kingdom of Yucathan," he says, "nor of their ancient history, have I been able to find any more data than those I mention here." 4
The books and other writings of the chroniclers and historians, from the Spanish conquest to our times, should therefore be considered well-nigh valueless, so far as the history of the primitive inhabitants of the country, the events that transpired in remote ages, and ancient traditions in general are
John L. Stephens, Incidents of Travels in Yucatan, vol. ii., p. 458. Désiré Charnay, North American Review, April, 1882.
'Diego Lopez de Cogolludo, Historia de Yucathan, lib. iv., chap. iii., p. 177.
'Lizana, Historia de Nuestra Señora de Ytzamal, chap. ii.
Cogolludo, Historia de Yucathan, lib. iv., chap. iii., p. 177.
concerned, seeing that Cogolludo says they were unable to procure any information on the subject. "It seems to me that it is time," he says, "to speak of the various things pertaining to this country, and of its natives; not, however, with the extension some might desire, mentioning in detail their origin and the countries whence they may have come, for it would be difficult for me to ascertain now that which so many learned men were unable to find out at the beginning of the Conquest, even inquiring with great diligence, as they affirm, particularly since there exist no longer any papers or traditions among the Indians concerning the first settlers from whom they are descended; our evangelical ministers, who imported the faith, in order to radically extirpate idolatry, having burned all characters and paintings they could get hold of in which were written their histories, and that in order to take from them all remembrances of their ancient rites." 1
Those who undertook to write the narrative of the Conquest and the history of the country, in order to procure the necessary data for this, had naturally to interrogate the natives. These were either unable or unwilling to impart the knowledge sought. It may be that some of those from whom inquiries were made were descendants of the Nahuatls, ignorant of the ancient history of the Mayas. Others may have been some of the Mexican mercenaries who dwelt on the coasts, where they were barely tolerated by the other inhabitants, because of their sanguinary practices. They, from the first, had welcomed the Spaniards as friends and allies—had maintained with them intimate relations during several years,2 beCogolludo, Historia de Yucathan, lib. iv., chap. iii., p. 170.
'Nakuk Pech. An ancient document concerning the Nakuk Pech family, Lords of Chicxulub, Yucatan. This is an original document belonging to Srs. Regil y Peon, of Merida, Yucatan.
fore the invaders ventured into the interior of the country. Fearing that if they pleaded ignorance of the history it might be ascribed to unwillingness on their part to answer the questions; dreading also to alienate the goodwill of the men with long gowns, who defended them against the others that handled the thunderbolts those strangers covered with iron, now masters of the country and of their persons, who on the slightest provocation subjected them to such terrible punishments and atrocious torments-they recited the nursery tales with which their mothers had lulled them to sleep in the days of their childhood. These stories were set down as undoubted traditions of olden times.
Later on, when the Conquest was achieved, some of the natives who really possessed a knowledge of the myths, traditions, and facts of history contained in the books that those same men with long gowns had wilfully destroyed by feeding the flames with them, notwithstanding the earnest protestations of the owners, invented plausible tales when questioned, and narrated these as facts, unwilling, as they were, to tell the truth to foreigners who had come to their country uninvited, arms in hand, carrying war and desolation wherever they went;1 slaughtering the men; outraging the wives and the virgins; destroying their homes, their farms, their cities; + spreading ruin and devastation throughout the land; dese
1Cogolludo, Historia de Yucathan, lib. ii., chap. vi., p. 77. Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, chap. xv., p. 84, et passim. Bernal Diez de Castillo, Historia de la Conquista de Mexico, chap. 83.
'Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, chap. xv., p. 84.
Bartholome de las Casas, Tratado de la Destruccion de las Indias, Reyno de Yucathan, lib. viii.,
cap. 27, p. 4.
Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. iii., chap. xi., p. 151. Landa, Las
Cosas, ch. iv.
crating the temples of their gods; trampling underfoot the sacred images, the venerated symbols of the religion of their forefathers; 1 imposing upon them strange idols, that they said were likenesses of the only true God and of his mother-an assertion that seemed most absurd to those worshippers of the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies, who regarded Ku, the Divine Essence, the uncreated Soul of the World, as the only Supreme God, not to be represented under any shape. Yet, by lashes, torture, death even, the victims were compelled to pay homage to these images, with rites and ceremonies the purport of which they were, as their descendants still are, unable to understand, being at the same time forbidden to observe the religious practices which they had been accustomed to from times immemorial. More, their temples of learning were destroyed, with their libraries and the precious volumes that contained the history of their nation, that of their illustrious men and women whose memory they venerated, the
Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. iii., chap. x., p. 147. Landa, Las Cosas, chap. iv.
Ibid., lib. iv., chap. xviii., p. 229. Landa, Las Cosas, chap. iv.
Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. iv., chap. vi., p. 189. "Los religiosos de esta provincia, por cuya atencion corrió la conversion de estos indios, á nuestra santa fé católica, con el zelo que tienen de que aprouechassen en ella, no solo demolieron y quemaron todos los simulacros que adoraban, pero aun todos los escritos (que á su modo tenian) con que pudieran recordar sus memorias y todo lo que presumiero tendria motiuo de alguna supersticion ò ritos gentilicos."
Then when speaking of the auto-de-fe ordered by Bishop Landa, which took place in the city of Mani towards the end of 1561, he says: "Con el rezelo de esta idolatria, hizo juntar todos los libros y caracteres antiguos que los indios tenian, y por quitarles toda ocasion y memoria de sus antiguos ritos, quantos se pudieron hallar, se quemaron públicamente el dia del auto y á las bueltas con ellos sus historias de antiguedades" (lib. vi., chap. .i., p. 309).
sciences of their wise men and philosophers.
How, then, could
it be expected that they should tell what they knew of the history of their people, and treat as friends men whom they hated, and with reason, from their heart of hearts?-men who held their gods in contempt; men who had, without provocation, destroyed the autonomy of their nation, broken up their families, reduced their kin to slavery, brought misery upon them, gloom and mourning throughout the land.2
Now that three hundred and fifty-five years have elapsed since their country became part of the domain of the Spanish Crown, one might think, and not a few do try to persuade themselves and others, that old feuds, rancor, and distrust must be forgotten; in fact, must be replaced by friendship, confidence, gratitude, even, for all the blessings received at the hands of the Spaniards-not the least among these, the destruction of their idolatrous rites, the knowledge of the true God, and the mode of worshipping He likes best-notwithstanding the unfair means used by their good friends, those of the long gowns, to force such blessings and knowledge upon them, and cause them to forget and forego the customs and manners of their forefathers. To-day, when the aborigines are said to be free citizens of the Republic of Mexico, entitled to all the rights and privileges that the constitution is supposed to confer on all men born within the boundaries of the country, they yet seek-and with good cause-the seclusion of the recesses of the densest forests, far away from the haunts of their white fellow-citizens, to perform, in secrecy, certain ancient rites and religious practices that even now linger
'Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. ii., chap. xiv., p. 108, et passim.
1 Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, chap. xv., p. 84, et passim.
Cogolludo, Hist. de Yucathan, lib. v., cap. xvii., xviii., p. 296, et pas
sim. Las leyes mas en orden al bien espiritual de los Indios.