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p. 188



Although chieftainship in Yucatan was not always hereditary in the strictest sense of the word, it was only considered legitimate when confined to certain families, and a proper rank was most essential. Apparently it was not necessary to have established this social position in the particular locality in question, for after the fall of Mayapan about the middle of the Fifteenth Century when the Ah Canuls, the so-called Mexican mercenaries at the capital, were allowed to settle in western Yucatan, they were promptly accepted as chiefs by the people living in that region. As we are told in the Calkini chronicle, "they were not pretenders to chieftainship nor were they provokers of discord." They were legitimate chiefs, even though they had been driven by revolution from the capital which had been their home for centuries. So "they began to love the towns and the local chiefs, and they were also loved by the towns there where my great ancestor governed men." 1

Maya society, broadly speaking, was divided into two classes, nobles and commoners. The former were called almehen, and the latter, mazeual. Al designates the son of a woman and mehen a man's son. Consequently the word almehen means one who had a father and a mother, both presumably persons of distinction. Oddly enough, the term parallels its Spanish equivalent, hidalgo, which is the abbreviation of hijo de algo, the son of somebody. Mazeual was a foreign word borrowed from the Toltec intruders into Yucatan. In the Nahuatl language as well as in Maya it meant the ordinary agricultural laborer who was not eligible to political office. The Maya language itself bears frequent evidence of static social conditions in spite of wars and political revolutions. For example, pic-¢acab (literally innumerable generations) is defined in the Sixteenth Century Motul Dictionary as: "by inheritance from one's ancestors, by caste, by lineage, by family or from far back." An example is given which is translated: "By caste, by lineage, by inheritance from his ancestors or from far back, the chieftainship comes to Juan, or he comes to be a farmer," etc. 2 So in spite of certain communistic aspects of Maya society, it was anything but democratic.

From the time of the fall of Mayapan down to the Spanish Conquest we find two classes of chieftains in Yucatan, the halach-uinic and the batab. The former, literally the real man, was the governor, or head-chief, of a district, and the latter was the local municipal executive officer. Halach-uinic has usually been translated as governor and batab as cacique or chief. The objection

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to calling the former a governor is that in Spanish colonial times the local batab was given the title of Gobernador and frequently appears as such in official documents. After the Conquest of course the native office of halach-uinic disappeared. Consequently in the present work batab has been rendered as "chief" and halach-uinic, as "head-chief." There was probably also a religious aspect to the office of halach-uinic judging by the definition of the term given by the Motul Dictionary: "Obispo, oydor, governador, o comissario; es nombre para estas dignidades y otras semejantes." Another term, ahau, was applied to some of the head-chiefs of the various territorial divisions of Yucatan. In the present work this has been translated as "ruler," although we can not be certain as to just what it implied. The Motul Dictionary defines ahau as "king, emperor, monarch, prince or great lord," and in colonial times it was the Maya title of the King of Spain. We know that before the Conquest the head-chiefs of three of the so-called provinces 1 were called Ahau Pech, Ahau Chel and Ahau Cocom. 2 Strangely enough we nowhere find the title, Ahau, given to any of the Xiu rulers, the halach-uinics 3 of the Province of Mani, although they seem to have been the most powerful in Yucatan at the time of the Spanish Conquest. In some provinces there may have been more than one head-chief, 4 while in others we find only a loose confederation of local batabs5

Landa would have us believe that the office of head-chief was hereditary. "If when the lord died there were no sons <old enough> to rule and if he had brothers, the eldest of the brothers governed or else the one who was most at liberty <to do so>. These instructed the heir in their usages and festivals in view of the time when he should become a man; and even when the heir was <old enough> to govern, these brothers continued in command all during their lives. If there were no brothers, the priests and leading people chose a man who was capable." 6 It is difficult to reconcile this account with what we find to have been the actual practise. In that unique document, the Xiu family tree, 7 which covers the period from the destruction of Mayapan down to the Spanish Conquest, we find that during the last two generations the office of halach-uinic passed through two different branches of the Xiu family, and not from father to son nor even from brother to brother. We know that the grandfather of the famous interpreter, Gaspar Antonio Chi, was the Xiu halach-uinic who was murdered at Otzmal by Nachi Cocom; and he appears in the Xiu family tree as Ah ¢ulub Xiu, although he was also known as Ah

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[paragraph continues] ¢un Xiu. 1 He had two sons and two younger brothers, one of whom survived him, but his successor, christened Francisco de Montejo Xiu, was the second son of his second cousin, Ah Ziyah Xiu, who also met his death at Otzmal.

The head-chief of the Province of Ceh Pech always belonged to the Pech family, and in Ah Kin Chel the Chel family governed. In Zotuta the Cocom family was supreme, while in the Provinces of the Cupuls and of Cochuah we find members of the Cupul and Cochuah families in power. In addition to being noble, such families enjoyed the further distinction of being called "the first lineage" in the provinces in which they were supreme. In Ceh Pech, for example, Nakuk Pech referred to himself and his relatives as belonging to the "first lineage," 2 and the families of the head-chief s of other provinces probably enjoyed a similar distinction. We can not be certain of the method employed for determining the succession among the various members of the family when the halach-uinic died. It may have been hereditary, as explained by Landa, in some families, while in others it was probably a matter of personal prestige.

So far as we can learn, the powers of the halach-uinic appear to have been very broad. Certainly he took the lead in formulating both foreign and domestic policy, but we get the general impression that he had an advisory council composed of the more important batabs and priests. The towns of his territory paid him tribute in the form of grain, fowls, honey, game, cotton cloth, precious stones and sometimes even slaves. We find no mention of gold in this connection, probably because gold was not produced in Yucatan. The tribute does not seem to have been onerous, and under the Xius of Mani it is said to have been very light, little more than a matter of form in fact. In time of war it was obligatory for each town to furnish the quota of fighting men demanded by the head-chief. The maritime provinces often fought to prevent outsiders from fishing or gathering salt on their coasts, and there were many petty wars over boundary disputes. 3

"The lords were absolute in command, and what they ordered was carried out without fail. They had in the towns caciques <batabs> or a person of rank 4 to listen to lawsuits and public demands. He received the litigants or negotiators, and when the case was heard, if the matter was a serious one, he discussed it with the lord. To settle it, other officials were appointed who were like lawyers and alguaciles, 5 and they always took part in the presence of the judges. The latter and the lords could receive gratuities from both parties." 6

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In some cases the halach-uinic himself acted as judge. 1

The batab, or local chief, was appointed by the halach-uinic2 who frequently gave the position to one of his own family connections. Other noble families were by no means excluded, but we find a considerable proportion of the local chiefs belonging to the "first lineage" in the Provinces of Ceh Pech, Zotuta and Cupul. Landa tells us that at the death of the batab his son was appointed in his place by the head-chief, 3 if he was found suitable for the position. Nevertheless we also find the capable sons of local chiefs appointed to govern other towns during their fathers' lifetime. 4

The batab was the local magistrate and executive. He took an important part in the conduct of war, 5 although there was also a war-chief called the nacom6 The batab's power could hardly have been arbitrary, for he was subject to influence and probably even pressure at times from three different quarters. Certainly he had to carry out the orders of the halach-uinic who had appointed him. Then he was obliged to cooperate with the local priest, who was the diviner and prophet and "whom they (the people) obeyed, though not so much as they did the batabs." 7 Furthermore we learn that he had two or three advisers called ah-cuch-cab who could veto his decisions in the village council. 8 It is probable that these last represented the interests of the wealthier members of the community. As a matter of practise these things did not always work out according to rule. Sometimes the batab was in a position where he could afford to pay little attention to the halach-uinic, as in some parts of the Province of the Cupuls, and in other cases he was able to override the objections of the town-council. His government was decidedly of a paternal character. Besides presiding at the local council and holding court, he also gave directions for repairing the houses of individual citizens as well as the municipal buildings, preparing the fields for cultivation and planting crops at such times as the priest declared proper. 9

As to the remuneration of the batabs, we are told that "they did not pay them any tribute; they only supported them from what they manufactured and sowed." 10 This information is supplemented by the decrees of the Spanish governors of Yucatan in confirmation of certain old rights and privileges granted in perpetuity to a number of native families whose members had aided in the Conquest and reorganization of the country. Adjoining the town

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of Oxkutzcab was a village called Yaxa, the chief of which was favored by such a grant. In the year 1608 we find the official Protector of the Indians petitioning the Governor to confirm the rights of Don Pedro Xiu, a descendant of the original grantee. The grant compelled local gobernador and alcaldes of Yaxa to see to it that the village cultivated each year a cornfield for the support of Don Pedro Xiu and his wife, supplied each week a man and a woman for domestic service, and repaired the buildings comprising the Xiu residence as often as it might be needed. 1 The measure was a wise one on the part of the Spanish government, calculated to preserve the loyalty of the more influential Maya families, and it continued in force down to the end of the colonial period.

New light is cast on the traditions of caste and chieftainship among the Maya by the chapter in the Chumayel which the translator has entitled "The Interrogation of the Chiefs." This formality took place at the beginning of each katun 2 and was a sort of civil service examination conducted by the halach-uinic with the object of weeding out from the ranks of legitimate chieftainship the upstarts, pretenders and those who had obtained office under false pretenses. Many of the prescribed questions and answers are trivial, and the questionnaire which has come down to us contains references to horses, which shows us that it had been altered a little to correspond to the new conditions since the Spanish Conquest. Nevertheless three important facts are brought out in this chapter. The first is that there was a firmly established tradition of such an examination; the second, that the proof of legitimacy was considered to be certain knowledge supposed to have been handed down from father to son in families eligible to chieftainship; the third, that this occult knowledge was known as the "language of Zuyua."

The name Zuyua is inseparably connected with the Toltec penetration of Yucatan, which left a number of Nahuatl words in the Maya language. Many such words are those associated with ideas of political power and social standing. The Xius believed that they had come from a place called West Zuyua, 3 and Brinton has identified Zuyua with the Mexican Zuiven, "the name of the uppermost heaven, the abode of the Creator, Hometecutli, the father of Quetzalcoatl, and the place of his first birth as a divinity." 4

The foregoing indicates that only members of those families in which certain Toltec traditions had been handed down were eligible to chieftainship. It is uncertain whether such families were actually of Mexican descent, but confirmation of the long-standing Nahua affiliations of the ruling families is found in Landa's account of the annual festival in honor of Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl, at Mani, the capital of the Province of the Xius. This festival

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had been celebrated at Mayapan until the destruction of that city, and it was peculiarly the affair of the chiefs and priests who had assembled from the various parts of the country. 1 The other provinces contributed each year in turn four or five feather banners which played an important part in the ceremonies, and the various halach-uinics, so frequently at war with one another, appear for the time being to have forgotten their feuds and enmities. During the last five days of the month of Xul everything was as it had been when the entire country was united under the rule of Mayapan.

To account for these Toltec traditions among the ruling families we must go back to the time of the introduction of the worship of Kukulcan into Yucatan. The identity of the Maya Kukulcan with the Mexican Quetzalcoatl and the Mexican origin of the worship of this culture-hero have been well established. 2

If a foreign religion was introduced into the country from Mexico, we should first look for the families of the descendants of the people who introduced it, although, of course, it does not necessarily follow that any of them survived. In this connection our attention is drawn first to the Xiu family in whose capital we have seen the festival for Kukulcan still being celebrated down to the time of the Spanish Conquest. We have already noted that they themselves believed that they had come from a place called West Zuyua, a name derived from Mexican mythology. Landa tells us that when they arrived in Yucatan, their only weapon was the dart and throwing-stick, 3 or atlatl, which points strongly to a Nahua origin. Elsewhere we read of the town of Mama near Mani that "they were subject to a lord whom they called Tutul Xiu, a Mexican name, who, they say, was a foreigner. He came from the west, and having come to this province the leading people raised him with common consent to be their king." 4 If further confirmation of the Mexican origin of this family were needed, we might cite the Xiu family tree, 5 according to which two members of the family have the name or title of Ah Cuat Xiu. Cuat is simply another form of the Nahuatl coatl which means serpent.

If we search for Nahuatl names or titles among the other leading families of Yucatan, we find mention three times in the Chronicle of Nakuk Pech of the name, Ah Cuat Cocom, 6 he may have been related to Nachi Cocom who

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was the halach-uinic at Zotuta. The Cocom family was at one time the most powerful in Yucatan, and even after the destruction of Mayapan they continued to play an important part in the history of the country. Their history goes back to the founding of Mayapan in the Tenth Century A.D. Of this city Landa tells us that after settling Chichen Itzá--

"Kukulcan again founded another city by arrangement with the native lords of the land, in which he and they should live and where all the affairs and business should be conducted ... and they surrounded it with a very broad wall of dry stone of about half a quarter of a league, leaving only two narrow gates. The wall was not very high. Within this they constructed their temples ... and the houses for the lords, among whom he divided the entire country, giving towns to each according to the antiquity of his lineage and his personal importance. Kukulcan ... called it Mayapan, which means the standard of the Maya . . .

"This Kukulcan lived with the lords for some years in that city, and leaving them in all peace and friendship he returned by the same road to Mexico ... After the departure of Kukulcan the lords agreed in order to perpetuate the government that the house of the Cocoms should have the chief command, either because it was the oldest or richest, or because its head was at that time the most valorous man." 1

In one of the Mexican sources we read that--

"The people of Yucatan venerated and reverenced this God, Quetzalcoatl, and called him Kulkulcan, and said he arrived there from the west ... They said of him that from him descended the Kings of Yucatan whom they call Cocoms, which means Oidores." 2

Descent from a Nahua culture-hero would be ascribed to a Mexican family rather than to one of Maya origin.

A third important Toltec family, probably a later arrival than the Xius and Cocoms, was that of the Ah Canuls, the so-called Mexican mercenaries 3 whom we have already discussed.

Consequently the joint government at Mayapan appears to have consisted of two rival Mexican factions, Cocoms and Xius, 4 the former being supported by a third element of similar origin, the Ah Canuls. By the time of the fall of Mayapan, however, they were probably Mexican only by tradition, for the Spanish conquerors found them speaking only Maya some sixty years later.

A question arises as to the origin of the other ruling families of the various provinces, such as the Pechs, Chels, Cupuls and Cochuahs, to mention only those of whose hereditary standing we have some information. At some unspecified time, probably after the destruction of Mayapan, a certain Noh-cabal

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[paragraph continues] Pech established his capital at Motul, and we are told that he was "a near relative of the great lord at Mayapan." 1 The Chel family was descended from Mo-Chel, the noble son-in-law of one of the principal priests at Mayapan. He is said to have foreseen the destruction of the capital, and he fled with some followers to Tecoh near Izamal, where he established an independent state, taking the title of Ah Kin (the priest) Chel. 2 We know little of the history of the others, but their status as independent rulers dated only from the fall of Mayapan about the middle of the Fifteenth Century. No doubt most of those who were not of Toltec origin were descended from the old Yucatecan ruling class, of whom we have practically no knowledge. There were, however, other intruders into the country besides the Toltecs. Both in the proper names and in the vocabulary of Yucatan we find distinct traces of people from the south who spoke a language very similar to what we know of the Chol. This is one of the other languages of the great Maya stock, and while it much resembles the Maya of Yucatan in some respects, it has a different consonantal system. At least two Maya families 3 had such foreign names, and there were probably others.

During the hegemony of Mayapan these "lords" lived at the capital and each governed his own district from there. Their residences were within the walled enclosure, but outside the walls each head-chief had a house where petitioners from his own district were received when they came to the capital. This house was in charge of a personal representative called the caluac who made requisitions on the towns of the district for food, clothing and anything else needed for the maintenance of the household of his master. 4

A comparison of the Maya sources cited in this paper with Zurita's account 5 of the political institutions of Mexico leads to the conclusion that the central government at Mayapan corresponded in many respects to the Nahua pattern. At the time of the revolution which destroyed the city we are told that "the halach-uinic Tutul <Xiu> departed with the chiefs of the town and of the four districts or divisions of the town," 6 and we are reminded of the four main divisions of the Aztec and Tlaxcalan states. The four chiefs of these divisions were especially concerned with the distribution of tribute from subject peoples, and we find an echo of this function in the present work when we read: "At Tikuch arrived the tribute of the four men." 7 The resemblance is less apparent in the local government of the Yucatecan towns and villages. Here the administration of the batab, assisted by the ah-cuch-cags and ah-kulels probably followed the ancient traditions of Yucatan.


188:1 Crónica de Calkini, pp. 13, 14.

188:2 Maya: "Pic-¢acab u talel Juan ti batabil, tah colil," etc. This explains the importance of genealogy among the Maya. Cf. Landa 1928, p. 168, and page 89 of the present work.

189:1 After the fall of Mayapan these so-called provinces, or cacicazgos, were really independent states.

189:2 Chronicle of Nakuk Pech (Brinton 1882, p. 195).

189:3 The English plural form has been applied to Maya terms here. The Maya plural would really be halach-uinicob.

189:4 Relaciones de Yucatan, II, pp. 23, 53, 150.

189:5 Ibid., II, p. 104; also Crónica de Calkini.

189:6 Landa 1928, pp. 170-172. This resembles the rules of succession among the Nahuas of Mexico. Cf. Zurita 1891, pp. 79-80.

189:7 Crónica de Oxkutzcab, pp. 8, 9; Blom 1928, p. 258.

190:1 Morley 1920, pp. 478, 507; Blom 1928, p. 254.

190:2 Maya, yax chibal. Brinton 1882, p. 201.

190:3 Relaciones de Yucatan, I and II.

190:4 Maya, hol-pop (he who sits at the head of the mat). Cf. Relaciones de Yucatan, I, pp. 90, 95.

190:5 Probably the ah-kulel. These are defined as "advocates, mediators between any people" (Motul).

190:6 Cogolludo 1868, Bk. IV, Chap. 3.

191:1 Cogolludo 1868, Bk. IV, Chap. 4; Relaciones de Yucatan, I, p. 227.

191:2 Chronicle of Nakuk Pech. Brinton 1882, p. 216.

191:3 Landa 1928, p. 72.

191:4 Chronicle of Nakuk Pech. Brinton 1882, pp. 216-241; Xiu family tree, Crónica de Oxkutzcab, pp. 8, 9.

191:5 Relaciones de Yucatan, II, p. 208.

191:6 Ibid., II, pp. 185 and 209; Landa 1928, p. 206.

191:7 Relaciones de Yucatan, II, p. 182.

191:8 Ibid., II, pp. 104, 182, 211.

191:9 Ibid., I, p. 80, 11, p. 210.

191:10 Ibid., II, pp. 103-104.

192:1 Crónica de Oxkutzcab, pp. 15-16.

192:2 The katun was a chronological period of 7200 days, approximately twenty years.

192:3 Brinton 1882, p. 95.

192:4 Ibid., p. 110.

193:1 Landa 1929, pp. 60-62.

193:2 Seler (1902, p. 674) has assembled and correlated the evidence on this point. The first Spanish settlers in Yucatan also tell us: "It is the opinion among the Indians that with the Itzá who settled at Chichen Itzá there came a great lord named Kukulcan . . . And they say that he entered <the country> from the western side . . . and that after his return he was held in Mexico to be one of their gods and called Quetzalcoatl; in Yucatan they also consider him to be a god because of his great public spirit" (Landa 1928, pp. 62-64).

193:3 Landa 1928, p. 14.

193:4 Relaciones de Yucatan, I, p. 161.

193:5 Crónica de Oxkutzcab, pp. 8, 9.

193:6 Brinton 1882, p. 237.

194:1 Landa 1928, pp. 64-70. This legend is colored in some respects by the later hegemony of Mayapan over all northern Yucatan. It is probable that prior to 1200 A.D. Chichen Itzá was the more powerful of the two cities. Cf. Appendix C.

194:2 Torquemada 1723, II, p. 52. The translation is an excellent one, for cocom could well be an archaic participial form meaning "one who listens with attention."

194:3 Landa 1928, p. 80.

194:4 Ciudad Real 1873, II, p. 470.

195:1 Relaciones de Yucatan, I, p. 78.

195:2 Landa 1928, p. 88: Relaciones de Yucatan, I, p. 193.

195:3 Chan and Te. Berendt MS.

195:4 Landa 1928, pp. 70-72.

195:5 Zurita 1891.

195:6 p. 142.

195:7 p. 74.

Next: Appendix F: Toltec Military Orders in Yucatan