Sacred Texts  Native American  Maya  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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


The women vaunted themselves as chaste, and with reason, because before they knew our nation they were such to a marvel; of this they have two examples. The captain Alonso López de Avila, father-in-law of the admiral Montejo, captured a handsome and graceful Indian girl during the war at Bacalar. She, in fear of death for her husband, had promised him never to yield herself to another, and for this nothing could persuade her, even the fear of death, to consent to violation; so that they threw her to the dogs.

As for myself, I once received the complaints of a baptized Indian woman. against a baptised man who followed her impetuously for her beauty; after she had repeatedly rejected him, without avail, he came one night in her husband's absence and when his pleas and offer of gifts remained without effect, attempted force, being a powerful man. For the whole night she fought him off, with such grief to herself as that she came to me; and it had been as she said.

The women were in the habit of turning their shoulders toward the men in passing them, and of turning to the side on the roads; this also they did in giving a man drink, until he had finished it. They taught their daughters the things they knew, and raised them excellently in their mode; they reprimanded them, instructed them and made them work; if they misbehaved they punished them by boxing their ears or slapping their arms. If they raise their eyes they reprove them severely, and put pepper on them, which

p. 55

causes great pain; if they are immodest they whip them, and put pepper on the other part, as a punishment and affront. It is also a grave reproach to tell the young girls they are like women brought up without a mother.

They are very jealous and at times lay hands on those women that have aroused their suspicions; again they are quick to anger and irritation on this score, though in other ways very mild; so that they are wont to pull their husbands' hair for the least infidelity. They are great workers and good in all the domestic economies, for on them rest the most, and most important, work of alimentation, housekeeping and education of their children, and the payment of the tributes; with all this they bear heavier burdens if it is necessary, working the fields and harvesting the crops. They are great economists, watching at night in what time is left them after their domestic labors, attending the markets to buy and sell their things.

They raise both Spanish and native fowls for sale, and for eating. They raise birds for their pleasure and for the feathers for adornment on their finer clothes; also raising other domestic animals, among these even offering their breast to the deer, which they have so tame that they never run away into the woods, even when they take them there and back, and raise them there.

They help each other mutually in their working
Dresden, tzolkin 27, 3 cib, lamat, ahau, eb, kan
Click to enlarge

and spinning, paying for this work in the same way as do their husbands on their farms; and while at this they ever have their jokes and tell their stories, at times with a bit of grumbling. They hold it disgraceful to look at the men and laugh at them, so this fact alone is enough to cause trouble, and with no other grounds to bring them into disrepute.

The most of their dances they do by themselves, although in some they dance with the men; among these the naual dance, one not very modest. Their fecundity is great, and they bear the children in good time; they are excellent nurses, first because their hot morning drink produces plenty of milk, and again because their constant grinding of the maize without tying up the breasts causes them to grow large and thus to hold a great deal of milk.

They also become intoxicated in their banquets, which they have among themselves, but not so much as do the men. They desire many children, and she who lacks them invokes their idols with gifts and prayers; and today they pray to God for them. They are

p. 56

prudent and polite, and affable, with those who understand them; also extremely generous. They cannot keep a secret; and they are not as clean and proper in their persons and affairs as they should be, in spite of their washing like the ermines. *

They were very devout and pious, rendering many devotions to their idols, burning incense before them, offering gifts of cotton, food and drink; it was also their charge to prepare the offerings of food and drink to be made during the ceremonies; but they did not share the custom of drawing blood for the evil spirits, and never did so. Neither were they allowed to come to the temples at times of the sacrifices, except in a certain festival where certain
old women were admitted to take part therein. At the time of accouchement they went to their sorceresses, who made them believe all sorts of lies, and also put under their couch the image of an evil spirit called Ixchel, whom they called the goddess of childbirth.

When the children were born, they bathed them at once, and then when the pain of pressing the foreheads and heads was over, they took them to the priest that he might cast their fate, declare the office the child
was to fill, and give him the name he was to retain during his childhood; because they were accustomed to call the children by different names until they were baptised or somewhat grown up; afterwards they dropped these and called themselves after their fathers until they were married. Then they took the names of both father and mother.


56:* The text figures are from the Dresden codex, and probably show the goddess Ixchel, in the first as goddess of childbirth, or Lucina; in the second she bears the signs of 'new day,' spring, renewal time. The wife of Itzamná, in the Maya pantheon she corresponded to Isis.

Next: XXXIII. Funerals. Burials of the Priests. Statues to Preserve the Ashes of the Chiefs, and the Honors They Paid to Them. Their Belief Regarding a Future Life, with Rewards and Punishments