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


Some old men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East, whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. If this is true, all the inhabitants of the Indies must be of Jewish descent because, the straits of Magellan having been passed, they must have spread over more than 2000 leagues of territory now governed by Spain.

The language of this country is all one, a fact which aided greatly in its conversion, although along the coasts there are differences in words and accents. Those living on the coast are thus more polished in their behavior and language; and the women cover their breasts, which those further inland do not.

The country is divided into provinces subject to the nearest Spanish settlement. The province of Chectemal and Bak-halal is subject to Salamanca. The provinces of Ekab, of Cochuah and of Cupul are subject to Valladolid. Those of Ahkin-Chel and of Izamal, of Sututa, of Hocabaihumun, of Tutuxiu, of Cehpech, and of Chakan, are attached to the city of Merida; Camol (Canul), Campech, Champutun and Tixchel are assigned to San Francisco de Campeche.

There are in Yucatan many edifices of great beauty, this being the most outstanding of all things discovered in the Indies; they are all built of stone finely ornamented, though there is no metal found in the country for this cutting. These buildings are very close to each other and are temples, the reason for there being so many lying in the frequent changes of the population, and the fact that in each town they erected a temple, out of the abundance of stone and lime, and of a certain white earth excellent for buildings.

These edifices are not the work of other peoples, but of the Indians themselves, as appears by stone figures of men, unclothed but with the middle

p. 9

covered by certain long fillets which in their language are called ex, together with other devices worn by the Indians.

While the author of this work was in that country, there was found in a building that had been demolished a large urn with three handles, painted on the outside with silvered colors, and containing the ashes of a cremated body, together with some pieces of the arms and legs, of an unbelievable size, and with three fine beads or counters of the kind the Indians use for money. At Izamal there were eleven or twelve of these buildings in all, with no memory of their builders; on the site of one of these, at the instance of the Indians, there was established the monastery of San Antonio, in the year 1550.

Click to enlarge


The next most important edifices are those of Tikoch and of Chichén Itzá, which will be described later. Chichén Itzá is finely situated ten leagues from Izamal and eleven from Valladolid, and they tell that it was ruled by three lords, brothers that came to the country from the West. These were very devout, built very handsome temples, and lived unmarried and most honorably. One of them either died or went away, whereupon the others conducted themselves unjustly and wantonly, for which they were put to death. Later on we shall describe the decorations of the main edifice, also telling of the well into which they cast men alive as a sacrifice; and also other precious objects. It is over seven stages down to the water, over a hundred feet across and marvelously cut in the living rock. The water appears green, which they say is caused by the trees that surround it.

Next: VI. Cuculcán. Foundation of Mayapán