MARCH 22, 1960

MAYA LEADER TECÚN UMÁN DECLARED GUATEMALA’S NATIONAL HERO

Tecún Umán, the last king of the K’iche-Maya people in what is now Guatemala, according to legend, was slain by Captain Don Pedro de Alvarado at El Piñal on February 20, 1524.  Yet, Tecún Umán’s existence is not well documented.  In November 1523, Hernán Cortés sent Alvarado to conquer the lands south of Mexico.  In 1524, he allied himself with the Kaqchikel who sought Spanish help in defeating the K’iche, their bitter rivals.   The K’iche chose Tecún Umán as their commander.  He and his warriors met the Spanish and were defeated near Quetzaltenango.  One legend says that Tecún Umán wore quetzal feathers, and his quetzal spirit guide accompanied him in battle.  Alvarado was mounted on his horse.  As horses were not native to the Americas, Tecún Umán assumed they were one being and killed the horse.  He realized his error and turned for a second attack, but Alvarado’s spear pierced his heart.  His animal spirit, filled with grief, landed on the fallen hero’s chest and died.   

Source: “Tecún Umán,” The New World Encyclopedia.  Retrieved 6/25/2019, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Tecún_Umán
Sketch:  Lienzo do Tlaxcala, 16th century.  Conquest of Quetzaltenango.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less.

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