FEBRUARY 12, 1524


In November 1523, Hernán Cortés sent Captain Don Pedro de Alvarado to conquer the lands south of Mexico. In 1524, Alvarado allied himself with the Kaqchikel who sought Spanish help in defeating the K’iche, their bitter rivals. Legend has it that the K’iche chose Tecún Umán as their commander and that he led the Maya into battle near Quetzaltenango. One story tells that he wore quetzal feathers, and that 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 & killed the horse.  Realizing his error, he turned for a 2nd attack when Alvarado’s spear pierced his heart. His animal spirit, filled with grief, landed on the fallen hero’s chest and died. Tecún Umán, seen as the last king of the K’iche-Maya, is also said to have been slain at El Piñal, on February 20, 1524.  While his actual existence is questioned, in 1960 he was proclaimed Guatemala’s National Hero and is celebrated every February 20th.

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.

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