The Spanish conqueror and the Mayan princess

Gonzalo Guerrero, born in the town of Niebla (near the port of Palos, Spain), he was a sailor and arquebusier of Carlos V. He participated in the conquest of Granada and, within the new continent, in that of Darien (Panama). In 1511 he sailed from Darien to “La Espanola” island with the mission of reporting on progress in the region with his companions Jeronimo de Aguilar (some historians said he was a Franciscan friar) and Captain Juan Valdivia.

The shipwreck devoured the caravel near the island of Jamaica, where only twenty sailors managed to save themselves on board of a lifeboat. Almost half died of hunger and thirst in route, while the rest managed to reach the southern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, somewhere between Cancun and Akumal. There, weakness and hunger prevented them from resisting when the Mayan natives took them prisoner.  After their capture, Gonzalo realized some of his companions (including Captain Juan de Valdivia) had been sacrificed, so the rest escaped and arrived at Xamancona, where the chief Aquincuz took them at his service.  Historians tell us that here, Geronimo and Gonzalo were distinguished for their participation in the wars against the nearby Mayan communities, while their companions died from illness, heavy tasks or combat.  Soon after, the chief Aquincuz died and he bequeathed the leadership to his son Taxmar.  Later, Taxmar decided to make an alliance with the chief of Chactemal (currently Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo) and as part of the treaty he transferred Gonzalo to the chief Nachancan. There, Gonzalo continued accumulating warlike victories until he was named “nacom” (captain) and married one of the most important women in the region, chief Nachancan’s daughter: Za’asil-Há, also called Ix Chel Can.

The rescue years later, in 1518, Juan de Grijalva received reports of Jeronimo and Gonzalo when they captured some natives from the area.  In 1519 Hernan Cortes arrived in Cozumel and set out to rescue the shipwrecked men, sending letters and gifts with native couriers. These manage to reach Jeronimo, to whom Taxmar granted freedom.  Jeronimo brings the good news to Gonzalo, but he replies that he is married with three children, and is now chief and captain.  You go, and may God be with you.  And so the destinies of Jeronimo and Gonzalo were separated; while the first helps in the conquest of the new Spain as interpreter, the second fights against it.

Against the conquest around 1528, Alonso Davila and Francisco de Montejo set out to conquer the Yucatan peninsula.  Montejo sent a letter to Gonzalo asking for his support in exchange for benefits, which was returned. Montejo then decides to approach by sea while Davila goes it by land. Gonzalo shrewdly communicates to Davila that the Montejo expedition has been shipwrecked; and to Montejo, that Davila’s has perished during an ambush. Neither of them dares to attack separately and it is until 1531 when they meet again. Realizing the previous deception, they agree to continue with their objective.  Davila ordered to attack Chactemal but surprisingly he finds the city empty.  He enters and is surrounded and trapped by Gonzalo’s men. After few months of siege, he manages to escape to Honduras.  The year is now 1536 and the Yucatan peninsula is almost free of conquerors.  Gonzalo and his allies’ respond to a call for help from the Mayans of the Honduras region and managed to make a Spanish outpost withdraw.  The withdrawn Spaniards receive the support of Pedro de Alvarado, who was returning from Guatemala, and hostilities flare up. In the vicinity of the Ulua river, the final battle takes place for Gonzalo, who is mortally wounded with an arquebus shot to the chest. Finally, his body was recognized by Andres de Cereceda.  Having to choose between two worlds, he is remembered as “the Father of Mestizaje” for being the first to procreate mestizo children within a recognized and consensual alliance.  His homeland was not the land he was born in, but the one for which he fought.

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