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


As the Mexican people had signs and prophecies of the coming of the Spaniards and the end of their power and religion, so also did those of Yucatan some years before they were conquered by Admiral Montejo. In the district of Maní, in the province of Tutul-xiu, an Indian named Ah-cambal, filling the office of Chilán* that is one who has charge of giving out the responses of the demon, told publicly that they would soon be ruled by a foreign race who would preach a God and the virtue of a wood which in their tongue he called vahom-ché, meaning a tree lifted up, of great power against the demons.

The successor of the Cocoms, called Don Juan Cocom after he became a Christian, was a man of great reputation and very learned in matters and affairs of the country, very wise and well informed. He was on familiar terms with the author of this book, Fray Diego de Landa, recounting to him many ancient things, and showing him a book which had belonged to his grandfather, the son of the Cocom whom they killed in Mayapán. In this was painted a deer, and his grandfather had told him that when there should come into the land large deer (for so they called the cows), the worship of the gods would cease; and this had been fulfilled, because the Spaniards brought along large cows.

p. 20

The admiral Francisco de Montejo was a native of Salamanca, and came to the Indies after the settling of the city of San Domingo, in the Island of Española, after having lived for a time in Sevilla, where he left an infant son whom he had there. He came to the island of Cuba, where he gained a livelihood and made many friends by his fine qualities, among these being Diego Velasquez the governor of the island, and Hernando Cortés. The governor having determined to send his nephew Juan de Grijalva to redeem the territory of Yucatan and to discover new lands, after the news brought by Francisco Hernández de Cordova of how rich the land was, he decided to have Montejo go with Grijalva. He being wealthy supplied one of the ships and much provisioning, and was thus one of the second party of Spaniards that discovered Yucatan; having seen the coast of Yucatan he resolved to enrich himself there instead of in Cuba.

Learning the determination of Hernando Cortés, he followed him with his person and fortune, Cortés giving him command of a ship and making him its captain. In Yucatan they then met Gerónimo de Aguilar, from whom Montejo acquired knowledge of the language of the country and its matters. Cortés having landed in New Spain began at once to make settlements, calling the first town Vera Cruz, after the blazon of his banner. Montejo was appointed as one of the royal alcaldes of the town, acquitting himself discreetly, and being so publicly named by Cortés when he returned from the trip he made around the coast. For this he was sent to Spain as one of the Procurators of the state of New Spain, that he might convey to the King his fifths, together with a relation of the countries discovered, and the things about taking place there.

When Francisco de Montejo arrived at the Court of Castile, Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, was president of the Council of the Indies, and he was wrongly informed to Cortés’ prejudice, by Diego Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, who claimed likewise the governorship of New Spain. The majority of the Council thinking that Cortés seemed to be asking money of the King instead of sending it, and Montejo finding that on account of the absence of the Emperor in Flanders the affair went ill, he persevered for seven years from the time he left the Indies (which was in 1519), until he re-embarked in 1526. By his perseverance he challenged the president and Pope Adrian who was regent for the kingdom, and talked with the Emperor to the effect that he gave his approval and disposed of the affairs of Cortés as justice required.


19:* Ah-cambal means 'one who learns, a pupil.' Chilán means 'orator.'

Next: XII. Montejo Sails For Yucatan and Takes Possession of the Country. The Chels Cede To Him the Site of Chichén Itzá. The Indians Force Him to Leave