It's very interesting to see hoy everything we've learned from the time we were kids changes so easily with the discovery of a single lienzo.

Jorge García y Esteban Massanete
high school juniors
Colegio Internacional de Guatemala

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the lienzo

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is considered the first mp of Guatemala.  It is also one of the few sources from the 16th century that tell of the military campaigns of Jorge de Alvarado in 1527.

When Dutch archaeologist Florine Asselbergs began research for her doctoral dissertation, the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan was an undeciphered and somewhat forgotten relic, vaguely thought to refer the conquest activities in the territory of Mexico.  Assiduous research and creative instinct led Asselbergs to recognize that this painting was nothing less than firsthand account of the conquest of Guatemala.  Her discoveries were published in the book Conquered Conquistadors, by the University of Leiden.

The original Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is at Museo Casa del Alfeñique, in Puebla, Mexico.  A digitally restored copy, as well as an animated recreation of the story, is on exhibit at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala City.  Both, the digital restoration and the animated recreation, are bases on Asselbergs’ findings, complemented by research at UFM.

With this project, Universidad Francisco Marroquín and Banco G&T Continental seek to contribute to the preservation of the information and messages recorded five centuries ago in this primary source document.

The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan is a large Nahua painting on cotton cloth (lienzo) that belongs to the pre-Hispanic tradition of documenting stories of migrations and conquests within a geographic context.  Among the surviving indigenous pictographic documents, the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan stands out for both its size and complex iconography.  It is probable that perhaps one third of the document was cut off or lost.
The Lienzo, created by Nahua tlaquiloque (painters), recounts the story of valiant warriors – the Quauhquecholteca – who conquered Guatemala in an alliance with the Spanish.  It also speaks to the transformation of the Quauhquecholteca community as a result of their migration to Guatemalan territory.
The story begins under the sign of double-headed eagle holding two swords.  Amidst embraces and gifts, Quauhquecholteca caciques and Spanish captains – led by Hernán Cortés and Jorge de Alvarado – establish their alliance.  The relationship is depicted as the uniting of two equal military forces, both seeking advancement.

Pictorial manuscripts such as the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan are generally referred to as cartographic histories.  Unlike contemporary European or modern-days maps, they were not intended to be read in silence.  They were presented during important community rituals and accompanied by oral recitals by experienced narrators.  For the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, geography did not exist independently of history.  Thus, their maps were much more than depiction of territoriality; they were geographic expressions to be “experienced” or “felt.”


"After 500 years, the Lienzo once again tells its story.  It tells the story of the Quauhquecholteca, who were among the many who experienced the brutality of warfare and conquest, but among the few whose story has survived.  A story that not only fills in some crucial gaps in the historical record, but at times even corrects it".

Florine Asselbergs
Author, Conquered Conquistadors
Leiden University, The Netherlands


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