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Vase dug at Flores by Arlen Chase, displayed at Guatemala National Museum


The ancient city of Tayasal, or Tah Itzá Capital of the Itzáes in the Post Classic, after they migrated from Chichèn Itzá, is now the city of Flores, the capitol of the department of El Petén, that was built in the site once occupied by Tayasal. The archaeological significance on this island is quite limited, in the central plaza of Flores in front of the Catholic church that was build with blocks from the ancient city, You can appreciate some sculptured monuments from the Post Classic, there is a small museum that also shows some objects of Tayasal, however, the site itself is of great importance in the heritage of the Maya. The Itzá, left the Yucatán in the 13th century and turned the city of Tayasal into their capital. It was here, on the island of Flores and on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá, that the last vestiges of the Maya civilization held out against the onslaught of the Spanish conquers. In 1541 A.D. Hernán Cortéz came to the island, on route to Honduras, but due to the thickness of the jungle and the fine defensive location of the city he desisted in the attempt of attacking the island. Along with the Ko'woj Maya, from Zacpeten and Queixil was the longer lasting Maya culture

Sites in Central Petén

In 1618 two Jesuit friars and several hundreds of  Tipú Indians from today's Corozal in Belize (Sacalum), arrived to Tayasal, they were received at Tah Itzá  and treated warmly. Despite the hospitality the friars stood with cross raised after getting located in hospitality houses and attacked his public audience with a fluent sermon in Mayan, insulting the population, their religious beliefs and way of life. He was heckled back and told to go back from where he came from. The Lord Can Ek continued to show forbearance and showed the two friars around the town on the island. There were about two hundred well packed houses along the shore. Twelve or more temples, with monuments and paintings the largest of these was as large as the church in Mérida and could hold a thousand people. The church had a statue of the horse that Hernán Cortez had left on his expedition through the area nearly a century earlier. This horse was worshiped and called Tzimin Chac.

A Late Classic Site  Misnamed as Tayasal  in Front of Flores (Tayasal)

 The two friars had hoped to convince Lord Can Ek and his people that Mayan prophecy of change and conversion was due in this Katún, but failed when they disagreed on Mayan calendar dates. Young men in canoes chased them across the lake and threw stones and threatened the party with bows and arrows. But the friars let the Tipú convinced Can Ek, to let them go. , after several and costly attempts both from Belize 1685, and Yucatán 1695, The final conquest of the independent Maya Itzá and the Ko'woj from Zacpetén and Queixil, occurred on March 13, 1697 when the forces of Martin de Ursúa attacked the Itzá of Tayasal  from a ship. The battle was one of gunpowder and firearms against Mayan warriors in dugouts armed with only bows and arrows. The Spaniards invaded the island and destroyed the idols building a church on the old Mayan worship sites. also the last Codices were destroyed. and some scholars, like Michael Coe and James Porter  think that the Madrid Codex come from Here.

Coe’s belief that the Madrid Codex comes from the 17th-century Petén stems from the presence of paper with Latin writing on page 56, which he considers to be integral to the manuscript. Although much of the Latin text cannot be read, Coe identifies part of the name “...riquez” on the fragment of paper that remains. He interprets this as a possible reference to the Franciscan missionary Fray Juan Enríquez, an idea that he attributes to Stephen Houston. Based on the fact that Enríquez was killed in the town of Sacalum in 1624 during an attempt to conquer Tayasal, Coe proposes that the manuscript was produced after this date.

Porter independently arrived at a similar conclusion, although his argument is based on two objects depicted in the manuscript—what he interprets as a European weapon on page 39b and an idol representing a horse on page 39c . Porter attributes these two scenes directly to Hernan Cortéz’ visit to Tayasal in 1525, and therefore dates the painting of the codex to the interval between Cortés’ departure and the conquest of Tayasal in 1697.

This occurred according to the Mayan calendar just 136 days short of a Katún 8 Ahau, and seems to reflect the Mayan prophecy, for this was going to be a cosmologically mandated period of change and upheaval for the Maya. While the event of the final conquest was trumpeted in the Royal Court in Spain as a great victory, on the ground in the Petén the conquest turned out to be a dismal failure. The population had fled, leaving an empty town with no food supplies and the Spaniards found they had no supplies and were in a panic trying to raid the surrounding towns to secure provisions. They were literally starving. The Spanish dreams of truly governing the Itzá evaporated and the Spanish soon found themselves adrift in a green expanse of jungle, without food to eat, souls to convert, or slave labor to exploit. The conquered had drifted away, abandoning the conqueror. The Petén and heavy rain forest was not like the dry Yucatán, forcing them to abandon the area after several years of suffering.


 Pictographic carvings at Platform in Tayasal

        Stela 2                         Panel 1


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