Mayan history

The Dominican missionaries in Guatemala observed that the Indians were passionately fond of dancing and singing. The joyousness which originally existed in their nature or temperament has become extinct. The usual tenour of their lives seems to be accompanied by a quiet, subdued melancholy.

  • It is not improbable that, as a consequence of several centuries of Spanish domination, the aboriginal races have sunk into a dull and apathetic state.
  • It is however possible that other influences acted upon the taciturn and wild natures of these tribes. The innate disposition of the natives to worship idols in Guatemala was found to be equally existing with the Mayas in Yucatan, who also had the custom of making pilgrimages to the shrines.
  • It is mentioned by Landa that the pilgrims stopped when passing near any of the deserted or ruined temples, and were accustomed to mutter prayers, and offer incense. This custom was in accordance with the acts of devotion which I saw practised by the Tzendal Indians in Chiapas before the ruined walls of the church at Bachajon.

There are circumstances connected with the domination of the Aztecs, and possibly also with that of their predecessors the Quiché-Toltecs, which require to be noticed. It is unquestionable that slavery would have been the fate of any tribe or race conquered by North American Indians. But the fact of slaves or captives being bought and sold for the purpose of being killed and offered to the gods is extraordinary. Great numbers of the natives were annually sacrificed, and astonishing acts of cannibalism were committed. Whatever may have been the hardships inflicted by the Spaniards upon the Mexican Indians, it is satisfactory to be assured that the discovery of America, and the conquests of Cortes put an end to the most horrible condition of things that has ever been known to have existed in any part of the world.

There are, however, other facts to be taken into consideration. It has been assumed that there was a condition of comparative civilisation amongst the ruling tribes, which seemed to be in such a progressive state as to lead to the conclusion that there were elements of knowledge which might have been so far developed in the course of time as to have brought these Indians into the ranks of civilised nations. With regard to this subject it should be observed that when the Spaniards conquered Central America, the progress that may have been partially made had already ceased. The monasteries at Palenque and in Yucatan had been abandoned. Even when they were flourishing, the knowledge that was taught did not extend to the people. It was confined to the priesthood, the caciques, and the few scholars who were trained for the purpose of interpreting the signs and characters by which information was spread abroad. It was by one of these interpreters that Cortes was made acquainted with the conspiracy that was being organized against him by Guatimozin during the march to Honduras. How or in what manner this comparative intelligence arose suddenly in the land is a problem of the greatest difficulty.