Guatemala: The Quiches and Tecun Uman

Guatemala: The Quiches and Tecun Uman

Guatemala: The Quiches and Tecun Uman
  • The Quiches

The Quiches is a Guatemalan original community in the highland. In the Pre- Columbian time the Quiches established one of the most powerful states in the region. Its last capital was in Gumarcaaj, also known as Utatlán. The ruins were found 2 km from Santa Cruz, Quiché, the El Quiché state, Guatemala.

  • Tecun Uman

Tecun Uman was the last commander of the Quiché army before being conquered by a Spaniard, Pedro De Alvarado in 1524. He is considered as the most representative of the K’iche (Quiché) for his courage and dignity, because he fought for and protected his land and his people.

I will leave you with his story:

When Prince Tecun Uman or Tekun Umam (in Kiche’) saw his people were threatened by the foreign invasion, he guided with courage and dignity their troops into battle to protect his people from the Spanish conquistadors. After fighting against the soldiers of Pedro de Alvarado in the valleys of Xelajú (now Quetzaltenango), Tecun Uman encountered Pedro de Alvarado face to face. Prince Quiche killed Alvarado’s horse thinking the animal and man had a connection, and that at the death of the animal Alvarado would die, too. But the rider after falling from his horse pierced his steel sword through the Cachique (Tecun Uman) hitting his heart. The legend says that when Tecun Uman was lying on the ground, a quetzal came down from heaven, landed on Prince Quiche’s chest and permeated his feathers with Tecun Uman’s blood. Because of this it has been told that the belly of the bird turned to the color red.
The records titled “K’oyoi” indicate that the Quiches were already aware of the invasion of the Spaniards. They were preparing, building obstacles in the form of large slabs of stone, fortifications and trenches with stakes. Then it describes the invaders as impressive with their weapons, armor and horses. Also it tells how the Spaniards and their auxiliary troops simply demolished the fortifications. The Quiche lords were frightened and sent messengers to Q’umarkaj (Utatlán) for backup. Then they left for Tzijbachaj (now Totonicapán) while the great captain Tecún, the grandson of King Don Kikab, was advancing.
Here it is mentioned for the first time the name, Tecun Uman. We see that he is named Tecún, and that Umán refers to his kinship with the famous Quiche Lord, Kikab.

Glossary:
Quiche : refers to the current name of the city and to the term used for the people who come from this ethnic group.
K’iche ‘ : refers to the language of the Quiches, which is still spoken today.
Cacique : refers to the head of an indigenous tribes.
K’oyoi : is a text that was discovered and published by anthropologist, Robert Carmack, that chronicles the battle between Pedro de Alvarado and Tecun Uman.
Gumarcaaj : It was the capital city or the headquarters of the Quiches in antiquity, today called Atitlan.

For our intermediate and advance level students, it will be a great practice for you to translate this in Spanish. The Spanish translation will be posted within a week.

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