The Nearly Impossible Conquest of the Guatemalan Lowlands The Advantages of the Indigenous Maya in Central Petén

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Cesar Ovando


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most of Mesoamerica was invaded and colonized by the Spanish conquistadors. We are to believe from their accounts that their triumph over several indigenous communities was inevitable. However, that wasn’t the case as various native groups resisted the Spanish presence during the conquest, which ultimately delayed their colonization. One group that gave the Spaniards trouble during the invasion was the Maya. Although there were several lineages throughout southern Mexico and Central America, it was the Maya in Central Petén that ultimately delayed Spanish colonization in Mesoamerica.

So, what happened during the conquest of Central Petén? What made this campaign different from others? Why were the Maya in Central Petén more challenging to conquer than other indigenous communities in Mesoamerica? All these questions are answered in this research paper, which documents Maya's advantages during the conquest. Using various sources, primary and secondary, I have shared the research and theoretical perspectives of archeologists, who have unearthed the Mayas' sociocultural continuities they used against the Spaniards, which promotes indigenous agency. In this paper, I ultimately argue that the Spanish were unprepared to handle the Guatemalan lowlands' landscape (which is where Central Petén is located). With a lack of knowledge of the lowlands' geography, the Maya countered the Spanish presence until the seventeenth century.

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