Flores Guatemala. The last Mayan hold out.

Posted: October 31, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
Tags: , , ,
This quaint quiet island city in the middle of Lake Peten is certainly worth checking out. Only a half day drive from Placencia Belize, we recommend making a weekend out of it. 
It was here on the island of Flores that the last independent state of the Maya civilization held out against the onslaught of the Spanish conquerors. After the collapse of Chichen Itza the Itza people left the Yucatan to build their capitalTayasal on a small island in LakePeténItzá in the southern Maya lowlands.In the 16th century the Spanish initiated several campaigns to subdue the Mayan cities in the Yucatán. As the Itza land was separated from Spanish Yucatán to the north and Spanish Guatemala to the south by thick jungles with little population it initially escaped the attention of the Spanish. But in 1541 Hernán Cortés came to Tayasal, on his way to Honduras. Due to island’s excellent defensive position he did not try to conquer it and instead moved on. As other Mayan cities were defeated one by one Taysal remained one of the last independent Maya states, together with other Maya cities in the region.

Two Franciscan friars were sent to Tayasal in 1618 to convert the Itza to Christianity. They arrived in Tayasal to find the people uninfluenced by European ways and still worshiping the traditional Mayan gods. While the Itza lord received them politely, they made no progress and had to return empty-handed. After this failure the Spanish began the first of several attempts to conquer the island but did not succeed. The Governor of Yucatán decided his energies were best spent elsewhere, and the Itza continued in independence.

From the late 1690s, the last Itza lord started a more open attitude towards the Spaniards, and when three Franciscan friars arrived at Tayasal in 1695 a number of the Itza consented to be baptized. The Itza King, however, refused to convert to Christianity or pledge loyalty to Spain.

The final conquest of the independent Maya, the Itzá from Tayasal and the Ko’woj from Zacpetén and Queixil, occurred on March 13, 1697. Forces of Martin de Ursúa attacked Tayasal from a ship, invaded the island and destroyed the idols and Codices. Those who could fled and many Itzá people hid in the jungle for years. The stones of the Maya structures were used to build the Roman Catholic Church in the central plaza of the city, which was renamed to Flores

We had a great time exploring the island and taking a boat tour around the lake.

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