Tecpan And Iximche
Tecpan & Iximche:
The Maya-Cakchiquel town of Tecpán is located along the Pan-American highway about 90 minutes from Guatemala City. The principal attraction here is the Iximché ruins found just a few kilometers away. The city of Iximché was founded by the Cakchiquels in 1463, about 80 years before the arrival of Spaniards. It was named for the ramón tree (Brosimium Alicastiron), which bears a nutritious, edible fruit that was grounded by the Maya into flour and mixed with corn dough to make tortillas.
The ruins of Iximché, bounded by ravines and quiet pine forests, are an excellent place to contemplate the history of the Cakchiquel people and of the Spanish conquest, in which they played an important role. When the Spaniards first arrived, the Cakchiquels became their allies, helping to defeat other highlands nations such as the powerful Quichés. From Iximché, Spanish conquistadors launched campaigns against the Tzutujiles around Lake Atitlán, and marched down the Pacific coast as far as El Salvador.
Confident that his conquest of Guatemalan territories was then concluded, conquistador Pedro de Alvarado founded the city of Santiago de los Caballeros at Iximché on July 27, 1524, but never had the opportunity to build his capital there. After the Spaniards imposed heavy levies of gold on their former allies, the Cakchiquels revolted, abandoning and burning their city on August 26, and instigating a guerrilla war that was to last for more than five years. The conquistadors were forced to move their headquarters to Olintepeque, near Quetzaltenango, then to Comalapa, and finally to Bulbuxyá, now known as Ciudad Vieja, at the base of Volcán de Agua.
The Cakchiquels wrote a very complete account of their history in the 16th century, in a manuscript that has come to be known as The Annals of the Cakchiquels. The history includes stories of their forefathers' heroic deeds, such as quenching the fire of Santa Maria Volcano, and a harrowing account of European plagues that preceded the Spaniards into Guatemala.
Five centuries later, it is hard to imagine that as many as 10,000 people once lived at Iximché, or that it served as the cap¬ital of a Maya group controlling a large part of Guatemala's ter¬ritory. The structures that can be seen today include four large ceremonial plazas with small temples and ballcourts, as well as two smaller plazas. A few fragments of murals painted on stuccoed buildings can also be seen. From these buildings, the Cakchiquels watched the Spaniards enter their city in 1524, when they "strange faces" caused fear among the people, who mistook them for gods.
Today, Iximché is still a place of worship for the Maya people in the region, who come to light coal fires and say prayers among temples built by their ancestors. The ruins provide visi¬tors a fascinating glimpse of post-Classic Maya life and architecture, and insight into highlands Maya cities that ruled Guatemala at the time of Spanish conquest. Once the scene of great historical events, it is now a quiet, magical spot from which to contemplate a critical juncture in Guatemala's history.