Tecún Umán

Tecún Umán

February 20, 1524 - On this day the last King of the K'iche' Maya people was killed during a battle in what is now Guatemala.

In 1523 the Spanish sent an army to claim the lands south of Mexico. Hernán Cortés hand-picked Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado to lead an army of 500 Spaniards against the K'iche' people.

On the K'iche' side, Tecún Umán would fearlessly lead his warriors in defense of their land at the Battle of El Pinar. The king's animal spirit guide (a quetzal) was flying overhead as the two armies met.

Having never seen horses before, the K'iche' were awestruck by the sight of armored conquistadors on horseback. As the fighting began it was clear that the primitive weapons of the K'iche' were no match for the guns and lances of the Spaniards.

Tecún Umán and Alvarado confronted each other on the battlefield and the K'iche' king was able to kill the Spaniard's horse. Thinking the horse and the man were one in the same, Tecún Umán was caught by surprise when Alvarado dismounted and ran a lance into his heart.

Legend has it that the quetzal flew down and landed on Tecún Umán's chest as he lay dying. The red on the bird's belly comes from the blood of the heroic king who died fighting for his people's freedom.

Alvarado proceeded to massacre as many as 10,000 K'iche' and burn their flourishing city to the ground.

Tecún Umán lives on as a folk hero. His story of bold resistance is celebrated every February 20th in Guatemala.

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