Invading Guatemala

Spanish, Nahua, and Maya Accounts of the Conquest Wars

By (author) Matthew Restall, Florine Asselbergs

Paperback - £18.95

Publication date:

15 January 2008

Length of book:

152 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271027586

After invading highland Guatemala in 1524, Spaniards claimed to have smashed the Kaqchikel and K’iche’ Maya kingdoms and to have forged a new colony—with their leader, Pedro de Alvarado, as Guatemala’s conquistador. This volume shows that the real story of the Spanish invasion was very different. Designed to be an accessible introduction to the topic as well as a significant contribution to conquest scholarship, the volume presents for the first time English translations of firsthand accounts by Spaniards, Nahuas, and Mayas.

Alvarado’s letters to Cortés, published here in English for the first time in almost a century, are supplemented with accounts by one of his cousins, by his brother Jorge, and by Bernal Díaz and Bartolomé de Las Casas. Nahua perspectives are presented in the form of pictorial evidence, along with written testimony by Tlaxcalan and Aztec veterans who fought as invading allies of the Spaniards; their claim to have done most of the fighting emerges as a powerful argument. The views of the invaded are represented by Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil accounts. Together, these sources reveal a fascinating multiplicity of perspectives and show how the conquest wars of the 1520s were a profoundly brutal moment in the history of the Americas.

“[In] the second volume in the Latin American Originals series from Pennsylvania State University Press, Invading Guatemala: Spanish, Nahua, and Maya Accounts of the Conquest Wars, . . . Matthew Restall, well known for having laid to rest a number of misconceptions about the wars of conquest in his book Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, joins forces with Florine Asselbergs to demolish the generally accepted vision of the conquest of Guatemala. The vivid picture that emerges is a much more complex, prolonged and tragic affair than traditional historiography would have us believe.”

—Fernando Cervantes, Times Literary Supplement