The Colonial Peten: An Ethnohistory of Indigenous Sovereignty and a Failed Spanish Colonial Project

Author(s): Alyce De Carteret

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Disentanglement: Reimagining Early Colonial Trajectories in the Americas" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Colonialism—to speak generally—can be characterized as endeavors that aim not just to entangle, but to wholly incorporate, disparate regions under the control of a foreign body. Indigenous disentanglement from these exploitative projects has taken many forms—daily negotiations, subtle refusals, outright rebellions. In the Peten, Guatemala, strategies of resistance to Spanish Colonialism meant disengaging completely from it and asserting indigenous sovereignty. The Itzá and Kowoj Maya, who made their home in the Peten, famously fell to the Spanish in 1697, 172 years after Hernán Cortés first visited the region. This date marks the siege of the Itzá capital of Nojpeten by conquistador Martín de Ursúa y Arizmendi, an event that titled Grant Jones’s landmark volume, The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom. Yet, even after this date, the Kowoj and Itzá Maya continued to assert their sovereignty and resisted Spanish control. Spaniards faced rebellion in sparsely populated mission towns that they could not keep settled. The Peten, at the edges of empire, remained in many ways outside of Spanish dominion. This paper recounts the colonial history of the Peten, telling the story of enduring indigenous sovereignty and a failed colonial project.

Cite this Record

The Colonial Peten: An Ethnohistory of Indigenous Sovereignty and a Failed Spanish Colonial Project. Alyce De Carteret. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451201)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22932