An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 14, 2010
issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

A TREE NOT FAR AWAY

In the Hacienda's take-one-leave-one library for guests someone left a translated republication of Friar Diego de Landa's 1566 book Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, in English entitled Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. de Landa burned all Maya books he could find, cheating us of many insights into the ancient Mayas' minds, but then he authored this book, which now is the most important eyewitness account of the Mayas' ancient ways, and how the Spanish Conquest was conducted.

Remarking on some of the violence the Spaniards committed on the Maya, de Landa writes: "... I saw a great tree near the village upon the branches of which a captain had hung many women, with their infant children hung from their feet." He goes on describing other violence equally abhorrent. The event de Landa describes took place in the ancient Maya chiefdom of Cupul, which incorporated the Chichén Itzá area.

This week it's been surprisingly cool and sunny here. Monday morning at dawn it was actually 38° F (3.3°C), though by the afternoon it was warm and the sky was filled with dazzling sunlight. How pleasant it was to sit warming in the sun as a dry breeze blew. But, that's when I thought about those women and their children hanging in the tree, not far from here.

In the 1530s during the first clashes between Spanish soldiers and the Maya, the Spaniards habitually won because they had access to superior warring technology and resources. The Maya didn't know how to make metal swords and guns, and here in limestone-bedrock Yucatán they didn't have mineral-bearing rock needed for smelting metal. Nor did they have horses. This disparity in resources and technical information resulted in centuries of atrocities.

Warming in the sunshine reflecting on these and other great currents of history, not far from where the tree once stood de Landa talked about, this insight arises:

Social violence, treacheries, and atrocities are nearly always rooted in disparities of resources and/or information. The geography of the world with its uneven distribution of resources ensures that always some communities will possess more resources than others. Human nature being what it is, there'll always be conflict between haves and have-nots.

However, information can be freely shared. By sharing information we can reduce the likelihood of more of de Landa's trees.

Blessed be the sharers of information among us, and may knowledge always be free for the taking. Facebook Icon.