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Diego de Landa (1524-1579), Bishop and Inquisitor of Early Colonial Yucatan

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De Landa’s Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán
Page of De Landa's alphabet from La Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán

Page of De Landa's alphabet from La Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán

CJLL Wright

In his most text explaining his behavior to the Maya, Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán, De Landa accurately describes Maya social organization, economy, politics, calendars, and religion. He gave special attention to the similarities between the Maya religion and Christianity, such as the belief in afterlife, and the similarity between the cross-shaped Maya World Tree, which linked heaven, earth and the underworld and the Christian cross.

Particularly interesting to scholars are the detailed descriptions of the Postclassic cities of Chichén Itzá and Mayapan. De Landa describes pilgrimages to the sacred cenote of Chichén Itzá, where precious offerings, including human sacrifices, were still made in the 16th century. This book represent an invaluable first-hand source in Maya life on the eve of the conquest.

De Landa’s manuscript went missing for almost three centuries until 1863, whne a copy was found by the Abbé Etienne Charles Brasseur de Boubourg at the Library of the Royal Academy for History in Madrid. Boubourg published it then.

Recently, scholars have proposed that the Relación as it was published in 1863 may actually be a combination of works by several different authors, rather than De Landa's sole handiwork.

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