Legend of Tecun Uman

Tecun UmanTecun Uman was Quiché king who fought with his army against the Spanish conquerors in the battle of Pinal, in which he was fatally wounded by the sword of Don Pedro de Alvarado that pierced his chest. According to the legend, the quetzal bird flew out there, fell on the lifeless body of the Indian chief, his chest covered with blood, and ever since the national bird preserves the red color on its chest.


Tecun Uman is still considered a legendary national hero of Guatemala, and in his honor, several monuments have been erected.

After the conquistadors easily subjugated some parts of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and have mastered the manors of Soconusco, Spanish then passed to the lands of the present Republic of Guatemala inhabited mostly by the domains of Toltec origin: the Quiche, Cakchiquel, Tzutuhiles, etc. As countries were organized and had an advanced culture, they put up a fierce resistance to the invader.

Quej Oxib ruled the Quiche and his men sought to establish an alliance with the other domains, but the hatred caused by the ongoing wars between them prevented a defensive alliance against Hispanics. This rebellion against the conqueror was a clear manifestation of the notion that they had the manors of their right to own land which they inhabited and defended with all of their warriors.

Seven large cruelly bloody battles were necessary to master the lordship of the Quiché, who launched their forces to the conquerors, many of them being captained by the brave prince and lord Tecun Uman.

The first bloody battle on the territory of Guatemala was at the river Tilapa, then on the border between Suchitepéquez (Xuchiltepéquez) and Soconusco. From there they went to fight in Zapotitlan, in the same department Suchitepéquez. Though the battles were bloody, the Indians were not used to fight cavalry, which caused great damage. Same did the artillery, which most of the people were terrified of. The third major battle was on the slopes that rise to Quetzaltenango (now called Santa Maria Jesus), in which, despite the disadvantage of ground forces, Alvarado won.


Monument of Tecun Uman in Santa Cruz del Quiche

The Indians did not surrender to the Spanish and although defeated on the hill, they prepared a new attack at the cliffs of Olintepeque, where a military powerhouse of six thousand Indians of the manor was preparing Quiche Utatlán battle. Azumanché was one of the heroes and the captain of the forces in that battle. The battle was so bloody that it painted with blood river Olintepeque, which they named Xequijel and means “river of blood.”

The populous Xelajú was then ruled by ten princes, each administered over 8,000 Indians. The conduct of the war came into the hands of Tecun Uman, Prince of Quiché, and he prepared his forces for the last clash on the plains of Quetzaltenango. For more than two hours, the luck seemed undecided. Then Pedro de Alvarado decided that the cavalry, commanded by Don Pedro de Portocarrero and Juan Chavez, take a wing attack. Tecun Uman, trying to split the infantry to surround Alvarado’s cavalry, personally attacked the party initiating the rolling motion in that fight.

There they were face to face; great Quiche warrior Tecun Uman and so far undefeated captain, Pedro de Alvarado. Legend says that Tecún flew by Quetzal magic that protected him. Tecun Uman attacked three times and almost managed to subdue captain Don Pedro, killing his horse. Then Don Pedro returned on another horse and got his spear through the chest of Tecun Uman, falling instantly to the ground. When his forces learned about his death, they had retreated to the mountains. When the Spanish victors returned to Quetzaltenango, they found only a deserted city, without food or utensils.

Since that day, Quetzal has the red chest.



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