1. The Chronicles of the Indians 

When the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards was completed, Hernán Cortés, who had heard of the existence of rich lands inhabited by a number of tribes in Guatemala, decided to send Pedro de Alvarado, the most fearless of his captains, to subdue them.

In the sixteenth century, the territory immediately to the south of Mexico, which is now the Republic of Guatemala, was inhabited by various independent nations which were descended from the ancient Maya, founders of the remarkable civilization whose remains are to be found throughout northern Guatemala and western Honduras, in Chiapas, and in Yucatán, Mexico. Of the nations located in the interior of Guatemala, the most important and numerous, without doubt, were the kingdoms of the Quiché and of the Cakchiquel, rival nations which had often made war upon each other for territorial, political, and economic reasons, and which continually disputed with each other for supremacy. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, the Quiché nation was the most powerful and cultured of all those that occupied the region of Central America. In 1524, when Alvarado attacked the Quiché, the Indians offered vigorous resistance, but after bloody battles they were forced to surrender before the superiority of the arms and tactics of the Spaniards. As a last desperate measure, the Quiché kings decided to receive Alvarado in peace at Utatlán, their capital. But once within its walls, the astute Spanish captain suspected that they were trying to destroy him and his army in the narrow streets between the fortifications, and so he withdrew to the surrounding fields and there seized the kings, condemned them to death as traitors, and executed them before their terrorized subjects. Then he ordered the city razed to the ground and the inhabitants scattered in all directions.

When the conquest of the Quiché was completed, it is likely that a part of the inhabitants of Utatlán, especially members of the nobility and the priesthood, who had their houses in the capital and saw them disappear in the devouring flames, moved to Chichicastenango, the next town, which the ancient Quiché called Chuilá, or "place of nettles." Later the Spaniards named this town Santo Tomás and entrusted its pacification to missionaries of the religious orders, who converted the inhabitants to the Roman Catholic faith and introduced them to the civilization of the Old World. In this way, Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, as it is still called, became an important center of the Quiché Indians, which prospered throughout the three hundred years of Spanish rule and which today is still one of the most industrious and extensive Indian communities of Guatemala and the Mecca of foreigners, who are strongly attracted by the natural beauty of the place and the picturesque dress and customs of its people.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Father Francisco Ximénez of the Dominican Order lived within the thick walls of the convent of Chichicastenango. Father Ximénez was a wise and virtuous man, who knew the languages of the Indians and had a lively interest in converting them to the Christian faith. It is probable that in his dealings with them, and through his help and fatherly advice, he had won their confidence and had succeeded in having them tell him the stones and traditions of their race. Ximénez, as I have said, was an accomplished linguist and, therefore, had the advantage of being able to communicate with his parishioners directly in the Quiché language, concerning which he has left valuable grammatical studies. All of these favorable circumstances helped to overcome the natural distrust of the Indians, and it is probably due to this fact that, finally, the book which they so jealously guarded, and which contained the ancient histories of their nation, came into the hands of this Dominican friar.

This document, written shortly after the Spanish Conquest by a Quiché  Indian who had learned to read and write Spanish, is generally known as the Popol Vuh, Popol Buj, Book of the Council, Book of the Community, the Sacred Book, or National Book of the Quiché, and it

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