Synopses & Reviews
Only significant account done of Yucatan in post-Conquest era. Describes geography and natural history of the peninsula, gives brief history of Mayan life, discusses Spanish conquest and its effects, and provides a long summary of Maya civilization. Translator William Gates has added appendices, 4 maps, and over 120 illustrations.
These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences. We found a great number of books in these letters, and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devils we burned them all, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain.
So writes Friar Diego de Landa in his Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan of 1566, the basic book in Maya studies. Landa did all he could to wipe out Maya culture and civilization. In the famous auto-da-fe of July 1562 at Mani, as he tells us, he destroyed 5,000 "idols" and burned 27 hieroglyphic rolls. Paradoxically, Landa's book, written in self-defense against charges of despotic mismanagement, is the the only significant account of Yucatan from the early post-Conquest era. As the distinguished Maya scholar William Gates states in his introduction, "ninety-nine percent of what we today know of the Mayas, we know as the result either of what Landa has told us in the pages that follow, or have learned in the use and study of what he told." Yucatan Before and After the Conquest is the first English translation of this very important work.
Landa's book gives us a full account of Maya customs, daily activities, history, ceremonial festivals, and many social and communal functions. Included here are the geography and natural history of Yucatan, the history of the Conquest, indigenous architecture and other aspects of Maya civilization (sciences, books, religion, etc.), native historical tradition, the Inquisition instituted by the Spanish clergy, Maya clothing, food, commerce, agriculture, human sacrifices, calendrical lore, and much more."
Describes geography and natural history of the peninsula, gives brief history of Mayan life, discusses Spanish conquest, and provides a long summary of Maya civilization. 4 maps, and over 120 illustrations.