Atlacatl

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For the Salvadoran military unit, see Atlacatl Battalion.

Atlacatl (died 1528) is reputed to have been the name of the last ruler of a polity which was based around the center of Cuzcatlán, in the southwestern periphery of Mesoamerica (present-day El Salvador), at the time of the Spanish conquest.

Cuzcatlán was at that time one of the leading political centers in a loose 'confederation' of Mesoamerican peoples known as the Pipils, whose ultimately unsuccessful resistance against the Spanish conquistadores under Pedro de Alvarado and others is remembered in Salvadoran tradition. The figure of Atlacatl himself has taken on a somewhat legendary aspect in Salvadoran folklore, symbolising the Pipils' brave and stout resistance against the invading Spanish forces. However, the historical reality of Atlacatl's resistance (and even existence) is open to question, with contemporary sources providing a different account, and the details of Atlacatl's heroic exploits appearing as later embellishments after the fact.

According to one account, when Pedro de Alvarado and his forces arrived at Atehuan (Ateos) he received a message sent to him by Atlacatl in which Atlacatl acquiesced to Alvarado's demand for Cuzcatlán's surrender. However, when Alvarado approached the town he found it abandoned, the Pipils all having fled to the mountainous region nearby. Alvarado sent a new demand to Atlacatl for their surrender, but instead received the answer: "if you want our arms you must come to get them from the mountains". Alvarado's forces launched a furious attack on the Pipil mountain stronghold in which many horses, Spaniards and their native auxiliaries were killed; Alvarado was forced to retreat from Cuzcatlán on 4 July 1524.

Two years after this battle, Alvarado's kinsman Gonzalo de Alvarado had founded a Spanish base at San Salvador (August 1526), from where the Spanish forces continued to raze the surrounding districts and combat the remaining Pipil resistance. Finally, in 1528, Diego de Alvarado and his Indian auxiliaries set out on another attack on Cuzcatlán, during the defense of which Atlacatl and his forces were defeated, Atlacatl jumped into the volcano to remain an unconquered legend.

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References[edit]

Fowler, William R., Jr. (Winter 1985). "Ethnohistoric Sources on the Pipil-Nicarao of Central America: A Critical Analysis". Ethnohistory (Columbus, OH: American Society for Ethnohistory) 32 (1): pp.37–62. doi:10.2307/482092. ISSN 0014-1801. JSTOR 482092. OCLC 42388116. 
Fowler, William R., Jr. (1991). "The Formation of Complex Society Among the Nahua Groups of Southeastern Mesoamerica: A Comparison of Two Approaches". In William R. Fowler, Jr. (ed.). "The Formation of Complex Society in Southeastern Mesoamerica". Revised papers from the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, Nov. 1987, and additional material. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. pp.193–214. ISBN 0-8493-8831-7. OCLC 23215549.