Título de Totonicapán

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The Título de Totonicapán (Spanish for "Title of Totonicapán"), sometimes referred to as the Título de los Señores de Totonicapán ("Title of the Lords of Totonicapán") is the name given to a K'iche' language document written around 1554 in Guatemala.[1] The Título de Totonicapán is one of the two most important surviving colonial period K'iche' language documents, together with the Popol Vuh.[2] The document contains history and legend of the K'iche' people from their mythical origins down to the reign of their most powerful king, K'iq'ab.[1]

History of the document[edit]

In 1834 the K'iche' inhabitants of Totonicapán asked the departmental governor to persuade Dionisio José Chonay, the curate of Sacapulas, to translate the document into Spanish. The Spanish translation was archived in Totonicapán where it was found by French historian Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg in 1860.[1] Brasseur de Bourbourg made a copy of the document and took it with him back to France, where it was passed on to Alphonse Pinart after the former's death. From Pinart this copy passed into the ownership of Hyacinthe de Charencey who produced a French translation and published both the French and Spanish texts under the title Título de los Señores de Totonicapán: Titre généalogique des seigneurs de Totonicapan.[3] The whereabouts of the original K'iche' document was unknown for many years until it was shown to American anthropologist Robert Carmack by the K'iche' mayor of Totonicapán in 1973.[4]


Like the Popol Vuh, the Título de Totonicapán describes how the ancestors of the K'iche' travelled from a mythical location referred to as Seven Caves, Seven Canyons to another place called Tulan Suywa in order to receive their gods. From Tulan Suywa the ancestors travelled west across the sea to the highlands of Guatemala. The next generation of K'iche' lords returned east in order to receive permission to rule from Nacxit, a Feathered Serpent God-King.[2] The Título also describes how the K'iche' established a defensive border against the Aztec Triple Alliance, which had expanded to include Soconusco within the Aztec empire.[5]

In the Popol Vuh, the ancestors of the K'iche' were created in Paxil Cayala (at the place of sunrise) and moved to Tulan Suywa, Seven Caves, Seven Canyons. Later in the Popol Vuh the two locations are merged into one. In the Título de Totonicapán, the latter version is used, with Paxil Cayala and Tulan Suywa merged into the mythical place of origin. This place is described as the Earthly Paradise, called Wuqub' Pek Wuqub' Siwan, Siwan Tulan (Seven Caves, Seven Canyons, Canyon Palace).[6] The Título describes how the first ancestors of the "seven nations" were powerful nawals (sorcerers) who travelled across the water from Tulan Siwan.[7] The mention of paradise, a mention of "true Sinai" in the text and the placement of Tulan in the east on the other side of the sea all show the influence of Christian beliefs upon the text.[8] Tulan is identified in the text as a place of darkness.[9]

In the Título de Totonicapán (and also the Popol Vuh) when the first ancestors arrived "from across the sea" they did not eat but rather sustained themselves by inhaling the smell of the tips of their staffs.[10] Nacxit was one of the titles used for Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, a mythical lord. In the Título, two sons of Balam Quitze were sent to Nacxit to ask for peace; Co Caib went to the place of sunrise and C'o Cavib to the place of sunset; the document specifically equates the latter with Mexico.[11] The fact that in the text C'o Cavib went west to Mexico has been interpreted as an attempt by the K'iche' to connect themselves with the politically and culturally powerful Aztec lords of Tenochtitlan. Nacxit gave them the Pisom Q'aq'al, the bundle of glory equated with fire and the sun.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Recinos 1998, p. 167.
  2. ^ a b Matthew 2012, p. 28.
  3. ^ Recinos 1998, p. 167. Morselli Barbieri 2004, p. 70.
  4. ^ Recinos 1998, p. 168. Morselli Barbieri 2004, p. 71.
  5. ^ Matthew 2012, p. 38.
  6. ^ Sachse 2008, pp. 124, 130. Christenson pp. 89, 111, 141.
  7. ^ Sachse 2008, pp. 124, 144-145.
  8. ^ Sachse 2008, p. 126.
  9. ^ Sachse 2008, p. 149.
  10. ^ Sachse 2008, p. 143.
  11. ^ Sachse 2008, p. 127.
  12. ^ Sachse 2008, p. 153.


Christenson, Allen J. "K'iche' - English Dictionary and Guide to Pronunciation of the K'iche'-Maya Alphabet" (PDF). Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI). Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
Matthew, Laura E. (2012). Memories of Conquest: Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (hardback). First Peoples. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3537-1. OCLC 752286995. 
Morselli Barbieri, Simonetta (2004). "El Título de Totonicapán: Consideraciones y comentarios" (PDF). Estudios Mesoamericanos (in Spanish) (Mexico City, Mexico: UNAM, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Seminario de Estudios Mesoamericanos) (6): 70–85. OCLC 232576963. Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
Recinos, Adrián (1998). Memorial de Solalá, Anales de los Kaqchikeles; Título de los Señores de Totonicapán (in Spanish). Guatemala City, Guatemala: Piedra Santa. ISBN 84-8377-006-7. OCLC 25476196. 
Sachse, Frauke (2008). "Over Distant Waters: Places of Origin and Creation in Colonial K'iche'an Sources". In John Edward Staller. Pre-Columbian Landscapes of Creation and Origin. New York, USA: Spinger. pp. 123–160. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-76910-3_5. ISBN 978-0-387-76909-7. OCLC 261324874.  (subscription required)

Further reading[edit]

Carmack, Robert Marquess; James Lorin Mondloch (1983). El Título de Totonicapán: texto, traducción y comentario. Fuentes para el Estudio de la Cultura Maya (in Spanish) 3. UNAM. ISBN 978-968-837-376-7. OCLC 433590549. Retrieved 11 April 2013.