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Researchers I work with in El Salvador have told me that there is now conclusive evidence that Atlacatl did not exist and is, in fact, merely a legend. I don't know where they got this information from, but I have heard it from several scholars. Since I don't have any clear references, I hesitate to change the page, but just thought I'd throw it out there in case someone comes across anything concrete.
- I posted the answer to your question (see below) on my talk page, where you asked it, but then thought perhaps the proper place for the discussion is not there but here, so I'm copying the interchange to here where other interested people can see it and add to it. --A R King 14:53, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
Gidday Alan. I was wondering whether you had any knowledge of, or any references handy for, the conquest-era Pipil figure/ruler Atlacatl. I've rewritten that article as best I can from what was apparently a straight machine translation of the equivalent article on the spanish-language wikipedia (see here), but I have my doubts as to some of the aspects and tone of the original. As far as I know Atlacatl is more of a semi-legendary character whose reputed exploits figure in contemporary Salvadoran folklore in much the same way that Tecún Umán does in Guatamalan folklore, and whose actual existence may possibly be questioned (or at least that contemporary sources such as Alvarado's letters to Cortes do not mention him directly). In my rewriting I've tried to indicate that the details are a little more tentative than the original statements.
However, I'm not 100% confident in the couple of third-party sources I've been able to track down so far, so if and when you get the chance, would appreciate you reviewing and amending as necessary.
- Hello cjll. First of all, I am not knowledgeable about El Salvador history and have no authority as an "expert" to answer your question - sorry.
- Secondly, you are right of course about your last observation, concerning the form of the name: it is a classical Nahuatl form. The reason why this happens with many names associated with El Salvador (including some present-day place names) is that the early Spanish colonialists took Nahuatl-speaking (Aztec) interpreters along with them while expanding throughout the area, and even toyed with the idea of making Nahuatl the official language of "New Spain". In the case of most indigenous peoples they encountered along the way, Nahuatl was roughly as foreign to them as Castilian was, but this did not stop the Spanish from drawing up an offical "map" of Central America chock-full of Nahuatl names that are not the local ones at all (look at a modern map of Guatemala...). In the case of the Pipils, the interpreters did exactly the same thing except that in this case the locals spoke a language related to that of the interpreters. But the official policy seems to have been to "Aztec-ify" names, analogously to the way Catalan (etc.) names were sometimes Castilianised by Spain when the ideal of a single-official-language nation-state was the only one countenanced by Spanish political thinking (i.e. until the late twentieth century). So that is the filter through which any Pipil names from that era were processed. The same is true, for example, of the name Cuzcatlán. In my experience, few Salvadoreans are aware of this or take it into account (or care), and bandy about Nahuatl names as if they were native ones.
- Finally, since I don't have any Salvadorean history books, I have done a quick search on Google to see what I would find. Perhaps you've already done that yourself. As I don't know how much Spanish you know I thought it might be useful to translate a few sentences from some sample Spanish language pages for you. They are not scholarly sources but at least indicate a general consensus that Atlacatl is not a genuine historical figure:
-  Hoy sabemos que Atlacatl fue un mito, originado por una confusión al leer las crónicas indígenas. (TRANSLATION: We now know that Atlacatl was a myth originating from a misreading of indigenous chronicles.)
-  Y también está el caso de Atlacatl, que fue una mala traducción de un abate francés de la época. El creyó que Atlacatl era el nombre del que gobernaba acá, pero es el nombre del cargo del regente, como que hubieras leído "alcalde lanzó una flecha…". (TRANSLATION: Then there's the case of Atlacatl, representing a mistranslation by a contemporary French priest. He thought Atlacatl was the name of the local governor, but it's the title of the position of mayor, like reading: "mayor shot an arrow...".)
-  Necesito saber el origen y vida del señor de CUZCATLAN. el cacique ATLACATL. Si perteneció a los PIPILES o a la tribu de los NAHUAS. ATLACATL murió de muerte natural o bien fue muerto por los conquistadores españoles? (...) HOLA ERNESTO! MIRA YO NO SOY MUY ASIDUO POR AQUI, PERO TE PUEDO DECIR QUE UNA BIOGRAFIA DE ATLACATL NO LA ENCONTRARAS, PUES NO LA HAY. EL POR QUE? PUES NUESTRO QUERIDO ATLACATL ES UN MITO, QUE RECOJE TODA LA VALENTIA DE NUESTROS ANTEPASADOS, QUE COMO BUENOS Y AGUERRIDOS GUERREROS LE HICIERON FRENTE AL ANEMIGO CONQUISTADOR. ESPERO HABERTE AYUDADO EN ALGO. HASTA LUEGO. (...) El mito del "valiente" Atlacatl, que irresponsablemente ha sido retratado en pinturas, esculturas, murales, cantos, poemas, aún en poses lanzando una flecha en Acaxual a Pedro de Alvarado, y al cual "lo deja cojo para toda su vida", es solamente eso: un patrioterista mito. El histórico Atlacatl, según el historiador Barberena (que algunos académicos como Jorge Lardé y Larín ponen en duda su existencia y dice sólo era una denominación) dice existió, pero era un cacique dócil, afable y carácter débil, quizás con cierto vestigio de valor pues murió en la batalla de Cuzcatlán... Honestamente, y de acuerdo a imparciales historiadores salvadoreños, para mi, el famoso Atlacatl es un símbolo que no hace daño a nadie. (TRANSLATION: I need to know the origin and life of the lord of CUZCATLAN. the chief ATLACATL. Whether he belonged to the PIPILS or the the NAHUA tribe. Did ATLACATL die a natural death or was he killed by the Spanish conquerors? (...) HI ERNESTO! LOOK I'M NOT AROUND HERE A LOT, BUT I CAN TELL YOU THAT YOU WON'T FIND ANY BIOGRAPHY OF ATLACTAL BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ANY. WHY? BECAUSE OUR BELOVED ATLACATL IS A MYTH REFLECTING THE VALOUR OF OUR ANCESTORS, WHO AS GOOD WARRIORS IN WAR CONFRONTED THE CONQUERING ENEMY. I HOPE THIS HELPS. SEE YOU. (...) The myth of "brave" Atlacatl, who has been irresponsibily portrayed in paintings, sculptures, murals, songs, poems, even in poses shooting an arrow at Pedro de Alvarado at Acaxual, who "left him lame for the rest of his life", was just that: a jingoistic myth. The historical Atlacatl, according to the historian Barberena (although some academics such as Jorge Lardé y Larín question his existence and say it was only a title) says that he existed, but was a gentle, quiet, weak character, perhaps with some trace of valour since he died in the battle of Cuzcatlán... To be honest, and in line with impartial Salvadorean historians, as far as I'm concerned Atlacatl is a harmless symbol.) --A R King 08:12, 8 November 2006 (UTC)
- Horacio Carochi gives two possible meanings for the spelling "atlacatl": átlācatl (with a glottal stop after the a) means a "beast or a monster or a bad person", ātlācatl (with a long a) means "sailor". Due to the lack of indication of glottal stop and vowel length in most orthographies we cannot know whether his name meant one or the other.
- Also it is not impossible that Pipil Lords had names in Classical náhuatl. In the Postclassic Classical Náhuatl did become a Lingua Franca particularly among the ruling classes - It is fr example documented (By Robert Carmack in "the Quichés of Utatalán") that Quiché Mayan Lords spoke N+ahuatl. it is not at all impossible that Pipil lords might have spoken Classical nahuatl (and maybe also Nawat, or maybe only the lower classes spoke nawat at that point).Maunus 08:57, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Interesting theory! It would seem to hinge on whether there is any documentary evidence either for or against it (I don't know), and on whether the hypothesis is compatible with other (known) historical facts, such as: Did Pipil lords survive Spanish conquest long enough to undergo the language shift process you suggest? Not being a historian, I must bow out of the discussion at this point, I think. --A R King 12:41, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Right-wing paramilitary organization?
I heard that Atlacatl is also the name of a special squad within the right-wing forces in the civil war of El Salvador, bent on hunting down left-wing rebels? Swedish news, mentioning a mother finding her daughter, which was kidnapped by an Atlacatl soldier 24 years ago. Jobjörn (Talk ° contribs) 13:58, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
- It's quite possible, I believe a number of military/paramilitary orgs in central america have names which are taken from "culture hero", semi-mythical figures of the past (eg see the Kaibiles, whose name is inspired by Kayb'il B'alam). I suppose if you've the sources for it it could be mentioned here, or if notable enough established as its own article (on the paramilitary unit).--cjllw | TALK 01:53, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
- Upon looking through the related History of El Salvador article, I found out that there isn't much information on the civil war in question at all on Wikipedia - it is barely mentioned! As thus, I do believe there should be an article on that before an article on the various paramilitary participants are created. Also, I don't have much information - the news made me curious, and Wikipedia denied me the knowledge I sought, for once. Jobjörn (Talk ° contribs) 03:04, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Atlacatl Right-Wing paramilitary Organization
Yes, You are indeed correct, there was a batallion in El Salvador during the civil war that was named "Atlacatl" it was a special forces group that was highly trained in anti-insurgency tactics, it came onto the world stage after having committed the "El Mozote Massacre" in the 1980's. Personally I wish they would have never given them that name,but I don't want to go off on a tangent.
Here is a news article from BBC that mentions the Atlacatl batallion: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4352741.stm