1543–1544 Pachecos entrada

The 1543‍–‍1544 Pachecos entrada was the final military campaign in the Spanish conquest of Yucatan, which brought three Postclassic Maya states and several Amerindian settlements in the southeastern quarter of the Yucatan peninsula under the jurisdiction of Salamanca de Bacalar, a villa of colonial Yucatan, in New Spain. It is commonly deemed one of (if not the) bloodiest and cruelest entradas in the peninsula's conquest, resulting in the deaths of hundreds or thousands, and the displacement of tens of thousands, of Maya residents.[note 1][note 2]

1543‍–‍1544 Pachecos entrada
Part of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan
La conquista 2 detail.png
Conquest (mural 1971‍–‍1979 by F. Castro Pacheco / photo 2004 by Cuilomerto)
Date1 April 1543 – 14 March 1544 (1543-04-01 – 1544-03-14)
Chetumal, Dzuluinicob, Uaymil provinces, Manche Ch'ol and Mopan territory (present-day Belize, Izabal, Quintana Roo)
17°43′07″N 88°32′04″W / 17.718513981249362°N 88.53437744564955°W / 17.718513981249362; -88.53437744564955
Result Spanish victory
Spanish Yucatan
Commanders and leaders
  • Gaspar Pacheco
  • Melchor Pacheco
  • Alonso Pacheco
  • Rodrigo Álvarez
  • Juan Gómez de la Camasa
  • archers unknown
  • infantrymen unknown
25 to 30 infantrymen
Casualties and losses
  • 10s – 100s killed
  • 10s – 1000s starved to death
  • missing unknown
  • wounded unknown
  • ill unknown
  • 10000s displaced
  • 10s – 100s settlements damaged
  • < 10 killed
  • 0 starved to death
  • 0 missing
  • wounded unknown
  • 1 ill
  • 0 displaced
  • 0 settlements damaged
halach winik = commander-in-chief; nakomo'ob = commanding officers or commanding generals; the halach winik of Chetumal was also the commander-in-chief of Uaymil


The settlers of colonial Cuba were the first Spaniards to turn their attention to the conquest of Maya states in the Yucatan peninsula. They were enticed to conquer these after the 1517 Hernández de Córdoba expedition brought news of splendid (and presumably gold-rich) pre-Columbian cities. The Cubans were soon engrossed in the conquest of the Aztec Empire, however, leaving the peninsula's subjugation for later.[2]

Conquest began in earnest upon Francisco de Montejo's naming as adelantado on 8 November 1526. Montejo's first entrada of 1527‍–‍1528 focussed on the eastern provinces, including Uaymil and Chetumal. This campaign did not result in Spanish victory, though, requiring a further 1531‍–‍1533 entrada, which was similarly unsuccessful.[3][4][5][6]

By early 1544, the western, northern, and northeastern Maya provinces had been defeated, and replaced with the municipios or districts of Campeche, Merida, and Valladolid. This left only the southeastern provinces (Uaymil, Chetumal, and Dzuluinicob) up for conquest.[7][8]


Northern prongEdit

Valboa throws some Indians, who had committed the terrible sin of sodomy, to the dogs to be torn apart (1594 by T. de Bry via Univ. Houston)

In April 1543, the second adelantado of Yucatan commissioned Gaspar Pacheco his lieutenant governor, captain general, and justicia mayor for the conquest of Chetumal, Uaymil, and Amerindian settlements on the Golfo Dulce. Pacheco recruited 25 to 30 vecinos of Merida for the campaign, naming his son, Melchor, second-in-command, and his nephew, Alonso, third-in-command.[9][10][11][12][note 3]

The party set out of Merida in late 1543 or early 1544. In (recently-conquered) Cochuah, Pacheco compelled war-stricken residents to supply his men with burden-bearers, servants, and provisions, thereby reducing that province to famine. Upon entering Uaymil, Pacheco 'began one of the bloodiest campaigns, and certainly the cruelest, of the entire conquest [of Yucatan].' Here, the lieutenant governor was stricken ill, forcing his retreat to Merida, and transfer of the entrada's command to his son, Melchor.[13][10][note 4][note 5][note 6]

The entrada was not well-received at Uaymil nor Chetumal. Residents, determined on guerilla warfare, had destroyed their farmland, blocked the thoroughfares, and deserted their settlements.[13] The scarcity of food was a strain on both sides, however, as both Spaniards and Mayas were forced to forage for sustenance, quickly leading to a war of attrition.[14] Facing famine, the Pachecos 'deliberately resorted to wanton acts of cruelty of a kind of which the Montejos and their other principal captains were seldom, if ever guilty.'[15] These acts included–

  • killing 'many' or 'numbers' of men and women with the garrote,[15][16]
  • drowning them in lakes,[15]
  • sicking dogs of war on non-combatants until they were dead and their corpses mutilated,[15][17][16]
  • severing the hands, ears, and noses of 'many' residents or combatants,[15][18][17][16]
  • severing the breasts of women, tying gourds to their feet, and drowning them in lagoons,[17][16]
  • tying prisoners to stakes, then (non-fatally) whipping them and (non-fatally) shooting arrows at them, until they died of 'natural' causes.[18]

These tactics, or attrition itself, 'finally brought the Maya of Uaymil-Chetumal to their knees and the Spaniards to mastery of the province' in 1544. At this point, Melchor Pacheco founded Salamanca de Bacalar, appointing its cabildo, designating its twenty vecinos, and allotting settlements of the conquered provinces in encomienda.[15][19][20][note 7][note 8]

Southern prongEdit

In 1544, the Pachecos pushed southwards through Dzuluinicob and Manche Ch'ol and Mopan territory towards the Golfo Dulce.[15][21][note 9][note 10]


Population collapseEdit

It is generally agreed that the Pachecos' victory soon proved pyrrhic. Uaymil and Chetumal, in particular, were said to be heavily populated, wealthy provinces prior to conquest. The district Salamanca de Bacalar inherited, however, was sparsely settled and poor, and remained so throughout.[22][23][24][25][19][16][26][note 11][note 12]

Estimated population of the district and villa.[27]
Year Population
1511 150,000
1549 12,500
1580 1,000
1609 750
1639 700
1700 700

Dominican oppositionEdit

Shortly after 1544, Dominican friars (including Bartolome de las Casas), who claimed jurisdiction to the Golfo Dulce (as did the adelantado), protested the Pachecos' southern entrada. Eventually, the Spanish Crown and Real Audiencia de los Confines ruled in favour of the friars, definitively barring non-Dominicans from settling in the gulf. This brought the Pachecos' efforts in the region (and the adelantados wishes to conquer it) to nought.[15][28]

Criminal prosecutionEdit

Upon learning of the Pachecos' 'wanton cruelties', Spanish laymen and Franciscan friars petitioned the Crown for their prosecution (sometime during 1545‍–‍1549).[29]

On 1 June 1549, Villalobos, promotor fiscal of the Consejo Real de Indias, criminally charged the Pachecos–

de robar y matar y maltratar a los indios e indias naturales de aquellas tierras estando en paz y sirviendo a los cristianos españoles por fuerza y contra su voluntad les dieron muchas cuchilladas y les cortaron las manos y narices a los hombres [...] y los ataron a estacas y así atados los asaetaron y flecharon hasta que murieron naturalmente y les hicieron muchas crueldades y robos no visto ni oídos.
of robbing [from] and killing and ill-treating the Indians[,] natives of those lands[, they] being at peace and serving the Christian Spaniards[.] [B]y force [of arms] and against their own wishes they stabbed many and cut off the hands and noses of [native] men [...] and they tied them to stakes and shot arrows at them until they died of natural causes[.] [A]nd they committed many cruelties and robberies not seen nor heard [heretofore].

—1 June 1549 real cédula to Audiencia de los Confines.[18][note 13]

Consequently, Villalobos awarded surviving relatives of the Pachecos' victims with 100,000 castellanos de oro in compensation, to be paid by the Pachecos.[30] In addition, the Spanish Crown confiscated Melchor's encomienda in the Bacalar district.[31][32][33][note 14]


Nero Views the Burning of Rome (c. 1861 by C. T. von Piloty via reproArte)

The Pachecos entrada is widely deemed one of (if not the) bloodiest and cruelest campaigns of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan.[13][34][35][36][37][38][39][note 15]

On 10 February 1548, Lorenzo de Bienvenida, a Franciscan friar, reported to the Spanish Crown–

Your Highness should know that the Adelantado about three years and a half ago assigned a captaincy to Gaspar Pacheco, a citizen of this municipality [of Mérida], to conquer certain provinces of the Golfo Dulce, which lie between Honduras and Guatemala and this land. Because of the poor administration of this captain, [his expedition] halted in a province which was then at peace called Cochuah, the largest of this land, and even the best, which is about thirty leagues distant [from Mérida]. There were many people [in this province] and it was divided in repartimiento among citizens of this city. [The Spaniards] consumed the stores of the natives, plundered [the province], and sought to obtain burden-bearers there. Since the male Indians fled to the bush for fear of the Spaniards, they employed the women as burden-bearers. The majority of the Indians died of hunger, and ... [this captain] was unable to pass forward because of the lack of burden-bearers. He returned and gave the captaincy to his nephew, named Alonso Pacheco. Nero was nor more cruel than this man. He passed forward and reached a province called Chetumal, which was at peace. Even though the natives did not make war, he robbed the province and consumed the foodstuffs of the natives, who fled into the bush in fear of the Spaniards, since as soon as [this captain] captured any of them, he set the dogs on them. And the Indians fled form all this and did not sow their crops, and all died of hunger. I say all, because there were pueblos of five hundred and one thousand houses, and now one which has one hundred is large. This province was also rich in cacao. This captain, with his own hands committed outrages: he killed many with the garrote, saying, "This is a good rod with which to punish these people," and, after he had killed them, he said, "Oh how well I finished them off." Tying them to stakes, he cut the breasts off many women and threw them in the lakes to drown merely to amuse himself. He committed other great cruelties which I shall not mention for lack of space. He destroyed the entire province. [Then the Spaniards] founded a town of eight citizens, which is called Salamanca, a haltin town which has neither a cleric nor a church, nor do the Spaniards there confess, since the town is sixty leagues from this city [of Mérida]. If [the province of Chetumal] had not been destroyed it would have supported [a town of] thirty men. And for his cruelties they returned this captain to the province which he destroyed and gave him its best Indians, and in doing this they did not give him something which was of small value. Such is the justice rendered in this land.

— Bienvenida, trans. Chamberlain.[40][note 16]


  1. ^ The Yucatecan Mayan orthography in this article follows that of Barrera Vásquez et al. 1980, pp. 41a–44a. At least two other orthographic systems exist (Lehmann 2018, sec. 2.1, 3), neither of which is used in this article. (Though Mayan toponyms with established English variants, eg Uaymil, which is properly Waymil (Barrera Vásquez et al. 1980, pp. 917, pt. 1), are left unchanged.)
  2. ^ Alternatively, the following have been proposed as the final campaign in the conquest of Yucatan–
  3. ^ López de Cogolludo 1688, p. 164 dates Pacheco's commissioning prior to 3 January 1543, and sets his recruitment of infantrymen in Veracruz. Graham 2011, pp. 112, 133 dates Pacheco's commissioning during the spring [March – June] of 1543.
  4. ^ Melchor's second-in-command was, naturally, Gaspar Pacheco's nephew and former third-in-command, Alonso (Chamberlain 1948, p. 233).
  5. ^ López de Cogolludo 1688, p. 164 dates the Pachecos entrada start and end in 1544.
  6. ^ It has been suggested that
    • Montejo the Younger and Montejo the Nephew would have put a stop to the entrada's excesses, but had no authority to do so (Chamberlain 1939b, pp. 353–354),
    • the adelantado would have put a stop to the excesses, but was unaware of these at the time, being too far removed from the peninsula while in Honduras-Higueras (Chamberlain 1939b, pp. 353–354),
    • friars would have put a stop to the excesses, but were not recruited or did not join the entrada (Chamberlain 1948, pp. 234–235).
    It has been further noted that Rodrigo Alvarez, an entrada recruit and former secretary to Montejo the Younger, 'sought to persuade the Indians of Uaymil-Chetumal to accept Spanish dominion peacefully, but without the slightest success [...] his efforts to obtain supplies without the use of force [in Cochuah, likewise had] failed completely' (Chamberlain 1948, p. 233).
  7. ^ The villa measured some 47 acres, with one section for the 20 vecinos and another for some 150 Maya residents (forcibly resettled in the villa). A plaza and church were built in 1546 (Vazquez Barke 2012, p. 31), with the parish (christened Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción) overseen by the villa's first resident priest, a secular friar (Graham 2011, p. 142, Jones 1989, p. 85).
  8. ^ López de Cogolludo 1688, p. 165 suggests that (none, or only some of) the conquistadores settled in Salamanca, as some (or all surviving ones) returned to Merida, arriving in late 1545.

    Fundada aquella poblacion [Salamanca de Bacalar], los Conquistadores, que no quedaron por vezinos, dieron buelta à la Ciudad de Merida, y noticia à su General de lo sucedido, con que se començò à gozar de mas quietud, y esto dize el Bachiller Valencia, fue por fines del año de mil y quinientos y quarenta y cinco.

  9. ^ It is unclear whether this was before or after the founding of Salamanca (cf previous citation).
  10. ^ It is unclear whether Dzuluinicob was conquered during the southern prong of the Pachecos entrada towards the Golfo Dulce. Tipu, capital of Dzuluinicob, 'does not appear on a tribute list for 1544, but is recorded as an already established encomienda town in 1568, which indicates that it had functioned as part of an encomienda for some time [;] [t]his, plus what is now [2011] known about the extent of the Pacheco conquest, suggests strongly that Tipu was brought into the encomienda system not long after the [1543‍–‍1544] Pacheco conquest' (Graham 2011, p. 361, item no. 60, Jones 1989, pp. 17, 44, 51).
  11. ^ It has been suggested that 'large numbers' of residents resettled in the Peten Itza Kingdom 'in an attempt to place themselves beyond Spanish reach forever' (Chamberlain 1948, p. 236, Chamberlain 1939b, p. 353, (Graham 2011, p. 133)).
  12. ^ During 1544‍–‍1639, the villa's population averaged 75 (including both Spanish vecinos and Maya naborías or servants) (Morandi 2010, p. 39, Jones 1989, pp. 71–74).
  13. ^ Office of promotor fiscal created in 1546 cf Schafer Consejo Indias [Madrid, 1947] vol 1 p 84
  14. ^ Melchor's Bacalar encomienda was transferred to the Crown prior to or on 1552, but he retained encomiendas in the district of Merida (cf previous citations).
  15. ^

    The only campaign [in the Spanish conquest of Yucatan] which was accompanied by systematic ruthlessness of a wholly wanton nature was that of Gaspar Pacheco, his son Melchor and his nepher Alonso in Uaymil-Chetemal. [...] This conquest was one of extreme excesses. The natives, who resisted stubbornly, were slaughtered without mercy and the province was laid waste. Many of those of the native who succeeded in escaping fled beyond Castilian control. Relatively heavily peopled at the outset, the area became largely depopulated. [...] The reduction of Uaymil-Chetemal as contrasted with that of the remainder of the peninsula makes clear in striking fashion the manner in which differences in the characters and purposes of the conquistadores could determine the nature and methods of conquest.

    — Chamberlain 1939b, pp. 353–354
  16. ^ Originally–

    [Fray Lorenzo de Bienvenida á S. A. el Príncipe Don Felipe, dandole cuenta de varios asuntos referentes á la provincia de Yucatan.—10 de febrero de 1548] [...] Sabrá más V. A., que el adelantado dió vna capitania á Gaspar Pacheco, vezino desta çivdad, agora tres años y medio, para que fuesse á conquistar á vnas provinçias del Golfo Dulçe, entre Honduras i Guatimala y esta tierra, y por mal regimiento del capitan, se detuvo en vna provinçia de paz que llaman Cochua, la mayor desta tierra y ávn la mejor, de treinta leguas, donde avia much agente, y que estavan repartidos en esta çivdad, y comieron los mantenimientos á los naturales, y la ranchearon y dáca tamemes; y desque se huyan los indios, cargavan las mujeres, y los indios se huyan á los montes, de miedio de los españoles; y ansi murieron de hanbre los más de los yndios, y no puedo passar adelante por falta de tamemes. Y de alli se boluió, y dió la capitania á vn su sobrino que llaman Alonsso Pacheco. Nero no fué más cruel que este. Esta passó adelanta, y llegó á vna provinçia que llaman Chetemal, estando en paz; y sin dar guerra los naturales, la robó y les comió los mantenimientos á los naturales, y ellos huyendo á los montes, de miedo de los españoles, porque en tomando alguno luego lo aperreavan. Y desto huyan los indios, y no senbraron, y todos murieron de hanbre: digo todos, porque avia pueblos de á quinientas casas y de á mil, y el que agora tiene çiento, es mucho; provinçia rica de cacao. Este capital por sus propias manos, exerçitava las fuerças: con vn garrote mató muchos, y dezia: «¡o quan bien le di!» Cortó muchos pexhos á mugeres y manos á honbres, y narizes y orejas, y estacó, y á las mugeres atava calabaças á los pies, y las echava en las lagunas ahogar, por su passatienpo; y otras grandes crueldades, que por abreviar las dexo. Y destruyó toda la provinçia, y alli hizieron una villa de ocho vezinos, que llaman Salamanca, y bien manca, que ni tienen clerigo ni yglesia, ni se confiesan, porque está de esta çivdad sesenta leguas, y si no la destruyera, vuiera para dar de comer á treinta onbres. Y á este, por sus crueldades, lo boluieron á la provinçia que que destruyó, y le dieron los mejores indios della, y no le dieron un papote: estas justiçias se hazen en esta tierra.

    — (Ministerio de Fomento 1877, pp. 70, 80–81)


  1. ^ Quezada 2014, p. 36.
  2. ^ Chamberlain 1948, pp. 11–16.
  3. ^ Chamberlain 1948, pp. 19–22, 35–65, 97–124.
  4. ^ Jones 1989, pp. 30–39.
  5. ^ González Ochoa 2018, para. 7.
  6. ^ García Bernal 2018, para. 13-19.
  7. ^ Chamberlain 1948, pp. 226.
  8. ^ Quezada 2014, p. 35.
  9. ^ Chamberlain 1948, p. 232.
  10. ^ a b López de Cogolludo 1688, p. 164.
  11. ^ Chamberlain 1939a, p. 240.
  12. ^ Graham 2011, pp. 112–113, 132–133.
  13. ^ a b c Chamberlain 1948, p. 233.
  14. ^ Chamberlain 1948, pp. 233–234.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Chamberlain 1948, p. 234.
  16. ^ a b c d e Ministerio de Fomento 1877, p. 80.
  17. ^ a b c Graham 2011, p. 133.
  18. ^ a b c Vazquez Barke 2012, pp. 26–27.
  19. ^ a b López de Cogolludo 1688, pp. 164–165.
  20. ^ Vazquez Barke 2012, p. 27.
  21. ^ González Cicero 1976, pp. 21, 83.
  22. ^ Chamberlain 1948, pp. 235–236.
  23. ^ Vazquez Barke 2012, pp. 27–28.
  24. ^ Chamberlain 1939b, p. 353.
  25. ^ Landa 2011, p. 9.
  26. ^ Morandi 2010, p. 39.
  27. ^ Morandi 2010, p. 40.
  28. ^ González Cicero 1976, pp. 83–85.
  29. ^ Chamberlain 1948, p. 236.
  30. ^ Biblio Ortiz 2018, p. 190.
  31. ^ Graham 2011, p. 362, item no. 76.
  32. ^ Jones 1989, p. 45.
  33. ^ Quezada 2014, pp. 43–44, 132, 134.
  34. ^ González Cicero 1976, p. 21.
  35. ^ Chamberlain 1939b, pp. 353–354.
  36. ^ Graham 2011, pp. 132–133.
  37. ^ Ministerio de Fomento 1877, pp. 80–81.
  38. ^ Morandi 2010, pp. 38–39.
  39. ^ Quezada 2014, pp. 35–36.
  40. ^ Chamberlain 1948, p. 235.


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