The Chinamita or Tulumkis (Nahuatl chinamitl, Mopan tulumki) were a Mopan Maya people who occupied a territory in the eastern Petén Basin and western Belize between the Itza of Nojpetén, within the borders of modern Guatemala, and their allies at Tipuj, now in Belize.[1] In the early 17th century, the Chinamita probably occupied a territory along the Mopan River south of the Yaxhá and Sacnab lakes in Petén, and in neighbouring portions of Belize.[2][nb 1] In 1698, after the fall of Nojpetén to the Spanish, the Itza told the Spanish that the Chinamita had territory nine days to the east of the Itza capital.[5]


The term Chinamita is derived from the Nahuatl chinamitl, meaning "cane hedge". This was equivalent to the Mopan term tulum ki, meaning "wall of agave", which was the name of the Chinamita capital.[6] Spanish chronicler Juan de Villagutierre Soto-Mayor described the Chinamita and Tulunquies as two distinct peoples; however, chinamitl is merely the Nahuatl translation of the Maya tulumki.[7]


The Chinamitas' principal settlement was a town called Tulumki,[6] and the Chinamita people were also referred to as Tulumkis or Tulunquies.[8] Tulumki was said to have a population of 8,000 in the early 17th century;[nb 2] the population was said to include both male and female Spaniards who had been captured by the Chinamitas. The town was described as being defended by a moat and a maguey hedge, and was accessed via a narrow entranceway.[7]

Relations with the ItzaEdit

The Chinamita were hostile towards their Itza neighbours and their allies.[9] In 1618, Itza warriors informed the Franciscan missionaries Bartolomé de Fuensalida and Juan de Orbita that they always travelled armed when visiting their allies in Tipuj, for fear of encountering their fierce Chinamita enemies.[6] According to Fuensalida, the Chinamita had a reputation for being cannibals.[7] When Franciscan friar Andrés de Avendaño y Loyola visited the Itza in 1696,[10] he understood the Tuluncies formed a part of the Itza kingdom.[11]


  1. ^ Eric Thompson was of the opinion that the Chinamita territory lay in hill country to the southwest of Lake Petén Itzá, rather than to the east as specified in colonial records.[3] More recent scholarship prefers the eastern location as the Chinamita homeland.[4]
  2. ^ The Maya counted using a vigesimal system; the cited population of 8,000 is equal to 20x20x20. It is probable that the 8,000 quoted merely signifies "a great many".[7]


  1. ^ Jones 1998, p. 20; Simmons 1995, p. 144.
  2. ^ Jones 1998, p. 22.
  3. ^ Thompson 1977, loc. 509.
  4. ^ Jones 1998, p. 432n43.
  5. ^ Jones 1998, pp. xix, 20.
  6. ^ a b c Jones 1998, p. 20.
  7. ^ a b c d Thompson 1977, loc. 500.
  8. ^ Jones 1998, pp. 20, 433n48.
  9. ^ Simmons 1995, p. 144.
  10. ^ Rice 2009, p. 24; Jones 1998, p. 62.
  11. ^ Thompson 1977, loc. 517.


  • Jones, Grant D. (1998). The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom. Stanford, California, US: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3522-3.
  • Rice, Prudence M. (2009). "The Kowoj in Geopolitical-Ritual Perspective". In Prudence M. Rice; Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 21–54. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268.
  • Simmons, Scott E. (1995). "Maya Resistance, Maya Resolve: The tools of autonomy from Tipu, Belize". Ancient Mesoamerica. New York, US: Cambridge University Press. 6 (2): 135–146. doi:10.1017/s0956536100002145. ISSN 0956-5361. OCLC 88427811. Retrieved 2014-07-09.
  • Thompson, Sir Eric (1977). "A Proposal for Constituting a Maya Subgroup, Cultural and Linguistic, in the Petén and Adjacent Regions". In Grant D. Jones (ed.). Anthropology and History in Yucatán. The Texas Pan American Series. Austin, Texas, US: University of Texas Press. doi:10.7560/703148. ISBN 978-0-292-76678-5. OCLC 2202479.