Friday, February 26, 2016

Pero No Ganaron la Guerra

Text and photos by Elizabeth Barnes (unless otherwise noted)

The Guatemalan national holiday February 20 honors Tecún Umán, a K'iche' Maya king and warrior who died fighting the Spanish during their invasion of Guatemala in 1524. The battle took place near Xela, and every year we celebrate Tecún Umán at the Family Support Center.

One of many statues commemorating Guatemala's official national hero stands in Rotonda Tecún Umán, a roundabout in zona 7 in Quetzaltenango. Xela tourists might be more familiar with the bar Tecun in Paisaje Enriquez off Parque Central. (Photo by Harry D.)
As she did in 2014, superstar volunteer (and up-and-coming playwright) Dawn wrote a script and designed cardboard costume and prop pieces for the kids to act out the Battle of El Pinal. Actors from Gustavo's class of fifth and sixth graders narrated the drama (with a little help from Amy) and played the central figures in the story.

As Tecún Umán (Julio) looks on, Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado (Norma) introduces himself: "¡Me llamo Pedro de Alvarado y yo quiero esta tierra! ¡Declaro que esta tierra pertenece al Reino de España! ¡Ya no es suyo! Majajajajaja!" (The evil laugh was key to Norma's audition for the role.)
Pop Wuj teacher Mynor lights a stick of incense for our story's priest (Guayo). Before the battle, the priest blessed Tecún Umán and helped paint his face black, red, and yellow. (We opted to compromise historical accuracy and keep Tecún's shirt on for this adaptation.)
The battle pits Pedro de Alvarado's Spanish steel against Tecún Umán's macuahuitlTecún Umán falls, and his Maya K'iche' fighters lose this battle against the Spanish.
Tecún Umán's fight to defend his land and people has inspired countless stories and works of art, including the story of the of the origin of the quetzal. Legend says that the bird didn't always have its signature red breast. Only after it swooped down to Tecún Umán at the Battle of El Pinal were its feathers dyed with his blood.

Dawn's special effects (a piece of green construction paper) wrought the same transformation on Tecún Umán's shield.

One of our narrators, Damaris, delivered one of the closing lines of the play: "Los españoles mataron a Tecún Umán pero no ganaron la guerra... Todavía el pueblo Maya K'iche' vive. ¡Somos nosotros!" 

The Spanish killed Tecún Umán, but they didn't win the war. The Maya K'iche' people still live on. They're us!

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