In the history of the Spanish colonization of Mayan lands, the Auto of faith in Maní it has happened as the most terrible episode of violence and destruction of Mayan idolatries. It was carried out by the Franciscan Fray Diego de Landa in 1562, one of the most controversial characters of the conquest.

Maní is located in the area of ​​the Yucatan Peninsula where the colonizer settled more firmly. From Mérida the conqueror was settling in the Peninsula, being the same capital, together with Izamal, Valladolid, Ticul and other populations were the strongest nuclei.

Of the three religious orders that arrived in the Peninsula, the Franciscans were the first to arrive in 1544, being the most active in the evangelization of the Mayans. Fray Diego de Landa was part of this order. 

Their churches were open centers of culture and evangelization where the Maya went, and there they were educated (or indoctrinated the population). Many Mayans preferred to be in the missions than working for the encomenderos and authorities, who abused them in jobs.

The Church played a double-edged sword during chapters of the conquest, defending the souls of the Maya against the Spanish, keeping secret political contests and mutual accusations, intervening in Crown affairs.

As always, the great powers move for their own interests, which often go hand in hand. Today the Church is still very powerful in state affairs in Spain.

In what situation were the Maya at the arrival of the conqueror?

Encomendero abusing a man. Kingsborough.

Peanut Convent

Construction began on the San Miguel Arcángel de Maní convent in 1548, and it was founded on September 29, 1549, the year Fray Diego de Landa landed in Yucatán. The entire construction of the convent, the church, the atrium, school, hospital. They built it in 7 years.

It was one of the first churches founded on the Peninsula, one of the most important Franciscans. Maní is undoubtedly one of your stops on the Route of the Convents.

auto de fe in mani yucatan

Fray Diego de Landa

Upon arrival, Fray Diego de Landa went to Izamal, where the mission of San Antonio is. That same year he was appointed assistant to the guardian of Izamal, beginning a prodigious career. From 1549 to 1552 he traveled around the Peninsula seeking to bring the missions closer to the Mayans who lived in the jungle.

brother diego de landa
Fray Diego de Landa

It is at this time that he learns the Yucatecan Mayan language and makes contact with the Mayan writing. Later Landa made an attempt to transcribe it into the Spanish alphabet. These notes, without being precise in the knowledge of the Mayan script, served as red herrings in the decipherment of the Mayan epigraphy. This fact gives fame to Fray Diego de Landa in the gear of decoding the complex Mayan script.

There is debate as to why Diego de Landa made the effort to learn their language, and it may also have been purely an intellectual interest. Some say that his vocation was to approach the Maya with love and understand them in their devout purpose of saving their souls, while others attribute it to common practices in times of war to better understand the enemy and defeat him with knowledge.

The debate arises according to who tells the story. Fray Diego's love is a love flooded with fanaticism, and that is not loving well in my understanding.

relationship of things yucatan
Manuscript «Relation of the Things of Yucatan». Interpretation of Landa from the Mayan script

In 1552 he became a guardian and was entrusted with the construction of the convent of Izamal. After consecutive promotions, Diego de Landa was named Provincial of Yucatán in 1561, the highest authority in the region at that time, which supplied as far as Guatemala.

During his tenure, along with other friars, he persecuted the acts of heresy of the Mayans several times. More than 6.330 Mayan victims are attributed to him, including executions, torture, martyrdom at bonfires, mutilations and various sequelae.

One of his reprehensible punishments was towards 1558, when he made a hard expedition through the area of Valladolid seeking punishment for the pagan rituals that did not stop. Many sacred objects were thrown into the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza, where the Maya continued to perform ceremonies.


Despite countless attempts to abolish the old beliefs, the Maya attended Catholic missions but continued with their ancestral rituals in private. This syncretism of Christianity and Mayan beliefs is still alive in today's Mayan culture.

The Tzotzil Mayan population of San Juan Chamula, in Chiapas, is a clear example for the traveler today.

Know what happened in the auto de fe in Maní and the consequences 1

What happened in the Auto de Fe in Maní

As a consequence of the discovery in a cave by Pedro Che, guardian of the Maní convent, of a sacrifice ritual to pagan divinities, Fray Diego de Landa moved to this town in June 1562.

He constituted a religious court that would open trials against the guilty. In addition, he allied himself with the civil authority, with Bohorques being the bailiff who assisted Landa under penalty of excommunication. Doctor Diego Quijada was the highest civil authority in Yucatan.

auto de fe in mani
Engraving by T. De Bry for the History of the Destruction of the Indies.Source

On June 11, Fray Diego de Landa ordered the arrest of thirty prominent Mayan caciques and governors of Tekit, Pencuyut, Tikunché, Hunacté... In the following weeks, Francisco de Montejo Xiu, governor of Maní, was arrested; Diego Uz, lord of Tekax; Francisco Pacab, head of Oxkutzcab, and Juan Pech, head of Mama.

One of the cruelest episodes of idolatry persecution and destruction began, crowned by the Auto of faith de Peanut. The courts responsible for heresy were tortured, burned, mutilated. The chronicles explain that some Mayans hanged themselves in the forests, those who did not flee.

Know what happened in the auto de fe in Maní and the consequences 2
«The torture of Cuauhtémoc» by Leandro Izaguirre (1867-1941) Source

In Maní's infamous Auto de Fe, according to a list published by Justo Sierra in the XNUMXth century, where he maintains that in Maní they destroyed "5.000 idols of different shapes and dimensions, 13 large stones used as altars, 22 small stones carved, 27 rolls with signs and hieroglyphs, tons of books and 197 vessels of all sizes ».

This terrible act was necessarily witnessed by the Mayan population.

Diego de Landa destroys the idols in Mani. Leonardo Paz. Source
Diego de Landa destroys the idols in Mani. Leonardo Paz. Source
self faith
«Burning of Mayan literature by the Catholic Church» mural by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) Source

Consequences of the faith car in Maní

Such humiliation reinforced the power of the Catholic God, demonstrating his superiority over the old Mayan gods that were defeated. As we know, the Maya continued with time and secretly practicing their ancestral rites.

Religious syncretism in the Mayan village

There followed a convulsive period where the settlers continued cruelly abusing the Mayans, taking advantage of the inquisitorial imprint of the religious, imparting violent punishments on the population.

peanut yucatan

And what happened to Fray Diego de Landa?

El Auto of faith de Peanut It caused such a stir that Fray Diego de Landa was sent to Spain in October of that same year to give the pertinent explanations to the kingdom of Felipe II.

He was subjected to a judgment carried out by his own Franciscan order. The court was made up of experts in canon law and from the Holy Office of the Inquisition, the most literate people on the subject to decide, so you cannot argue with the experts.

Obviously Fray Diego de Landa emerged victorious in the matter, so much so that his return to Yucatán was made in 1573 as bishop, barely 10 years after the Peanut auto-da-fé.

So reading the story could be seen as a freezing of the character of Diego de Landa, so that he returned to the beginning through a revolving door without anything happening. This custom of judging between friends is perpetuated on occasions in Spain, as we see today.

It is during his stay in Spain that he wrote his recommended book "Relation of the Things of Yucatán", where he captures the life and customs of the Mayan culture, interpreted under its fierce cultural yoke. The manuscript he took with him to America and was later deposited in the convent of Mérida.

List of things in Yucatan
Relation of the Things of Yucatan. Source

Although his arrival caused misgivings between Spaniards and Mayans, petitions were also received requesting his return as shown by a letter from ten 11 1567 February bosses: «We pray to the VM to pity our souls and send us Franciscan friars to guide and teach us the career of God, and especially some who have gone from these parts to Spain, who already knew very well the language of this land with which we they preached, that they are called Fray Diego de Landa, Fray Pedro Gumiel, of the province of Toledo, and Fray Miguel de la Puebla and the others that VM was served. " There are always voices that rise from both sides, difficult to know how free they are.

They say that Fray Diego de Landa He ordered a Christian doctrine to be printed in the Mayan language, of which there are references but could not be found. Diego de Landa died in 1579 at the age of 54 in the city of Mérida.

His controversial figure is one of the most important chroniclers of Yucatan, fervent devotee, cruel and fanatic.

History is written by the winners, and there are always several versions, of course. I have allowed myself to give my opinion from what I have learned.

Fray Diego de Landa was one of the most discussed characters of the conquest, the perpetrator of one of the most atrocious acts to the Mayan culture, which is part of the universal culture, of everyone's.



  • LOCATION: Maní is located south of Mérida. Acanceh is located 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Mérida. To get to Maní you must go towards Kanasín (towards Cancún) and take the state highway number 18.
  • HOW TO GET THERE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Collective transport leaves from Mérida, calle 69 with calle 50 (approximately 2 hours).
  • CHURCH HOURS: they usually open early in the morning until 13 pm and in the evenings from 16 pm. To take photos of the façade, at sunset is best. The Catholic churches in Yucatan all face the west, perfect for sunsets.
Know what happened in the auto de fe in Maní and the consequences 3
© Google maps. Click on the map to see how to go to Maní

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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