Nelson Reed, “The Caste War of Yucatan”

From the forward, a summary: “The War of the Castes in Yucatan is one of the least known but most colorful episodes in Mexican history. Indeed, if told offhand that as recently as 1848 the descendants of the ancient Maya, after centuries of subjugation, fought their way across the peninsula of Yucatan and came within a hair’s breadth of driving their white masters into the sea, one might suspect a literary hoax. But that is what happened.”. Eventually the natives were defeated and driven back onto the deep jungle.

This is one of the books I picked up in the Alla Bookstore in Santa Fe, recommended by the owner Jim.

A history I was not aware of and which I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. There aren’t too many positive lessons to be learned here but one must admire the tenacity and courage of the Maya people. It was amazing just how close they came to a total victory at the beginning of the conflict, only to fritter it away because they had no leadership in the movement. The author remarks “When philosophy and greed combine, their strength is hard to contest.”

“It takes a special state of mind to stand fast when someone is running at you with a large machete in his hand, to stand fast and use your bayonet or your own machete, but it can be done. It took a special commander to accept the fact that he and his men were cut off, that there were thousands of the enemy in the woods closing in, that gunpowder and lead were running low, and not think of retreat; yet such commanders were found and they were often quite young.”

Speaking of a good man named Don Santiago Mendez…”And to his glory, he gained the ultimate distinction for a Latin politician (or any other): when he died, fifteen years later, he was a poor man.”

Unfortunately, there is little history of the Maya as their writings were slim and few and mostly lost. What is most impressive though is the courage they showed when they revolted against a much better equipped ruling class and their willingness to sacrifice for their families and homes. If there was ever an uprising that was justified, this is one of them.

Inspiring story with a bittersweet ending…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *