Conquest of Yucatan: Stages and Main Characters

The c conquest of Yucatan it was one of the phases of the conquest on the part of the Spaniards of America. The peninsula had been discovered in 1517, although the movements for its occupation did not begin until ten years later, in 1527. Faced with other zones that were conquered in a simpler way, Yucatán presented difficulties to the Spaniards.

In fact, it took 20 years of attempts to end the strong resistance presented by the Mayans, people who lived in the area. The process of conquest is usually divided into three distinct stages; each of these supposed advances of the Spanish positions that, little by little, were taking control of the whole area.

Conquest of Yucatan

Even after the formal occupation of the peninsula, Yucatan continued to be a focus of indigenous resistance for centuries. The main Spanish protagonist was the advanced Francisco de Montejo, who had fought along with Cortés in other expeditions. The conflict of Cortés with Velásquez gave Montejo the possibility of leading this conquest.


  • 1 Stages
    • 1.1 Background
    • 1.2 First stage
    • 1.3 Second stage
    • 1.4 Third stage
  • 2 Main characters
    • 2.1 Hernan Cortes
    • 2.2 Francisco de Montejo
    • 2.3 Francisco de Montejo (the Mozo)
    • 2.4 Francisco de Montejo (the nephew)
  • 3 References



The conflicts that arose between two of the first conquerors that reached the coasts of that area of ​​Mexico gave the opportunity to a third party, Francisco de Montejo, to be the one who captained the definitive expedition.

Montejo thought that in Yucatan he could find the same wealth as in the valley of Mexico and he asked Carlos V for permission to begin the conquest of the peninsula. The monarch and the Council of the Indies approved his proposal, although with the condition that Montejo advanced the necessary money for the expedition.

Thus, the Capitulations of Granada were signed, detailing the conditions of the conquest and subsequent colonization. Montejo was named advance, governor and captain general and was granted a license to import cattle from America.

These documents also included a requirement for the Indians to be under the power of the Crown, as well as for them to accept conversion to Christianity.

Finally, in 1527 the advanced Montejo gathered all the necessary permits to begin his project of conquest. The expedition left the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with everything necessary to succeed.

First stage

As had happened in previous expeditions, the Montejo ships reached the island of Cozumel in the first place. From there, crossing the canal, they arrived at Xel Há, founding the first Spanish city in the area. They called it Salamanca, in honor of its Spanish namesake.

At first, the expeditionaries received help from the indigenous people they found there. Despite this collaboration, the Spaniards immediately established a tribute on the native population.

The peace was short in the area. The Indians carried out a strong attack on the newly founded village in which a group of men had remained, while the rest, led by Montejo, had embarked on an expedition into the interior of the peninsula.

Without knowing what had happened in Salamanca, the rest of the conquerors found several peaceful native populations. However, upon arriving in Chauac Há, a Mayan army surprised them by attacking them. The battle lasted two days, ending the victory of the Spaniards.

Despite the defeat, the Mayans managed to get Montejo's troops to retreat, fleeing towards Tecoh. There, the cheles received them in a friendly way.

Second stage

The second phase of the conquest began approximately in 1530 and lasted about five years. The Spaniards got the cheles, traditional enemies of the Mayas, to support them against the common enemy. Montejo then divided his forces, putting them under the command of his son nicknamed"El Mozo".

The clashes with the Mayans intensified during the following dates. The support of the cheles was not enough to defeat them and the Mayans forced the Spaniards to abandon various positions already won. This caused some internal problems in the expedition and enough soldiers decided to leave Montejo.

The same advance received a serious wound in one of the indigenous attacks. In view of how the situation developed, Montejo ordered the withdrawal, ending this second stage of the conquest.

The conquistador decided to request help to the capital of New Spain and the Crown, to make a new attempt to control the territory and defeat the forces of the Maya.

Third stage

The final phase took place between 1540 and 1545. On this occasion, the advance gave military and civil command to his son, the Mozo. Likewise, he transmitted the rights that appeared in the Capitulations that regulated the conquest.

Following the father's advice, the Mozo tried first to find allies in Yucatan. He addressed several indigenous communities confronting the Mayas; however, he failed to convince much of them.

The Spaniards were able to attract several people to help them. This common front was able to bend the Mayan power little by little. In addition, Spanish reinforcements soon arrived from other parts of New Spain, so the military force gathered was almost unbeatable.

On January 6, 1542, El Mozo founded Mérida, established as the capital of Yucatán. His cousin, nephew of Montejo Sr., undertook the conquest of the eastern part of the peninsula, founding Valladolid in 1543.

From that moment the Spaniards dedicated themselves to consolidate the conquered, defeating the groups that tried to resist. The violence they exercised in their campaign ended up eliminating all traces of rebellion.

Main characters

Hernan Cortes

Although Cortés did not participate in the definitive conquest of Yucatan, he had been among the first to reach Cozumel. Before him Pedro de Alvarado had arrived, who undertook several looting of the indigenous populations, provoking the flight of these towards the interior.

It seems that Cortés tried to stop Alvarado's actions, promoting reconciliation with the natives. However, as part of the policy of religious conversion, he ordered the destruction of several indigenous places of worship, as well as the sacred objects that were found there.

Francisco de Montejo

Born in Salamanca in 1479, Francisco de Montejo was the main protagonist of the campaigns undertaken to conquer Yucatán. He was able to take advantage of the conflicts between Cortés and other conquerors and convince the king to name him ahead of time.

According to the experts, Montejo was totally convinced of the existence of innumerable riches in the peninsula and was willing to advance the money necessary to pay for the expedition.

Francisco de Montejo (the Mozo)

The son of the conqueror, with whom he shared the name, founded in 1540 San Francisco de Campeche and, two years later, the city of Mérida.

He joined his father's company from the beginning, accompanying him since they embarked in June 1527 for Yucatan.

Francisco de Montejo (the nephew)

The third Francisco de Montejo who participated in the conquest of Yucatan was the nephew of the advance. He was only 13 years old when he accompanied his uncle and his cousin on one of the ships that were heading to America.

In 1543 he was the founder of Valladolid, although a year later the town was moved from its original location to Zaci.


  1. Ruz Escalante, José Luis. The Conquest of Yucatan Retrieved from
  2. Wikipedia. Francisco de Montejo Retrieved from
  3. EcuREd. State of Yucatán (Mexico). Retrieved from
  4. Athena Publications. The Spanish Conquest of Yucatán (1526-46). Retrieved from
  5. Spanish Conquest of Yucatan. Retrieved from
  6. from Landa, Diego. Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Recovered from
  7. Staff. Yucatan Retrieved from

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