By the mid-sixteenth century, Yucatan was firmly under Catholic control. By 1561, there were dozens of friars and eight monasteries in operation, and programs aimed at converting Mayan natives to Catholicism appeared to be going smoothly. However, in 1562 friars at Mani were confronted with clear evidence that the “Christian Indians” were still worshiping their previous gods in secret. The Indians accused of idolatry were rounded up and subject to a severe form of torture known as the garrucha, a form of torture including flogging and the burning of flesh using wax.

This paper explores what factors lead to genocide in early Colonial Yucatan. The argument is made that Spanish religious policies from the era of Catholic reconquest and the Spanish Inquisition heavily influenced acceptable actions in regards to conversion and the power the religious ruling class had, and this was a critical factor that allowed for a large-scale genocide to occur in Spanish colonial territories in the subsequent century. By focusing on the early colonial era in Yucatan, this paper is able to examine the events and policies that allowed for genocide to occur. By utilizing a variety of sources including primary sources on the Conquest, archival source writings on genocide by renowned human rights lawyer and genocide scholar Raphael Lemkin, and a selection of secondary sources, this paper seeks to provide a new perspective, that of genocide studies, in the analysis of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan during the sixteenth century.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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