Freedom8 Mesoamerica




   


Zaculeu
, traditional spelling or Saqulew, modern Maya spelling, is a Pre-Columbian archeological site in the highlands of southwestern Guatemala, a short distance outside of the city of Huehuetenango. Zaculeu was the capital of the Postclassic Mam kingdom, a sub-group of the Maya. Zaculeu was first occupied in the 5th century, and the buildings from this era show the influence of Teotihuacán. The largest constructions date from the Classic Era. To these were added other plaza groups and buildings in the early and Late Post classic in an unbroken history. Zaculeu has been used as a ceremonial site by Mam Maya continuously to the present.
The site contains a number of temple-pyramids and governmental palaces around a series of plazas, and a ballcourt for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. The site was originally fortified with walls. At the time of the Spanish invasion, the main population was situated in Xinabahul, now the city of Huehuetenango, but Zaculeu's fortifications led to its use as a refuge during the conquest. The refuge was attacked by Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1525, but the well defended city at first threw back the Spanish.
Alvarado left his brother Gonzalo de Alvarado in charge of a siege, with 40 horsemen, 80 Spanish footsoldiers, and some 2,000 native allies from central Mexico. The city was defended by Mam king Kayb'il B'alam commanding some 5,000 (the chronicles are not clear if this is the number of soldiers or the total population of Zaculeu). After a siege of over a month the Mam were reduced to starvation and in October surrendered to the Spanish. After this Zaculeu was abandoned, and the new city of Huehuetenango established some 5 km away.
In the late 1940s the United Fruit Company sponsored archeological excavations and restorations of the structures. The later included recoating a number of the buildings with white plaster, as it was known that many were originally, but this has seldom been redone in restoring Pre-Columbian buildings.The site is open for tourism visits and has a small museum.