Coatepeque (i.e. Guatemala): 1592. Folio (320 x 200 mm). 6 fols. + near contemporary wrappers, stitched, front wrapper with all pertinent information in cursive. Formerly folded four times, creating 16 small panels, two of the leaves have clean tears along horizontal folds from fore-edge to gutter margin, others with shorter tears along folds, ink and dirt stains throughout commensurating with age, edges somewhat frayed, a few small worm holes present. An ink inscription on the recto of 2f. describes this document as being from the Indies. This is no. 6 of an unknown number of documents. On the front cover are several inscriptions in pencil, one of which is "4 fr"; the second wrongly calculates the number of years between 1592 and 1915 as being 333 años (sic!); and the third calculates the number of years which had elapsed from 1592 and 1950: 358 años. Good. Item #3476
FASCINATING AND EXTREMELY EARLY NEW WORLD MANUSCRIPT, dated 21 January 1592, and written in Coatepeque, Guatemala on contemporary Spanish paper, attesting to the sale of land apparently by auction which lasted for 30 days, by indigenous QUICHE MAYA INDIANS to one Luis Osorio. The document covers the entire course of the sale, and does so in remarkable great detail. We have not located any references to 16th-century Guatemalan auctions. Whereas 16th-century Mexican manuscripts are relatively common, early Guatemala manuscripts are not; those which directly reference the Quiche Maya are rare.
The scribe of our manuscript was named Francisco de Cordona, and he shrewdly inserted long horizontal lines at the end of each entry / paragraph in order to prevent unauthorized additions to the text of the document.
The men seeking to sell the land described herein were Quiche Maya, or K'iche' people (indigenous to Guatemala), who in the present document are described as being illiterate, and unable to speak Spanish, and in fact spoke through an interpreter.
We are grateful to Joseph Adams for his scholarly generosity in translating and interpreting this hitherto unpublished manuscript. The first paragraph reads:
"In the town of COATEPEQUE on the 21st day of the month of January of FIFTEEN HUNDRED AND NINETY-TWO, before Don Lupe Ceron Carvajal, magistrate by the will of my lord the King, in this, the aforementioned town, came Don Juan Bautista, governor, and Don Francisco Garcia, and Don Graviel de Santiago, and Donisio de Galicia, steward mayors, that were last year presented in this place, and by way of an AMANUENSIS and an INTERPRETER said that they had need of selling a piece of land that they have and possess in this place which they call TIANGUISTENGOTOTITLAN. As they have a number of lands from which they can derive no benefits, they have come before the aforementioned magistrate to ask license to be able to sell them. And they begged justice of the aforementioned magistrate, that they be allowed to proclaim this according to the laws laid out by Your Majesty. And that this shall be seen to be so, it is witnessed and signed by Juan de la Rosa and Z. Navarro and Don Rego Ceron in this place Coatepeque, also signing are the Magistrate Don Lupe Ceron Carvajal, Don Juan Bautista, Don Graviel de Santiago, Don Francisco Garcia, and Donisio de Galicia, before me, Francisco de Cordona."
The document contains a great deal of information describing the manner of selling and buying land by means of a "town crier" who made daily proclamations about the sale of the land to the highest bidder, a manner which -- in 16th-century Guatemala -- is little known. The chronology of the sale of the land follows the first paragraph:
January 21, 1592: the sale of the land was proclaimed by Francisco Negro who, we are told, has a great reputation as a herald among the working people. No one made any offers that day. Then there are entries for the next thirty days.
January 22-24: Francisco Negro continues the proclamations. No one arrives to offer any price.
January 25: Francisco Negro continues the proclamations, and Luis Osorio from the same town arrives to offer 100 pesos, and signs to that effect in front of the magistrate.
January 26 - February 17: the entries are very much the same. Here is an example: "In the town of Coatepeque on the 26th day of January in the year fifteen hundred and ninety two, before Don Lupe Ceron Carvajal, magistrate. [NB: his name is always written 'Carbajal', so it is modernized here; also, his personal signature at the end reads 'Carvajal']. By the voice of Francisco Negro were carried the proclamations about the aforementioned lands, and there were none who came to offer more. Witnessed: Don Diego Ceron, Juan de la Rosa, Don Lupe Ceron Carvajal, before me, recorder for the magistrate, Francisco Cardona." The names of the witnesses change somewhat day to day, as does some of the wording, though the general meaning is identical.
February 18: A man named Alonzo appears before the magistrate to offer 105 pesos in Reales.
February 19: No one offers more than 105 pesos.
February 20: Luis Osorio appears before the magistrate to offer 115 pesos, in gold or in Reales, whichever is preferred.
February 21: The sale has now been proclaimed for 30 days, according to the law, and the sale has been won by Luis Osorio who will pay in silver Reales, and no other money.
February 22: The sellers [i.e. Quiche Maya] arrive before the magistrate with their amanuensis and translator and receive the money from Luis Osorio, and he receives the land, which is 600 yards long by 200 yards wide, located at the head of the place called Tianguistengototitlan. The sellers -- we are told -- were content with the payment.
March 17: The original sellers and Luis Osorio appear before the magistrate to describe and define the boundaries of the property. Luis Osorio declares that the land shall be an inheritance unto his posterity forevermore. The sellers, through their interpreter, wish God's grace upon him and that he may have joy in the land.
What follows is the signing of the witnesses; we observe several calligraphic marks which serve as signatures ("rublicas" in Spanish). One of them is less complex, and is attached to the name of one man who could at least write his name. We also observe the signature of the magistrate, Don Lope Ceron Carvajal, in the center of the page.
The final paragraph is much more difficult to decipher, but it seems to record the fact that Luis Osorio is now the legal owner of the property. The name "Luis" appears to have been written under the word "Antemontecinos"; combined with the rebulica above, this may well be the signature of Luis Osorio himself.
That the document is of significant historic interest, and offers considerable research potential, is attested by the fact that altogether there are more than 30 neatly written paragraphs on six folio sheets.
Joseph Adams kindly informs us that "Tianguistengototitlan" would have been the early Nauatl name of "Tianguistengo." Whereas there is a Tianguistengo in Hidalgo, Mexico, it is located 220 km north of Mexico City, and obviously nowhere near Guatemala. It is possible that in Guatemala today there still exists a village, hamlet, or neighborhood named Tianguistengo, but we have been unable to locate it.
DATE OF THE PAPER STOCK: one watermark in our manuscript is visible; it is similar to Heawood 962 (cross with monogram A.B. = "Madrid 1623"). Our watermark is the same, but with the monogram A.D. below. Although not illustrated by Heawood, in his index he notes that "others [of this type] have D or G? below."
PROVENANCE: The manuscript was in a private collection by 1915, as can deduced from the pencilled calculation on the front wrapper (no archivist would have engaged in such a practice), and it was still in a private collection by 1950, as we see from a second calculation: "1950 / 358 años." From the Latin Americana Collection assembled by Dorothy Sloan (1943-2021), whose library we purchased in 2020.
CATALOGUER'S NOTE: To contextualize the age of the present Guatemalan manuscript, we need only to reference the Mesoamerican manuscript known as POPUL VUH (ca. 1550s), which was likewise written in Guatemala.