It was over 35 years ago when I first came across the unlikely story of Gonzalo Guerrero and Geronimo de Aguilar. This is a story of two different Spanish Conquerors. Both followed their adventuresome streak and ended up in America. The two of them actually met with Hernan Cortes, the famous Spanish Conquistador who conquered the Aztecs and their vast empire. Geronimo de Aguilar was a Catholic Priest, who came to America to evangelize the natives. Guerrero was a soldier seeking to create a fortune.
The Shipwreck that sealed the fate of Gonzalo Guerrero, a Honduran Hero
In 1511, only 9 years after Columbus first disembarked in Continental America at Trujillo, in Honduras, the two Spaniards left Darien in Panama. They were en route to Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, today Dominican Republic. En route, they were shipwrecked with 18 other men. After many days at sea, 8 of them they made it to the coast of Yucatan. They landed, in what today is the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico, close to Akumal. Although they survived the wreck, the local Maya people soon captured them. Turned into slaves, only Guerrero and Aguilar survived and were assimilated into the local community.
in 1519, Cortes, who was en route to Veracruz, in the Gulf of Mexico, stopped in the vicinity of Akumal, and heard about the two Spaniards. He sent a message out to them, and Aguilar, dressed as a Maya escaped in a dugout canoe to the Spanish ships. His burnt skin made him look like a native, and he was only welcome aboard when he spoke in Spanish to Cortes’ troops. Cortes did pay a ransom for Aguilar to the local Maya Chieftain.
Gonzalo Guerrero a True Native American at Heart!
Gonzalo Guerrero, who was a free man, chose not to join them. After years with the Maya, he had earned his freedom, had married the daughter of a local chieftain and had three children. These kids are the first record of a new racial mixture, known as “mestizos”. They are the largest ethnic group in Latin America. They are descendants of Native American tribes and Europeans.
Both men would play different roles in the conquest of what later became known as the Colony of New Spain. Aguilar had learned to speak Maya. En route to Veracruz, while anchored off the coast of Tabasco, Cortes was presented with several young women. One of them was Malitzin, better known as “Malinche”. She was a native Nahautl speaker, but became a prisoner of the Maya people in a war. As such, she became fluent in Maya also. Thus, she could communicate with Aguilar, and Aguilar could communicate with Cortes. Once they were in Aztec territory, she could also communicate with Nahuatl speaking people. Thus Malinche became a Spanish Hero, but a native traitor.
Gonzalo Guerrero followed the opposite route. He soon became an important asset for the natives that were fighting the conquerors. His knowledge of European war formations and tactics proved valuable. He became a true leader during the local resistance against the Spanish Conquerors.
The Heroic Fight that Ended with his Death
According to some historians, Gonzalo Guerrero died in Honduras in 1536. He was fighting alongside Cicumba, the chieftain of Ticamaya. The enemy was under the leadership of conquistador Captain Lorenzo de Godoy. The fight took place in the vicinity of Ticamaya, in the lower Ulua Valley. This area is close to the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Gonzalo Guerrero was leading an army of 50 dugout canoes against the conquistadors when an arrow, shot from a harquebus went through his belly. After his death, the natives provided burial by throwing his body into the river. As such, it eventually went back to the ocean where he had come from.
Despite the fact that I knew the story of Gonzalo Guerrero, I was not aware that he had died in Honduras. Much less so while fighting against the Spaniards. Although he was not Honduran, the story, if true, would be more than enough to consider him one of the first Honduran Heroes. What do you think? Is Gonzalo Guerrero a Honduran Heroe?
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