Diego de Landa

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Diego de Landa (1524 - 1579) was Bishop of the Yucatán. De Landa was in charge of bringing the Roman Catholic faith to the Maya people after the Spanish conquest of Yucatán. He left future generations with a mixed legacy in his writings which contain much valuable information on pre-Columbian Maya civilization, and his actions which destroyed much of that civilization's history, literature, and traditions.

He is the author of the "Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan" in which he catalogs the Maya language, religion, culture and writing system.

After hearing of Roman Catholic Mayans who continued to practice Idol worship, he ordered an Inquisition in Mani ending with a ceremony called auto de fe. During the ceremony on July 12, 1562, a disputed number of Mayan books (de Landa admits to 27, other sources claim "99 times as many") and approximately 5,000 Mayan idols were burned.

Describing his own actions later, de Landa said that, "We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction".

Only three Pre-Columbian Mayan heiroglyphic texts (a.k.a. a codex) and fragments of a fourth survived.

De Landa was sent back to Spain by Bishop Toral, to stand trial for conducting an illegal Inquisition. His actions were strongly condemned before the Council of the Indies. This resulted in a "committee of doctors" being commissioned to investigate de Landa's crimes. In 1569 the committee absolved de Landa of his crimes. Bishop Toral died in Mexico in 1571, allowing King Phillip II to appoint de Landa as the fourth appointed Bishop of the Yucatan.

Landa also created a valuable record of the Mayan writing system, which although inaccurate was used in the decipherment of the writing system at the end of the 20th century. Landa asked a Maya for the symbol for each of the letters of the alphabet, in the belief that there would be a one-to-one correspondance between the Spanish alphabet and the Mayan glyphs. He carefully recorded the replies although he didn't understand them. His table of the 'Mayan alphabet' is essentially correct, but requires much interpretation.

His initial appointment was to the mission of San Antonio in Izamal, which served also as his primary residence while in the Yucatan.de:Diego de Landa

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