Hamblin & Peterson: Bishop de Landa both gave and took away

Published: Friday, Dec. 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Whatever one may think of de Landa’s methods of systematically destroying the religious and cultural heritage of the Maya, one has to admit that these methods were exceptionally successful. Although some Maya still retain parts of their traditional religion, for the most part, images of the Maya rain god Chaac now lie crumbling in ancient ruins, remaining only to be gawked at by tourists and crawled upon by iguanas. But images of the Virgin of Guadalupe adorn every village and most houses of the modern Maya.

The career of Diego de Landa represents a classic example of the potent combination of control of wealth, information and coercive power, whether wielded by a king, a religion or a democratically elected government.

Unfortunately, however, when a religion becomes intertwined with power and wealth, that religion is usually left hopelessly corrupted yet dominant nonetheless.

Daniel Peterson edits BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, chairs The Interpreter Foundation and blogs on Patheos. Among other things, William Hamblin co-authored “Solomon's Temple: Myth and History.” They represent only themselves.

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