Did Cortez visit Palenque?
This interesting question, propounded by Professor Cyrus Thomas in Science, v. p. 172, should attract the attention of archeologists.
As there are some inaccuracies in his statements, and as, from a study of the documents in the case, I reach different conclusions, I beg to submit them to your readers.
The locality ‘Titacat’ was not reached after the execution of Cuauhtemoctsin (as Professor Thomas says), but was the station next previous to the one at which that event occurred; to wit, at Izancanc, the capital city of the province of Acalan.
As to this name ‘Izancanc,’ it is evidentaly in the Maya language, and means ‘the residence of the chief of the Itzas,’ who were a well-known Maya tribe. The province of Acalan is placed, on old maps, on the southern and eastern shores of the Bahia de Terminos; and, according to Cortez, its chief city was on or near the shores of this bay.
When at Zagoatespan, between which and Izancanac the only stations were Teutiaca and Tizatepelt, Cortez sent a messenger by sea to Acalan: hence both these places were on the seacoast, or near it. At Zagoatespan he was informed that there were two roads to Acalan,—one up the country; the other, shorter, near the seashore. He followed the latter, having to pass through extensive marshes, and to cross an arm of the sea (Estero, o Ancon) over five hundred yards wide, and from four to six fathoms in depth. A day and a half’s journey from this was Tizatepelt, the first town in the province of Acalan; and five leagues from it was Teutiaca, from which Izancanac was less then a day’s journey.
This plain statement shows, beyond all question, that Cortez’ route lay nowhere near Palenque, and that those who place it there cannot have traced it out according to his own notes in his celebrated ‘fifth letter.’ It was close to the seacoast, and quite far from those celebrated ruins.
As for his description of the temples of Teutiaca, he represents Izancanac as a much larger city, with more temples, and altogether a greater place (muy grande y de muchas mezquitus).