MANUEL ANTONIO AY

(Chichimilá 1817—Valladolid 1847)

CECILIO CHÍ

(Sotuta 1823—Chanchén 1849)

JACINTO PAT

(Chikidzonot 1797—Holchén 1849)

BERNARDINO CEN

(desconocido—Xuxub 1875)

Batab of Chichimilá who became involved in the partisan politics of the Yucatecos in the turbulent 1840s, where he gained military experience.  In January 1847, he participated in the notoriously violent sack of Valladolid by troops under the command of non-Maya officers. When the violence was incorrectly attributed to the Maya, Ay and others broke off their alliance to focus on a new Maya rebellion. This conspiracy was discovered and Ay betrayed soon thereafter. His execution on July 26, 1847 provided the immediate catalyst for the Caste War, with Ay as the first martyr to the cause.

Chí’s ancestor, Andrés Chí, was involved in the 1597 rebellion against the Spanish. Batab of Tepich by 1840, Cecilio was respected for his intelligence, eloquence, and leadership qualities, though he was not well-educated. Like Ay, he gained military experience fighting in the Yucatecan conflicts. He joined the Maya conspiracy in 1847 and, with Jacinto Pat, led an assault on Tepich that killed all members of the 20 non-Maya families in the town. This became the first recognized incident of the Caste War. Chí was committed to the expulsion and extermination of foreigners from the Yucatan peninsula. This position brought him into conflict with Jacinto Pat, who sought an end to hostilities with the Yucatecos as a way to achieve Maya autonomy. Chí was assassinated by his secretary, Anastasio Flores, in June 1849.

Batab of Tihosuco, Pat inherited the leadership role from his father, Don Francisco Pat, who is recorded as batab in 1827. Well-read and politically savvy, Jacinto initially maintained his position and influence in the prosperous community of Tihosuco by getting along with the ruling Yucatecos. As the crisis escalated in 1847, his hacienda at X’Culumpich, a few kilometers outside Tihosuco, became the gathering point for the leaders of the rebellion. Pat joined Chí in leading the attack against the foreigners of Tepich, but in April 1848 Pat signed a treaty with the Yucatan government at Tzucacab, hoping to end the conflict. Chí, committed to a more radical agenda, rejected the treaty. Soon after Chí’s death in June of the following year, Pat tried to reach out to authorities in British Honduras (Belize) in a further effort to cool things down, but was accused of treason by the new leaders Florentino Chan and Venancio Pec. In September 1849, Pec assassinated Jacinto Pat.

No records have been found to establish a date, place nor lineage for Bernardino Cen’s birth. He appears on the scene in Chan Santa Cruz in 1864, in the wake of the toppling of Dionesio Zapata from the leadership of this capital of the rebel Maya. Together with Crescencio Poot, Cen assumed the role of general, while Bonifacio Novelo became the chief religious official. Cen was known as a ferocious fighter whose orders were said to come directly from God. His name is associated with the siege of Tihosuco in 1866, which led to the town’s abandonment as a frontier garrison for federal troops, and with numerous other attacks on towns in the region. Cen is also credited with the completion of the church of Chan Santa Cruz, and with the construction of the adjacent garrison for Maya troops (now Casa de la Cultura in Felipe Carrillo Puerto). Cen died of a machete blow to the head at Xuxub in October 1875 in a battle with government troops. The effect of the blow can be plainly seen on the right side of Cen’s cranium, which was brought to the museum in 1998 from Mérida.

CASTE WAR LEADERS FROM THE TIHOSUCO REGION