Guatemala's Hero Tecun Uman And His Quetzal Bird

Tecun Uman (1500-1524) was the last ruler of the Quiche people, in the highlands of what is now Guatemala. According to the Kaqchikel annals, he was slain by Spanish Conquistador Don Pedro de Alvarado while waging battle against the Spaniards in the grasslands of El Pinal (Valley of Olintepeque) on February 20, 1524.

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Quatemala (1989) Half Quetzal (front) - Tecum Uman And The Quetzal Bird

Tecun Uman is considered the most representative of his people for his bravery and dignity because he fought to protect his land and his people. picture He was declared Guatemala's official national hero on March 22, 1960 and is commemorated on February 20, on the anniversary of his death.

Tecun Uman has inspired a number of legends and songs. The most popular legend says that during the battle against the Spaniards, his spiritual guide (his nahual), a quetzal bird, accompanied him. When Tecun Uman was slain, his nahual died of sadness and stained its breast with the hero's blood. From that day on, all male quetzals bear a scarlet breast and their song has not been heard since. It is also said that if one were to be put into captivity, it would die. One of many tributes to Guatemala's national hero is a sculpture by Roberto Gonzalez Goyri, which stands near the south west entrance of the zoological park "La Aurora".
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Quetzal Bird
The Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is a spectacular bird of the trogon family. It is found from southern Mexico to western Panama (unlike the other quetzals, which are found in South America and eastern Panama). There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis, the Costa Rican Resplendent Quetzal. This quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican myth.
picture This species is 36 cm (14 in) long, plus up to 64 cm (25 in) of tail streamer for the male, and weighs 210 g (7 oz).

Resplendent Quetzals have a green body (showing iridescence from green-gold to blue-violet) and red breast. Their green upper tail coverts hide their tails and in breeding males are particularly splendid, being longer than the rest of the body. The primary wing coverts are also unusually long and give a fringed appearance. The male has a helmet-like crest. The mature male's beak is yellow and the female's is black.

The "song" is a treble syllable described as kyow or like "a whimpering pup", often in pairs, which may be repeated monotonously. Resplendent Quetzals have other unmusical calls as well.

The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala's national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and the Coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

The bird is of great relevance to Guatemalan culture, being a character in the widely popular legend of the local hero Tecún Umán, a prince and warrior of the Quiche Maya during the latter stages of the Spanish conquest of the region. This quetzal was his nahual (spirit guide).

The Quiche repelled several attacks from the Spanish army, even though outmatched in weaponry (guns, armor and cavalry against spears and arrows).

Legend has it that on the day the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado fought against Tecun Uman, there was a quetzal flying overhead. On the first strike Tecun Uman, on foot, managed to disable Pedro de Alvarado's horse. Alvarado was then given another horse and on the second strike ran through Tecun Uman's chest with a spear.

The quetzal flew down and landed on Tecun Uman, dipping its chest in the warrior prince's blood. It is there that the bird acquired its distinctive red chest feathers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia articles "Tecun Uman" and "Resplendent Quetzal"