Flores is the capital city of the Petén department of Guatemala. The old part of the city is located on an island on Lake Peten Itza, connected to the mainland by a short causeway. For many tourists, the main reason to visit Flores is its proximity to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala.
In Pre-Columbian times, Flores was the Maya city of Tayasal. The Maya called it Noh Petén (City Island) or Tah Itzá (Place of the Itzá). No Maya buildings remain today but the site itself is of great importance in the heritage of the Maya. It was here on the island of Flores that the last independent state of the Maya civilization held out against the onslaught of the Spanish conquerors.
The island city of Flores Guatemala. Photo credit: Javier Aroche
History of Flores Guatemala
After the collapse of Chichen Itza the Itza people left the Yucatan to built their capital Tayasal on a small island in Lake Petén Itzá in the southern Maya lowlands.
In the 16th century the Spanish initiated several campaigns to subdue the Mayan cities in the Yucatán. As the Itza land was separated from Spanish Yucatán to the north and Spanish Guatemala to the south by thick jungles with little population it initially escaped the attention of the Spanish. But in 1541 Hernán Cortés came to Tayasal, on his way to Honduras. Due to island’s excellent defensive position he did not try to conquer it and instead moved on. As other Mayan cities were defeated one by one Taysal remained one of the last independent Maya states, together with other Maya cities in the region.
Two Franciscan friars were sent to Tayasal in 1618 to convert the Itza to Christianity. They arrived in Tayasal to find the people uninfluenced by European ways and still worshiping the traditional Mayan gods. While the Itza lord received them politely, they made no progress and had to return empty handed. After this failure the Spanish began the first of several attempts to conquer the island but did not succeed. The Governor of Yucatán decided his energies were best spent elsewhere, and the Itza continued in independence.
From the late 1690s, the last Itza lord started a more open attitude towards the Spaniards, and when three Franciscan friars arrived at Tayasal in 1695 a number of the Itza consented to be baptized. The Itza King, however, refused to convert to Christianity or pledge loyalty to Spain.
The final conquest of the independent Maya, the Itzá from Tayasal and the Ko’woj from Zacpetén and Queixil, occurred on March 13, 1697. Forces of Martin de Ursúa attacked Tayasal from a ship, invaded the island and destroyed the idols and Codices. Those who could fled and many Itzá people hid in the jungle for years. The stones of the Maya structures were used to built the Roman Catholic Church in the central plaza of the city, which was renamed to Flores.
Map of Flores Guatemala
|The map shows the location of Flores. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.|
Buses from Guatemala City and Belize City as well as various other destinations all over the country stop at the Fuente del Norte bus station in Santa Elena, a five minute ride across the causeway from Flores island.