Prof. Dr. John Chuchiak (Director of Latin American, Caribbean and Hispanic Studies Program, Missouri State University)
"Unlikely Allies: Mayas, Spaniards and Pirates in Colonial Yucatán, 1550-1750"
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish colony of Yucatán fell pray to hundreds of pirate attacks and several outright armed invasions by Privateers. No coastal town or village on the Peninsula escaped the ravages of French, English, and Dutch pirates. Facing an increasing number of pirate attacks during the seventeenth century, the small Spanish colony decided to institute a system of coastal guards and militias in order to defend the colony from these pirates. With insufficient Spanish manpower, the colonial government became forced to gradually turn over the entire system of coastal defense (guardias de la costa, vigías, centinelas) to organized groups of Maya sentinels and militias.
Groups of Maya militia archers (flecheros) often served as the colony’s only defense against the depredations of European pirates and privateers. In many cases, the Maya themselves, actively and successfully engaged European pirates, using their services to gain not only the respect of their Spanish overlords, but also the gratitude of the Spanish crown which rewarded many of these Maya militias with freedom from tribute and services for their valuable aid against European Pirates. Through active militia service, and active engagements with European pirates and privateers, the Maya gained both prestige and bettered their social and economic status. Militia and sentinel service, then, offered the Maya an avenue for advancement in a narrowly defined colonial system that offered little or no opportunities for indigenous participation beyond that of tribute payer and laborer.
Research and professional interests
Dr. John F. Chuchiak is a specialist on colonial Latin American history with a research emphasis on the history of Mexico and Maya ethnohistory. He teaches a variety of history courses, ranging from introductory courses on Western and world civilizations, upper level undergraduate courses on Latin American civilization and pre-Columbian cultures, and graduate courses on the history of Mexico, Mesoamerican ethnohistory, and the history of the Inquisition in Spain and the New World. Dr. Chuchiak's general research focuses on the history of the colonial church in México with a special emphasis on the Franciscan Missions, the Inquisition and the Catholic Church in colonial Yucatán. His most recent publications have examined the contact and colonial transformation of the indigenous cultures of México, most notably the Maya of Yucatan. He is especially interested in researching the realms of Christian mission history, religion, ethnic conflict, gender and social change in the wider Atlantic world.