Biography of the chief Lempira
Lempira (born 1499 – death 1537) was a war captain of the Lenca people who fought against the Spanish during the 1530s, in documents written during the Spanish conquest, he is mentioned by the name of El Lempira.
He was a native of Lenca origin , of medium height, with a broad back and thick limbs. He was brave and from a very young age he showed great courage, he felt a deep love for his people, his land, his laws and customs.
Lenca meaning of the name of Lempira
Traditionally called Lempira , its name was “Erandique” , according to the “Probanza de Méritos” written by Rodrigo Ruiz.
The name Lempira, according to Jorge Lardé and Larín, comes from the word Lempaera , which in turn comes from two words of the Lenca language: de lempa , which means “lord” —title of alte dignity or hierarchy—, and of era , which means “hill or mountain”. Thus, Lempira, would come to mean “Lord of the mountains” or “Lord of the hill”.
It is believed that he was born around the 1490s and was forged in the mountains of Cerquín, where the Lenca indigenous people, in their attempt to resist the brutality of the conquerors, took refuge in the high and rocky mountains, taking with them their women, children and provisions. The Spaniards called these sites that served as trenches for the Indians “peñoles” , Lempira was in charge of the Peñol de Cerquín .
In 1537, by order of the cacique Entepica , the “Cerquín Uprising” took place, based on the Cerquín hill, under Lempira’s command, by order of the cacique Entepica, who sought to stop Spanish penetration.
When the Spanish arrived in Cerquín, Lempira was fighting against neighboring caciques, but due to this threat, Lempira allied himself with the Lenca de los Cares subgroup and managed to assemble an army of almost 30,000 soldiers, from 200 villages.
Due to this, other groups also took up arms in the Comayagua valley in Olancho. Spanish attempts to defeat them, led by Francisco de Montejo and his lieutenant, Alonso de Cáceres, were unsuccessful before 1537.
These actions that sought to curb Spanish penetration, were stifled by the invaders, and with the death of Lempira – who would be between 38 and 40 years old – and the consequent dispersion of the indigenous people, Spanish territorial dominance in the western and central region was consolidated. from Honduras.
With the death of Lempira, the Spanish territorial dominion over the central and western region of Honduras was consolidated and new towns were founded, among them, Gracias, in 1539.
History in the General Archive of the Indies
There is another version of Lempira’s death, found in the Probanza de Méritos , a document written in Mexico in 1558 by Rodrigo Ruiz, and discovered by Mario Felipe Martínez Castillo in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville.
This document deals with the service of Rodrigo Ruiz in the conquest of Honduras with Francisco de Montejo, and affirms that the captain “El Lempira” died in combat with Ruiz in the middle of a “guazavara” (battle or unexpected battle) and later, Ruiz He cut off his head as irrefutable proof of Lempira’s death. The text includes Alonso de Maldonado and Catalina de Montejo as witnesses.
Traditional History of the Death of Lempira
In the traditional version, which is based on the work of the chronicler Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, General history of the events of the Castilians on the islands and on the mainland of the Ocean Sea .
Herrera claims that Lempira died treason. The Spanish convinced him to accept meeting with two representatives of Alonso de Cáceres to negotiate peace. During the meeting, a arquebusier shot Lempira repeatedly from a horse, ending the life of the hero Lenca.
However, the Honduran historyn Mario Felipe Martínez has questioned this version of Lempira’s death by Antonio de Herrera. Martínez discovered in the Archivo de Indias a proof that the soldier Rodrigo Ruiz presented to the Spanish authorities in Mexico in 1558.
This documentary piece was located by Martínez Castillo, and would have been written in Mexico in 1558. It is listed in Patronato Regio Legajo No. 69, Branch No. 5 in the Archivo de Indias, in Seville and consists of 90 folios (pages). In it, Don Rodrigo narrates the events that led his patrol to confront Elempira’s hosts and how it killed him:
Rodrigo Ruiz’s Story
“If they know that when I saw the said Rodrigo Ruiz what was being done and we were in great danger, all the Spanish because it was public that all the natives of the province came to give us war and that it could not be less than when we left the Royal saying for us return to the seat of Ciguatepeque as it was ordered they would kill us and take some Spaniard alive because we were as many of the wounded and bad that we could not fight,I said Rodrigo Ruiz as jealous the service of his Magestad putting in great danger my person to avoid as much evil as expected, try to enter the said squad of enemies with my sword and rodela and I went to the part and place where I was cheering for its people the saying captain named Elempira the one who was dressed and the arms of the Spanish who was dead and fighting with him killed and cut off his head which for bringing it to the general said he received many ansi wounds in the head as in the face with everything which took it out in my hands and I never left it even though I had been fighting and wounded from dangerous wounds from which I reached a point of death and the head I gave the general in his hands tell what they know and see for the oath they have made and if this happened ansi in truth… »(the spelling of the original document is respected).”””
In summary, Rodrigo narrates the feat of having faced only the Indian Lempira with his sword and rodela . Subsequently, he carried his head as a trophy. In addition, he received many injuries on the way from the Indians, injuries that almost killed him.
For his part, Bishop Cristóbal de Pedraza —who excelled in defending the Indians— on May 18, 1539, reports from Gracias a los Reyes de España that Lempira had to be defeated with “a certain industry.” That is, not in frontal combat, as Ruiz says.
It is not that there are two versions of Lempira’s death. It is that a historical myth has been clarified and the truth has come to light, as it happened and not as they told us.
The document is of utmost importance because it confirms the real existence of Lempira, the name of the cacique (referred to as Elempira), the description of the war and the scene of the war.
- The lempira (ISO 4217 code: HNL), the national currency of Honduras, was named after the indigenous leader.
- On Lempira day, the Honduran people commemorate the Lenca hero on July 20 of each year.
- Lempira , a department of Honduras named in his honor, with a departmental head in the city of Gracias.
- Puerto Lempira , municipality and departmental head of the department Thank God.
- Several schools in Honduras are named after the famous Lempira.
July 20 – National Lempira Day
On July 20 the national day of Lempira is celebrated. In schools, dramatic representations of Lempira’s death are made, and the “pretty Indian” is chosen in a beauty contest in which girls dress as indigenous.
In 1600 a community was founded with the name of Cerquín, located to the west of the hill of the same name. Its name changed to Erandique over the years and today it is a constituent municipality and city of the Lempira department.
- HERRERA Y TORDESILLAS, Antonio. General History of the events of the Castilians in the Islands and the mainland of the Ocean Sea (Madrid, 1601), 4 volumes.
- Regio Legajo Board of Trustees No. 69, Branch No. 5 in the Archivo de Indias, in Seville, 90 folios (pages), 1558. Bucentauro
- Lempira: things you did not know about the hero of the indigenous resistance