The Battle of Acajutla was a battle on June 8, 1524, between the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and an army of Pipils, an indigenous people, in the neighborhood of present day Acajutla, near the coast of western El Salvador.
Hernán Cortés, after conquering the city of Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire, delegated the conquest of the territories southward to his lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado, who set out with 120 horsemen, 300 footsoldiers and several hundred Cholula and Tlaxcala auxiliaries. After subduing the highland Mayan city-states of present-day Guatemala through battle and co-optation, the Spanish sought to extend their dominion to the lower Atlantic region of the Pipils, then dominated by the powerful city-state of Cuzcatlán. The Kaqchikel Mayans, who had long been rivals of Cuscatlán for control over their wealthy cacao-producing region, joined forces with Alvarado's men and supported his campaign against their enemies. Accompanied by thousands of Kaqchikel warriors, Alvarado then marched on Cuscatlán. The army arrived at the present territory of El Salvador, across the Paz River, on June 6, 1524. Receiving word of the approaching Spanish forces, the Pipil peasants who lived nearby had fled.
On June 8, 1524, the conquerors arrived in the neighborhood of Acajutla at a village called Acaxual. There, according to records, a battle ensued between the opposing armies, with the Pipils wearing cotton armor (of three fingers' thickness, according to Alvarado) and carrying long lances. This circumstance would be crucial in the progression of the battle. Alvarado approached the Pipil lines with his archers' showers of crossbow arrows, but the natives did not retreat. The conquistador noticed the proximity of a nearby hill and knew that it could be a convenient hiding place for his opponents. Alvarado pretended that his army had given up the battle and retreated. The Pipils suddenly rushed the invaders, giving Alvarado an opportunity to inflict massive losses. The Pipils that fell to the ground could not get back on their feet, hindered by the weight of their cotton armor, which enabled the Spanish to slaughter them.
In the words of Alvarado: "...the destruction was so great that in just a short time there were none which were left alive...". However, Alvarado's army were not completely unscathed. In the battle Alvarado himself was struck by a sling shot to his thigh which fractured his femur bone. According to local tradition the stone that hit the conquistador was hurled by a Pipil "Tatoni" (a prince) called Atonal. The resultant infection lasted about eight months and left Alvarado partially crippled. In spite of this wound, he continued the conquest campaign with relish.
Bibliography and references
- Ministerio de Educación, (1994), Historia de El Salvador Tomo I, México D.F. : Comisión Nacional de los Libros de Texto Gratuitos
- Vidal, Manuel, (1961), Nociones de historia de Centro América, San Salvador: Editorial Universitaria
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