The Mayan site of Iximché was originally used as a Kaqchikel capital during the fifteenth century. It’s notable for its strong Mexican influences, which differentiate it from other Mayan sites in the area.
Iximché was established around 1470 AD after the Kaqchikel moved their capital from modern-day Chichicastenango. Iximché, set on a bluff and surrounded by ravines, was much more easy to defend. This was especially important at a time when the K’iche’ Mayans were increasingly looking to expand their territory.
When the Spanish arrived, the Kaqchikel teamed up with them to defeat the K’iche’ and other tribal groups in the Western Highlands. Once the area was fully conquered, the Spanish established their first capital of Guatemala here in 1524. Relations between the two groups were initially good. The Kaqchikel respected the Spanish leader Pedro de Alvarado—they even went so far as to give him the daughter of a Kaqchikel king as a gift.
However, things turned sour as Alvarado began to demand more tribute. The Kaqchikel rebelled and Alvarado burned the town to the ground. The Kaqchikel then fled to the countryside and launched a guerilla war that lasted until 1530.
Today, Iximché is easily accessible and makes for an interesting stopover, especially for those with a real interest in Mayan culture. Similar to other Postclassic Mayan sites, Iximché shows a strong Mexican influence that is noticeably different from the older lowland Mayan sites of Petén. The Mexican influence likely came from Toltec groups who migrated here from present-day Veracruz.
The site is made up of four plazas, a few small pyramids, and a couple of ball courts. Mayan structures were often built with stone foundations, upper walls of adobe, and thatched roof ceilings. This being the case, only the stone structures remain. The most important buildings are the ones near courts A an C—these were likely the sites of rituals. There are also faint murals near the base of Temple II on Plaza A.
It’s thought that Iximché was primarily used for religious rituals, and some Mayans still use it for this today. Excavations here have come up with some interesting finds, including burial sites with the decapitated heads of sacrificial victims, obsidian knives, incense burners, and a flute made from the femur of a child.
In March 2007, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush made a brief stop at Iximché. They were entertained with a marimba bad, a traditional dance, and a demonstration of the Mayan ball game.