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Ruins of Zakuleu

Ruins of Zakuleu Issue of 1945
Huehuetenango Ruins of Zakuleu Issue of January 6, 1945

About four kilometres outside of the city of Huehuetenango, Guatemala is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site known as Zaculeu or Saqulew. First occupied more than fourteen centuries ago, Zaculeu was the capital of the Postclassic Mam kingdom and was conquered by the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj roughly a thousand years ago. In 1525 AD the city was conquered by Spanish conquistadors under Gonzalo de Alvarado y Contreras after a siege that lasted several months that brought the city to the verge of starvation. Within the walls that originally surrouned the site there were a number of temple-pyramids with double stairways and governmental palaces grouped around large public plazas. There was also a ballcourt for playing a Mesoamerican ballgame.

In modern times American explorer John Lloyd Stephens and English architect Frederick Catherwood visited the confused jumble of overgrown ruins in 1840. Stephens published a description of the archaeological remains a year later. Although one mound was excavated and some ceramic vessels were uncovered it was not until 1931 that Guatemala declared the site a National Monument under the name of Tzaculeu. As part of the campaign directed by Edward Bernays to enhance its public image, the United Fruit Company obtained a government licence to do more archaeological work beginning in 1946. Peter Chapman claims that Bernays was behind the commemorative stamp that was issued to bring attention to the site of United Fruit's philanthropic work (118).


Chapman, Peter. Bananas - How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007. Print.

Kloetzel, James E. "Guatemala." 2009 Standard Stamp Catalogue. Sidney, Ohio: Amos Media, 2015. Print

Koeppel, Dan. Banana - The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World. New York: Hudson Street Press, 2008. Print.

"Zaculeu." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Jun. 2020. Web.
     24 Oct. 2020.

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