by Flavia Idà
One man. An extraordinary choice.
In 1511 a Spanish ship en route from the island of Hispaniola sank off the coast of Yucatan near the town of Tulum. The survivors were captured by the Maya; these were the first white men ever to set foot on the mainland of the American continent, and the first white men the Maya had ever seen.
Among the castaways was Gonzalo Guerrero, a sailor from Palos. After he was captured, he lived among the Maya as a slave for three years. He then escaped from his master and sought the protection of Lord Nachancan, ruler of Chetumal in Belize, who made him a free man. Gifted with a fine military mind, Gonzalo quickly rose to become Nachancan’s war captain; he married Nachancan’s sister and had three children with her. This was the first European-American family; it was the founding of the Mestizo race, and it changed the face of the New World.
In 1517 the conquistador Hernando Cortez came to bring Gonzalo back to the Spaniards, offering him a position of high power among his countrymen. The decision Gonzalo took then was the only one ever taken by a white man in the conquest of the Americas, and it made him a hero.