John Galindo: Palenque and Copan

Copan was a Maya civilization that took place in the classical era of 300-900 AD. This civilization had many political, religious or civil issues. The Maya leader of Copan was Yax Kuh Mo, he was originally from Tikal and ended up being one of the most powerful leaders of Copan. Yax Kuh Mo was also responsible for creating a dynasty of 16 rulers, which lead Copan to become one of the most important Maya civilizations. However, like all great Mayan civilizations, Copan suffered the same destiny as other Mayan civilizations where the jungle took control of the temples after the fall of the city. Years later, a famous explorer name John Galindo discovered the ruins and was amazed at what he had found.

John Galindo was born in 1802 in Dublin, Ireland with a father of Spaniard descent named Philemon Galindo and an Irish mother. Galindo became an explorer and army official. He was a very ambitious and intelligent man who was filled with curiosity and an urge for learning. In a way, Galindo was the inspiration for Stephen and Catherwood who were future explorers.

Galindo’s adventure began when he set out to the New World around the age of 20 and ended up in Guatemala in 1827. During the country´s first civil war in 1829, he was wounded in battle. After the battle, he was awarded Central American citizenship by the first liberal federal congress. As time passed, he became involved in military and government assignments. By getting more involved he became governor of El Peten, Guatemala, which gave him the power to control many landscapes, mostly where Lacandon Maya lived. Lacandon Maya was one of the civilizations that were nearly extinct in 1943 from the conquering of the Spaniards.

In 1831, Galindo was first sent to Palenque to explore some stone ruins. Three years later, Galindo was given orders to go explore stone ruins near the Guatemala/Honduras border. Galindo got to Copan in April 1834, five years before Stephen and Catherwood. When he arrived at Copan he stated that the ruins he saw were something magnificent. He said that these ruins had been before Christopher Columbus’ trip to the new world. He even went as far as to declare the Maya’s as an advanced civilization. Galindo was amazed of how each piece of ruins had something worthwhile to explore. He believed that he was the first explorer to visit the ruins.

Unfortunately, he was wrong. Many years after his time a report over Copan was found in the royal archives of Spain. The report was written by Diego Garcia de Palacio. He was a magistrate sent out in 1576 to investigate the conquered provinces on orders of King Phillip II of Spain. Palacio was very interested in traveling to Central America for work and personal reasons. He wanted to take control of the Philippines and become governor, but his dream wasn’t achieved. When he found the ruins, he was skeptical that Mayas could have built such incredible buildings. He wrote a letter to the king. Where he described the Mayas “as rude as the natives of the province” and making the Mayas sound like if they were incapable of building such places like Copan. He saw the Mayas as people with no class, education, or integrity, Palacio just saw them as savage people.

Even do Galindo was not the first explorer to explore Copan he was one of the first people who believed that the Maya could create these incredible sacred mountains in Copan. If he had never explored Copan Stephen and Catherwood would have probably not be motivated as they were. John Galindo was a man filled with curiosity and he lived for an adventure.