Infobox Ethnic group
group = Itza
population = 1,983 [According to 2002 census data cite web |url= |title= XI Censo Nacional de Población y VI de Habitación (Censo 2002) - Pertenencia de grupo étnico |accessdate=2008-05-27 |publisher=Instituto Nacional de Estadística |date=2002
Ethnologue estimates the Itza ethnic group to have a population of 1,800 in the year 2001 cite web |url= |title=Itza' A language of Guatemala |accessdate=2008-06-02 |publisher=ethnologue |date=2001
region1 = flag|Guatemala
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region2 = El Petén
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languages = Itza, Spanish
religions = Catholic, Evangelicalist
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The Itza are a Guatemalan ethnic group of Maya affiliation speaking the Itza' language. They inhabit the Petén department of Guatemala in and around the city of Flores on the Lake Petén Itzá. Although there are still around 30,000Fact|date=June 2008 ethnic Itza, which retain their indigenous culture, the Itza language is now almost extinct. [Data taken from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) suggest there were only 60 Iza speakers left in 1986. See cite web |url= |title=Itza' A language of Guatemala |accessdate=2008-06-02 |publisher=ethnologue |date=1986 ]

The Itza in Yucatán

Historically the Itza, descended from a Yucatecan Maya lineage the "Ah Itzá", were an important Mesoamerican people who dominated the Yucatan peninsula in the Post-classic period. The Itza may have originated from the Classic Period city of Motul de San José near lake Peten Itza in Guatemala, migrating to Yucatan during the Maya collapse at the end of the Classic Period. [Drew 1999, p.373.] From their capital at Chichén Itzá, Mexico they established a trade empire reaching as far south as Naco in Honduras. "Chichen Itza" means "at the mouth of the well of the Itza" in the Itza' language.

The books of "Chilam Balam" recount the history of the Itza and the demise of their empire at the hands of a band of Mexicanized Putún Maya led by the mercenary king Hunac Ceel, founder of the Cocom dynasty of Mayapan. Hunac Ceel fought the Itzas but was taken captive and was to be sacrificed by being thrown into the cenote of Chichén Itzá. However he survived the attempted sacrifice at the Cenote of Chichén Itzá. Having spent a night in the water he was able to relate a prophecy of the rain god Chac about the year's coming harvest. Once lord of Mayapan, he orchestrated, aided by sorcery, the destruction of Chichén Itzá.

While part of the story of Hunac Ceel seem to be more mythical than historical it is well accepted that the Itza of Chichén Itzá were the eventual losers in a power struggle between the three Yucatecan lineages of the Cocom, the Xiu and the Itza, all claiming heritage from the Toltecs. And around 1331 archeological remains attest that Chichén Itzá and other Itza dominated sites, for example Isla Cerritos, were abandoned. The fall of these sites was contemporary with a gradual incursion of mexicanized Putún Maya from Tabasco and central Mexico, and it seems that these were indeed the ones that caused the fall of the original Itza state.

The Itza in the Petén

The Itza then left or were expelled from the Yucatán region and returned south to the Petén Basin region to build the city later known as Tayasal as their capital. They called it "Noh Petén" (City Island). It was also called "Tah Itzá" (Place of the Itzá).

Hernán Cortés visited Tayasal with an army of Spaniards and 600 Chontal Maya on his way to Honduras in 1523 and he celebrated mass with an Itza ruler named "Canek".

The island city of Tayasal was the last independent Mayan kingdom and some Spanish priests peacefully visited and preached to the last Itza king, also called Canek, as late as 1696. The Itza kingdom finally submitted to Spanish rule on March 13, 1697, to a force led by Martín de Ursua, governor of Yucatán.



* Drew, David (1999) "The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings", Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. ISBN 0-297-81699-3
* Sharer, Robert J. (1994). "The Ancient Maya". Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2130-0.
* Weaver, Muriel Porter (1993). "The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predecessors: Archaeology of Mesoamerica" (3rd ed.). San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-01-263999-0.

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