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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

A chronicle of conquest

August 12th, 2009 by Susan Smith

The Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM), a Guatemalan university, in concert with Geosistec, ESRI’s Guatemalan business partner, implemented a dynamic web map that merges modern cartographic tools with the Mesoamerican concept of “living geography,”to depict the conquest of Guatemala.

This digital restoration of the Lienzo de Quahquechollan was shown at ESRI UC and can be seen at the website

It was the first time it was exhibited in the U.S. according to press materials. Among other firsts, the Lienzo is the first known map of Guatemala and the only firsthand account to focus exclusively on the conquest of Guatemala.

Remarkable is the fact that the map was painted using natural pigments on cotton cloth circa 1530-1540 by the Quauhquecholteca of central Mexico. Their historical contribution outlines how the Quauhquecholteca aligned with Hernan Cortes and the Spanish to conquer Guatemala.

The Lienzo’s iconography is difficult to follow after five hundred years of wear, and the conquest route has faded with time. The Universidad Francisco Marroquin launched a project in 2006 to restore the map digitally using ESRI ArcServer and developed with ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight to make it easily understandable and so that viewers could participate in the conquest journey using routes and symbols and relate the journey to modern geography. This brings history to life by letting the user join history and geography using descriptions and historical fact.

Another interesting fact about the Lienzo is that it is part of a tradition of reading aloud. The map was used in community rituals and an appointed narrator would read the history. Thus it makes sense that the Lienzo is now made available to a broader community via technology.lienzo-view

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