Names from the 1570 Census of Cozumel

by Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada (Kathleen M. O'Brien) and Juliana de Luna (Julia Smith)

© 2007-2010 by Kathleen M. O'Brien and Julia Smith. All rights reserved.
Version 1.2, updated 08 March 2010


The names in this article come from a census taken in 1570 of the indigenous people living in the villages of San Miguel Xamancab and Santa María Oycib on the island of Cozumel, which is located just off the east coast of Yucatan, Mexico. The census was taken by a priest, Cristóbal de Asensio, during a visit he made to the island in 1570. Today, it is housed at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville.

Transcriptions of this census have been published at least twice. The source for this article is the version published in 1998 in:

Antochiw, Michel. Cozumel: Padrones y Poblamiento. Mérida, Yucatán, México: Fundación de Parques y Museo de Cozumel. 1998.

Antochiw (p. 4) notes the source for his work as being the earlier publication:

Contributions to American Anthropology and History. No. 30. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 523. 1940.


When the Spanish first began to explore the mainland of the New World, they discovered substantial populations along the coast of Yucatan, but especially on the island of Cozumel, just off the east coast. Cozumel had become an important center both for religion and as a stopping point for long-distance sea traders. By just after 1500, the population of Cozumel was around 20,000 people (Rathje and Sabloff, p. 225).

Cozumel was one of the earliest parts of the Maya area to be brought under Spanish control. With the Spanish came Christianization, and baptism with new Spanish names. The typical pattern for re-naming indigenous people can be seen in this data; they were assigned new given names, generally the names of popular saints. An indigenous name was kept as the new byname, and this byname was passed down as a patronymic family name to the convert's descendants. In some cases, children were assigned their father's name as a byname instead of their own, so that the daughters of the Aztec emperor Motecuhzoma were baptized as Leonor Montezuma and Isabel Montezuma (Gibson, pp. 74-76). In the area of Yucatan, elite families were already using family names in addition to individual ones. Thus, some of the Maya elements maintained here may have been given names by origin, but others are family names, which may be of diverse origin.

The language of these Maya elements is Yukateko (Yucatec Maya), which was spoken widely in the parts of the Yucatan peninsula that are today part of Mexico. It is not spoken in Guatemala or the highlands of Chiapas, where they spoke (and continue to speak) languages that are in the same language family, but otherwise distinct.

After the Conquest, populations on Cozumel, and on the mainland, began to plummet. The main reason was disease; the Spanish brought with them a variety of diseases to which the indigenous people had no immunity. The lowered population of the island left them open to attacks by English privateers (who were utilizing Jamaica and the southern coast of Yucatan for provisioning), so that by around 1700, the island was completely abandoned. It would of course, be resettled later, and become a major resort setting. However, this abandonment has left both ruins and records from the preconquest and early colonial period readily available.

Name Patterns

The names in this article are the names of indigenous people from the villages of San Miguel Xamancab and Santa María Oycib (186 men and 172 women). Both for men and women, the names consist of one given name and one surname. There is a single example of a woman listed without a surname. In all cases, the given name is a Spanish given name and the surname is a native surname (Diego Pat, Francisco Xamancab, Juan Choc, Cathalina Oxté, Ynés Akhol, etc.). The reason for this pattern is described in the Background section above.

For those wishing to learn more about the basics of the lives of the inhabitants of these villages, the source below (CAA) provides an excellent discussion of how the Spanish rule actually affected the inhabitants of Cozumel and the wording of that article is easily accessible to the non-scholar.

List of masculine given names: List of feminine given names: List of surnames:


AntochiwAntochiw, Michel. Cozumel: Padrones y Poblamiento. Mérida, Yucatán, México: Fundación de Parques y Museo de Cozumel. 1998.
CAA"Report and Census of the Island of Cozumel, 1570". Contributions to American Anthropology. Volume VI, Nos 30-34. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, pp. 5-30. 1940.
GibsonGibson, Charles. The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1810. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, p. 74-6. 1964.
Rathje and SabloffRathje, William L. and Jeremy A. Sabloff, 1973, Ancient Maya Commercial Systems: A Research Design for the Island of Cozumel, Mexico. World Archaeology 5(2): 221-231. 1973.

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