Maya Pipil

  • Environment and Geography

    Around 1000 CE, the Pipil people arrived from what is now Mexico to an area occupied mainly by Mayan groups on the central Pacific coast of El Salvador. The mutual influence of these two groups produced a society known as the Maya Pipil, who lived in this lush zone of vast jungles, abundant flora and fauna, and frequent volcanic activity.

  • Economy and Technology

    Taking advantage of the developments introduced by their Mayan ancestors, the Maya Pipil grew different types of corn, beans and chilies, which were staples of their diet. They also produced avocado, mamey fruit, pineapple, papaya and cacao, as well as cotton, which they spun into thread for their textiles.

  • Art

    Little is known of Maya Pipil art. Most studies of this group have focused on the history of their armed conflicts and migration. Some ceramic vessels and pitchers have been found with polychromatic decorations applied on a red or white background. Decorative elements were usually geometric. It is also possible to find incense burners representing the face of Tlaloc, the god of rain, as well as small effigies of seated jaguars and figurines with wheels. Their architecture and sculpture displays Mexican influences, which the Pipil people would have brought from that region, including certain Toltic esthetic elements.

  • Social Organization

    Maya Pipil society probably was quite similar to other Mayan societies. The elders and other leaders were of noble lineage, while priests also enjoyed high status. As the Pipil engaged frequently in armed conflict, it is likely that warriors and military leaders held a high place in this society.

  • Religion and Funerary Practices

    The religious practices of the Maya Pipil display linkages to ceremonies performed by the Toltecs, their direct predecessors. The Pipil people introduced elements such as worship of Tlaloc, the god of rain, and of Xipe-Totec, the “flayed god”, which often involved human sacrifice. At some sites, fields for playing ball sports have been identified. Games of this kind had an important ritual function throughout ancient Mesoamerica.

  • Settlement Pattern

    When the Maya Pipil came to what is now El Salvador, they found an area already populated by Mayan groups living in cities and other settlements. From the blending of these two groups a new cultural tradition developed over time that maintained elements of local traditions. The cities functioned as ceremonial and political centers, but also as trading centers and marketplaces. Residences were typically rectangular and made of wooden poles and adobe.

  • History

    The Maya Pipil had their origins in the Toltec world. According to legends written down during the Spanish conquest, the Pipil emigrated from Mexico under the leadership of the warrior chief Topilzin, who they believed to be an incarnation of the God Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. The warrior chief was defeated in a battle of succession for leadership of the city of Tula. However, the Mayan people who inhabited these lands strongly influenced the Pipil, who adapted many of their customs. When the Spaniards arrived, the Maya Pipil culture was present throughout much of the central zone and almost all of the western zone of what is today El Salvador.