Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Otra Conquista, La (The Other Conquest) (1998) >>

Apocalypto (2006)
Apocalypto is the story of the conquest of an indigenous Central American forest tribe by the more powerful warriors from the Mayan capital. These Mayan warriors are on a conquest to find suitable victims for their bloody sacrifice rituals in an effort to appease the gods. At first we see the forest people enjoying their lives peaceably; we get a sense of male camaraderie as they hunt for boar, as well as the women acting typically, and the children innocently playing. Once the stage is set, one of the alpha males named Jaguar Paw begins getting premonitions of some great evil that is impending. His visions are corroborated by the tribe's encounter with another forest tribe that passes through their area, whose leader is speechless from the atrocities committed on his people. Soon the visions become reality. As the beautiful, well ordered Native community gets destroyed and the people are massacred by the Mayan militia, Jaguar Paw strives to protect his wife and daughter. The fleeing wife and daughter stumble into a deep cavern, are unable to escape from it, but are at least safe from the attackers. Jaguar Paw along with other men from the tribe are marched in chains to the capital city, where bloodthirsty Mayans eagerly anticipate their sacrifice. Just before Jaguar Paw is about to get killed, a solar eclipse occurs. Since eclipses were thought to be a sign from the gods, the Mayans interpret this as their gods being content, and let Jaguar Paw off the hook for the time being. Although the Mayans do not sacrifice him in the public ritual, they still plan on killing him and the few other men that remain as sport. The men are made to run towards a field, whereupon the soldiers stand back and pick them off with various projectile weapons, and a "finisher" who is waiting at the edge of the field clubs them to death. Jaguar Paw manages to dodge the arrows by weaving back and forth, overcome the finisher, and escape into the dense jungle. He is pursued for many hours, employs various tactics to elude his captors, and eventually manages to go on the offensive, picking off his captors one by one, until all but a few are dead. Jaguar Paw is able to rescue his family just in time from drowning in the cave rapidly filling with rainwater. Just before he saves his wife, she delivers a baby underwater, who represents the hope and perpetuation of the tribe's legacy. The final scene depicts Jaguar Paw along with his captors on the beach, dumbfounded by the fleet of Spanish ships just arriving on shore. For the first time, we get a sense of unity between the forest tribe and the city Mayans because they are both equally amazed at the conquistador fleet, and both may presumably suffer under the omnipotent Spanish. Just like Topiltzin in The Other Conquest, Jaguar Paw is a victim of greater forces, but instead of adapting to them as Topiltzin does, Jaguar Paw simply retreats, melding back into the jungle, as if the primitive utopian civilization that he represents will simply disappear.

See Also

Amérika: Terra Incógnita (1988)

Ave Maria (1999)

Bartolome de Las Casas (1992)

Cabeza de Vaca (1992)

Captain from Castile (1947)

The Controversy of Valladolid (1991)

Even the Rain (2011)

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

Jericó (1991)

Kino (1993)

Nuevo mundo (1976)

Orinoko: Nuevo Mundo (1984)

Retorno a Aztlan (1990)