1697 – The last Mayan city is defeated by the Spanish

Nojpetén (also known as Tayasal) was the capital city of the Itza Maya kingdom, located in what is now Guatemala. It was the last Mayan capital city to fall to the Spanish in their conquest of the Petén region. After the conquest, the Spanish recorded that it had 21 temples, including a step pyramid of similar size and design to the one in Chichen Itza. These were almost all destroyed, and the Mayan culture was largely eradicated by the conquerors.

The Spanish committed a form of cultural genocide – although we know that the Maya were a highly literate culture, only three books survived the fires made of them by missionaries who believed it was their holy mission to save these primitive heathens. The Maya also had a highly developed system of timekeeping, with a calendar that had been calculated as far in advance as 2012 – leading many to assume, wrongly, that the Maya believed history would end then, rather than that date simply being where the work had ended.

Referenced in:
People of the Sun — Rage Against The Machine

1964 – Kitty Genovese is murdered

It is one of the most controversial murders in recent history – less that it took place, but the more for how it is remembered.

Kitty Genovese was a 28 year old woman who worked as the night manager of Ev’s Eleventh Hour Sports Bar in Hollis and lived in nearby Kew Gardens (both located in the Queens area of New York City). A little after 3AM on the morning of March 13, 1964, she was attacked by Winston Moseley outside the building where she lived.

Mosely stabbed her repeatedly, and although she managed to escape him at first, he caught her again and stabbed her once more, this time puncturing her lung. Finally, he pursued her into the atrium of her building, where he raped her and stabbed her to death.

Infamously, it was claimed that there were 38 witnesses to the crime, all of whom did nothing, and the murder became one of the best known “proofs” of the apathy and callousness of big city life. In fact, the number was much smaller, several of them did call the police (although their accounts were incomplete) and the police did arrive soon after they were called. No one just watched (although it has been claimed that they did). Many of those who were witnesses heard only the screams of Genovese, and some of these were misinterpreted – only two witnesses actually saw any of the stabbings, one the first and one the last, and of these, the latter did call the police.

Genovese died of her wounds in the ambulance later that night, but her legacy – other than the urban myth version of her attack – is widespread. Reforms to police phone reporting procedures and neighbourhood watch programs were instituted, and a great deal of research into the “bystander effect” (sometimes even called the “Genovese syndrome”) has also taken place. Mosely remains in prison at the time of this writing (for this murder and two others).

Referenced in:
Outside of a Small Circle of Friends — Phil Ochs

1989 – Mark J. Kilroy is murdered by a cult led by Adolfo Constanzo

Adolfo Constanzo first began gathering his cult in the 1980s. In 1986, he demanded that the Calzadas family cartel accept him and his followers into its ranks. When they rejected him, members of the family began to go missing – Constanzo and his followers were kidnapping them then killing them in gruesome magical rituals.

Constanzo enjoyed some success as a criminal, largely due to the fact that he scared the living crap out of people, but the abduction and murder of American student Mark J. Kilroy in May 1989 was the beginning of the end for his group. Diplomatic pressure from the US led to a crackdown by Mexican police, and several of Constanzo’s people were arrested. Constanzo and a few others escaped, only to be cornered by police in July. Constanzo committed suicide rather than go to prison.

Referenced in:
El Padrino (Adolfo Constanzo) — Church of Misery