Coyoche, King of the Chorotegas, Important Historical Character of our Native Indigenous Culture

King Coyoche
Photo: Edison Valverde Araya, Messenger Walker of the South

An Indigenous King of Costa Rica in the 1560s, who is sometimes confused with King Garabito, despite the fact that they are two very different characters and that their respective peoples belong to two different cultural groups: Coyoche belonging to the cultural area of ​​Mesoamerica and Garabito to the so-called Intermediate Area.

Coyoche was lord of the small Kingdom of Chorotega (also called Choluteca), located in the Tibies cove, between the mouths of the Grande de Tarcoles and Jesús María rivers, in the current province of Puntarenas. This was one of the Chorotega kingdoms that existed in Costa Rica upon the arrival of the Spanish, such as Orotinea, Chumes, Nicoya, Zapando, Diría, etc., and it was the same kingdom that visited the expedition of the Conquistador Gil González Dávila in 1522.

Although there is no knowledge of the original meaning in Chorotega of the name Coyoche, it is possible that is in correspondence with the Nahuatl term coyuchi or coyoíchcatl, “of the color of the coyote”, which also identifies a type of brown cotton. Since the vowels e and o did not exist in the Chorotega language, it is possible that the true name of the king was Cuyují and that Coyoche was a Spanish form.

Coyoche, King of the Chorotegas, Important Historical Character of our Native Indigenous CultureIn the 1560s, King Coyoche was one of the indigenous monarchs who offered resistance to the Spanish, possibly because he was one of the first to confront their aggressions. At the beginning of 1561, when the conqueror Juan de Caballón y Arboleda arrived in Costa Rica, his lieutenant Antonio Álvarez Pereyra made an incursion into the Coyoche domain, captured the latter and took him prisoner to the Spanish camp, where his subjects had to render services to the conquerors.

Later he managed to regain freedom and confront the Spanish. In a document from 1563 it is said that the Mayor Juan Vázquez de Coronado “… dispatched his leaders and captains to the chiefs Garavito and Coyoche … for having risen up and rebelled and it was very important that the chiefs were at peace, for the stillness and calm of the earth”.

Garabito (rey) - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

As Oscar Baker indicates in his work Garavito, our lost root (1981), the Coyoche domains were located on the Pacific coast, between the Jesús María and Grande de Tarcoles rivers, southeast of the kingdom of Guruita.

This author identifies Coyoche with the king mentioned in the itinerary of Gil González Dávila’s expedition (1522) with the name of Chorotega, who gave the Spaniards gold for the important sum of 4708 pesos and 4 tomines and in whose domains they were baptized 477 people.

However, for the forty years that elapsed between González Dávila’s and Caballón’s expedition, it is more possible that King Chorotega was a monarch before Coyoche.

Carlos Molina Montes de Oca, in “Garcimuñoz, the City that Never Died” (1993), indicates the possible identity between Coyoche and the Mangue language king who in 1563 was held captive by the Huerta kings of Pacata along with his few surviving subjects, since whom Mayor Juan Vázquez de Coronado released and returned to his former seat in the Chorotega region, on the Pacific coast.

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