The author presented a draft of this essay as a presidential address at the 2012 meeting of the society in Springfield, Missouri. The theme of the meeting was “the apocalypse,” referring to a popular belief that the Mayan calendar predicted a cataclysmic event to occur in that year. The address proposed that the apocalypse had already occurred in the sixteenth century, when the Maya and many other Indigenous groups of the Americas were devastated by diseases brought by European immigrants. The author examined how the destruction was documented in Spanish surveys called the Relaciones geográficas, which were completed after a major epidemic devastated the Indigenous population of Mesoamerica. The author did not submit the paper for publication at the time. The current pandemic has lent some modest perspective to the many epidemic diseases that have swept through the Americas since the late fifteenth century. The author submitted this revised version of the original essay after editing the content, adding notes, and citing relevant works published since 2012.

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