The resplendent quetzal (RQ), in Spanish simply el quetzal, is the most prominent species of trogons and quetzals (family Trogonidae) in the world. It has wielded extraordinary influence on Central and South American cultures, symbolizing power, wealth, fertility, freedom, and more. Despite its importance and undeniable beauty, and perhaps partially because of it, the RQ is considered a threatened species, most notably from diminishing habitat and poaching.
The quetzal figures into various dimensions of study, including numerous topics and disciplines that here are categorized within three general fields: art, culture, and science. For approximately twenty years the Hispanic Research Center (HRC) of Arizona State University has received continuous support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to train undergraduate and graduate underrepresented minority students and women at the baccalaureate level and through the PhD in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Over the past decade, as part of those NSF grants, the HRC has supported considerable scientific research by students and their faculty mentors on the RQ in Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States and has sent students to do fieldwork on the bird and at archaeological sites in Central America and Mesoamerica, many of which have temples and palaces dedicated to the quetzal-based deities and rulers. This project is a result of that research.
This breathtaking bird has had a profound influence on world culture, and reference and study pertaining to it has been prolonged, widespread, and multidisciplinary. Our project is unique in that it includes interdisciplinary research on the RQ as well as quetzal-related phenomena. The data set of primary sources includes the appearance of the RQ and of the quetzal-derived deities in pre-Hispanic codices; poetry; the sacred texts of the Aztecs, Maya, and Toltecs; and the accounts of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America from both the Western and the indigenous perspectives. We delve into its relevance in archaeology, religion, folklore, popular culture, biology, the arts, and economics.
The existence of a vast amount of primary information and scholarly studies presents both a great challenge and a significant opportunity. The study of the RQ and the quetzal deities is notable for its fragmentation and specialization. Our goal is to produce an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, coherently integrating, synthesizing, and disseminating knowledge from many disparate fields.
This Web site has sections devoted to various subfields of art, culture, and science; a bibliography; an index; and a feedback form that visitors are encouraged to complete. It is an open-ended portion of our overall project, and we will continue to add visual and textual resources for the indefinite future. We invite contributions from scholars and the general public alike. For further study, we hope you will refer to the bibliography.