We followed our Mayan guide through what was once a large henequen
field, stopping here and there as he pointed out stone work that had
transported water for irrigation.
“Mayan” he would say, indicating the well-worn limestone channels. We were at Hacienda Yaxcopoil, touring one of
the great haciendas and henequen plantations of the late 19th and
early 20th century. As we returned to the main building, he
pointed to the stone stairway and again said “Mayan”.
Visiting the Haciendas was something I looked forward to as part of our adventure in Merida. I had only a vague notion of their history. Much of the land surrounding Merida belonged to the Indigenous people and had been sites of Mayan cities, temples
and pyramids. When the Spanish arrived
and took the land, they created cattle ranches and farms and the haciendas
were born. Many of these haciendas that
are today so beautiful to behold, were built atop of, and from the stones of, these Mayan cities. Yaxcopoil is one
It is a bittersweet experience to visit the haciendas, much
like going to see the cotton plantations of the American South. Planted with a type of agave plant called henequen,
the Mayans were enslaved to work the fields, harvest the henequen and process
it into sisal. Sisal, a valuable
commodity used around the world to make ropes, ship’s rigging, and twine came
to be known as “green gold”. Like
cotton, it created fortunes for a few, but made life desperately hard for the
many. The rein of henequen ended when synthetics
were developed, replacing the need for sisal.
Today’s haciendas range in condition from mere piles of
rubble overtaken by jungle, to luxury resorts.
Many are open to the public and can be visited. Some are private. A few, such as Yaxcopoil, are museums kept in
the style of the time, devoted to telling the poignant tale of the green
|Kitchens were apart from the main house|
|Henequen processing machinery|
|Mayan artifacts from the property|
|Metates y manos|
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