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-Haciendas in Mérida: a boom on the trade of the vegetal fibre called henequen, made from the agave cactus, ideal for the manufacturing of cords and ropes, took place in the State of Yucatan by the late XIX and early XX centuries. This generated an unusual dynamism on the economy, which brought as a consequence the accumulation of huge fortunes.
The newly rich, blurred by their economic power, did not hesitated in investing their ephemeral wealth in refurbishing and enlarging the old colonial haciendas, or building brand new, lavish and immense ones.
The "fiefs" of the barons of the henequen resembled small cities, and in some cases they hosted up to 2500 people. Besides the sumptuous main residence, the haciendas and ranches had a church, numerous and modest dwellings for the Mayan peasants, and also the so called engine house or processing plant.
There are still several haciendas product of the henequen fever standing nearby the City of Mérida, and amongst them we have the following:
  • Chenku: it was the setting for great parties that had Mexico's top artists and politicians amongst its guests on its days of splendour; but beyond this anecdotic detail, the hacienda is an architectonic beauty of colonial design that stands out for its ample inner spaces and its superb archways on the façade and in the back zone of the main house.
    It is located northeast of Mérida and still maintains the main residence, the engine house, the pond and two nearby constructions that may have been warehouses.
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    • Petcanche: it is one of the oldest haciendas in the region, and it was declared as Patrimony of the City of Mérida in 1997 due to its undeniable elegance and historic importance.
      The main house is of colonial origins and it belonged to Don Francisco de Loayza, who had it built in the XVI century. Its ample corridors, its living room, the chapel and the dining room, which contains furniture and decorative elements of the period, amongst them a magnificent table made of marble from Carrara, stand out.
      The hacienda kept its neat looks during the boom of the henequen. It is located in the Fraccionamiento of Brisas, going through the Chichi Suarez Highway (Mérida).

    • San Antonio Cucul: it is the only hacienda from the XVII century that is preserved in perfect conditions. It is a beautiful colonial ranch with walls made of stone and limestone. Its ample and well preserved gardens and its flashy architecture turn it into an unavoidable destination in your travelling itinerary.
      The hacienda is located north of the city, within the urban area, and there are guides that will make your visit more pleasant.

    • San Pedro Chukuaxín: it is a beautiful eclectic construction that mixes classical features of colonial architecture with neoclassical lines introduced during its remodelling. It main façade stands out for its ample doorway and the details bordering the large windows; whilst it shows an ornamentation proper of the XIX century, with elements of the colonial period, in its interior.
      It is located in the Chuminópolis Colony and is currently the seat of the House of Christianity, a secular Catholic movement. It is considered Patrimony of the City for being one of the oldest haciendas in Yucatan. History says that its first owners were the sons and grandsons of the conquistadors. The property came to the hands of the Jesuits in the XVII century, which had it until 1767, year in which the order was expelled from Mexico.

    • Chenche de las Torres: it resembles a castle due to the great towers of its main and engine houses. Another attractive space inside the hacienda is its chapel, which shows a singular gothic style. And another peculiar detail is in the coat of arms of its façade, proper of the renaissance era.

    • Katanchel: it is an impressive hacienda of colonial style with beautiful and evocative installations, which imaginarily transports visitors to the XVII century, when the main activity on the 220 hectares of the hacienda was the breeding of cattle and horses.
      The installations suffered severe modifications that altered its original design in the mid XIX and early XX centuries. After these changes, the hacienda, whose Mayan name translated into English means "where the arch of the sky is asked", turned into a superb hacienda thanks to henequen.
      It is currently an exclusive hotel that offers its guests the commodities of the modern world within ambiences that have recovered their colonial features after a hard restoration work.
      It is located at the kilometre 24 of the Mérida-Valladolid Road.

    • Kancabchén: it's a hacienda that was dedicated to henequen and cattle that surged on the lands of Yucatan in 1890. Its first owner was Pascual Gamboa Rivera and later the property went to the hands of a relative until 1985, year in which it was acquired by the Ponce Garcia family. Since then it became a milk-producing ranch and a resting and recreational place for tourists, who enjoy the events that reflect the traditions and habits of the state taking place in it.
      It has excellent cows of Swiss origins whose production reaches two thousand litres of milk daily, being one of the most important centres in the zone.
      Besides, about fifty purebred horses can be appreciated on its 230 hectares, and spirited cocks bred for fighting.
      Gatherings with music and dances of Yucatan's folklore that can be watched by 1500 people are organised in Kancabchén, a Mayan word that translated into English means "pit of red earth". The hacienda is situated in the Municipality of Baca, at 22 kilometres from Mérida.
    -Archaeological Compound of Dzibilchaltún: it is one of the Mayan urban centres that were uninterruptedly inhabited since the year 600 BC until the arrival of the Spaniards.
    More than 8 thousand stone constructions have been found in Dzibilchaltún, which is located within a natural reserve, being the most important ones the Temple of the Pedestal and the Temple of the Seven Dolls, the latter's name is due to the seven small statues that were found in its interior, which can be seen at the field museum.
    An impacting ceremony also takes place in this building during the fall equinox (21st of March), with an unmatchable solar spectacle in which the image of Chaac, the rain god, is believed to be cast.
    The Cenote of Xlacah (Old Town, in English), a deep pit of water surrounded by a great variety of plants and animals, with unique species on their genus, is located within this archaeological compound. The Mayas regarded these formations as sacred places.
    In order to reach Dzibilchaltún (Mayan word meaning "where there are scriptures on flat stones") you have to take the collective taxis that have their starting point at San Juan Park, between 69th and 64th Streets, in the City of Mérida; it is a 22-kilometre distance.

    -Puerto Progreso: its importance can be tracked back to the times when the place was the docking site for ships coming from far seas. It currently maintains its primordial role within the State of Yucatan, thanks to an admirable work of engineering that allows getting large vessels, including those "floating cities" called tourist cruisers.
    Progreso was a town of fishermen until the mid XX century, with old colonial temples, modest houses and fabulous sunsets; but its face started to change in 1950, when beautiful beach houses began to crop up on its coasts.
    There are other paradises of sand and sea in the vicinity of Progreso, which is located at 36 kilometres from Mérida, such as Yucalpetén, Sian-Kaán, Chelém, Chuburná, San Benito and San Bruno, amongst others.

    -Izamal: it is a crossbred city and perhaps the most beautiful in the State of Yucatan. Its origins date back to the Mayan era, when it was a place to worship Iztamatul, the god creator of the rains and the droughts, which was visited by a multitude of pilgrims.
    Most of the Mayan buildings were destroyed with the arrival of the Spaniards, amongst them the Temple of Popolchach, over which the Covent of San Antonio de Padua was built in 1553, being its main promoter father Diego de Landa. It is a superb construction that contains the largest atrium in Mexico on the outside.
    The Temple of Kinich Kakmó, dedicated to the god sun and the third largest in the country, is amongst the Mayan vestiges that can still be observed. There are also other pre Hispanic platforms on the hills surrounding the city.
    Izamal, located 72 kilometres away from Mérida, is a very religious city, and that is why it was chosen as the gathering place for Pope John Paul the II and the indigenous tribes of Mexico and Central America, which took place in 1993.

    -Sisal: it is fishing port with a great commercial activity, whose historic importance dates back to the late XIX and early XX century, when it became the departing port for the numerous products elaborated with the henequen of Yucatan, a valuable vegetal fibre used in the manufacture of cords and ropes, amongst other derivates.
    The commercial bonanza of the port attracted fierce pirates eager to lay their hands on the succulent booty; therefore, the authorities were forced to raise solid fortifications in order to protect its inhabitants, which today remain standing.
    But Sisal is not just a port, but a welcoming resort with beaches of fine and white sands, and a resting place for flocks of Canadian ducks and other migratory birds. It is located 53 kilometres away from Mérida.

    -Celestún: mangroves, isles and lagoons in which crocodiles, mountain guans, armadillos, white-tailed deer, pink flamingos and more than 70 bird species and important populations of reptiles and fish, configure a natural space of endless beauty that is part of the Biosphere Reserve of the Celestún Estuary.
    Travellers can tour across the area in comfortable vessels, ideal to closely appreciate the flora and fauna richness of Celestún, the port with the most tourist affluence in Yucatan.
    A visit to this natural paradise has to include the tasting of its traditional gastronomy, an exquisite and delicious burst of marine flavours. It is situated at 96 kilometres from Mérida, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, between Yucatan and Campeche.

    -Uxmal: it is one of the emblematic cities of the Mayan world, considered as Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO since 1996 due to the purity of its style, its perfect architecture and advanced art. Its name in English means "thrice built and occupied", which can give us an idea of its historic development.
    The walls and vaults of this amazing city are covered with carved stones; but also its geometrical shapes, the presence of lattices and several figure heads of Chaac, the rain god, many of which may have been made during the classical period of Mayan architecture, stand out.
    Years later the city builders would develop their own architectonic style, known as Late Puuc, which included the serpents as one of its main motifs. The system of cisterns, known as chultunes, which was used to store water rain in order to face the long periods of drought, is another peculiar detail.
    Uxmal reached its peak between the years 600 and 900 AD, and centuries later, in the year 1200 AD, the Mayas abandoned the city for reasons that investigators have failed to accurately determine thus far, although it is believed that the exodus took place for economic, social and political reasons.
    The archaeological compound is situated in the Municipality of Santa Elena, at 78 kilometres from Mérida. It has a field museum and a cultural centre in which a flashy show of lights and sound takes place.

    Amongst the most interesting precincts in Uxmal, we have:
    • The Pyramid of the Fortune-Teller: it is a building made of limestone 35 metres high with five different storeys of different styles (in which each floor was a different temple) that were accessed through a narrow flight of stairs with 118 steps. Its origin is related to a Mayan legend according to which it was built by the midget of Uxmal, the son of a witch that was born from an egg.
      It is located in the centre of the City of Uxmal and was built during the Late Classical Period (600 - 1000 AD)

    • Quadrangle of the Nuns: it is a compound formed by four ample palaces around a large central patio. Its architectonic features correspond to the Puuc style and are based on the so-called Mayan hut, a construction of smooth walls and conical roofs. Its façade made of sillar, a volcanic rock, is pretty complex and resembles a great and entangled puzzle adorned with figure heads of Chaac, the rain god, and other details such as frizzes, lattices, columns and diverse human and animal figures.
      It was discovered in the XVII century and might have been a compound inhabited by priests and members of the Mayan elite according to the investigations. It is located in the west of Uxmal and its surname came from its similarity with the western convents.

    • The Palace of the Governor: it is one of the most beautiful and perfect buildings of Mayan architecture due to its monumental proportions, and the trace of lights and shades cast by the sculptures adorning its façade, which has more than 20 thousand carved stones.
      The palace has three sectors that rise over a stepped platform with walls crowned with a cornice in the shape of a knot. Another place of interest is the terrace, where there is a sculpture showing two jaguars joined by the chest, one looking south and the other one north.

    • The House of the Turtles: it has a plain façade with adornments in the shape of knots and a series of stone turtles with their carapaces engraved. These animals were extremely important to the Mayas, because their tears produced rain according to their beliefs. It is situated very close to the Palace of the Governor.

    • The Dovecot: it is the most outstanding construction within the zone known as the Quadrangle of the Birds. Its name comes from the resemblance of its roof's crest with a dovecot. It is believed to have been a building similar to the convent though older than it.
    These are not the only buildings in Uxmal; there are other constructions in the Mayan city that have not yet been reconstructed or unearthed, such as the Temple of the Phalluses, whose phallic sculptures were used as faucets, besides the Pyramid of the Old Woman, the Ball Game Court and the mysterious figures of the Cemetery Group.

    -Chichén Itzá: the splendid constructions of this pre Hispanic city reflect the geniality of the Mayan architects, dexterity that still amazes the world after all this time, just as UNESCO acknowledged in 1988 when it declared it Patrimony of Humanity.
    Located 120 kilometres away from Mérida, Chichén Itzá is a stone city founded in the year 400 AD, which turned into the most important religious centre of the Mayas between the years 500 and 900 AD, reaching a total extension of 100 square kilometres, with an efficient water system and an excellent net of paved roads that connected it with the rest of the Mayan settlements. Later the city would be ruled by the Toltec people, who enhanced it with the construction of their own precincts.
    Notable buildings scattered in an area of 10 square kilometres can be currently visited, with the Pyramid of Kukulkán, also called The Castle, of significant proportions related to the passing of time, topped by the Temple of Kukulkán, the sun god, standing out.
    The Temple of the Warriors, which is one of the most beautiful in Mexico, is another attraction in the city.

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