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ON THE MAP
With a rich Mayan history and Spanish influence, the Yucatan is a land of many treasures and secrets to discover.
Treasures of the Yucatan
Entering the Yucatan is like opening a chest full of endless treasures, for this Mexican state is rich in awe-inspiring Mayan archaeological sites and varied natural landscapes. The proud inhabitants of this southeastern Mexican zone are faithful to customs inherited from a fascinating cultural mix of indigenous and Spanish elements from past centuries.
The Yucatan offers something for everyone. For history and culture buffs, there are the Colonial Cities-- Merida (also known as the ''White City''), and Valladolid, as well as the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal. For those who want to kick back and explore the environment, there are number of cenotes, grottos, lagoons, and beaches found in the beautiful Yucatan.
Imaginative craftsmen who find unique ways of expression are always offering their colorful handicrafts in every city in Yucatan, while the tasty scents and flavors of the traditional cuisine also accompany your trip all around the state.
A Thriving Region
Yucatan borders the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west, Campeche to the southwest and Quintana Roo (where Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya are) to the east and southeast. Altogether, the three states form the Yucatan Peninsula.
Internationally known for the archeological site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, there is also a large number of towns where the colonial architecture left its importance on beautiful churches, convents, houses, haciendas and government buildings. The inhabitants of Yucatan are proud bearers of the message inherited from their indigenous ancestors. Now they're in charge of passing that knowledge to the next generations through beautiful embroideries, folk music, dances and humorous verses, commonly known as ''Bombas Yucatecas''.
Scientists state that Yucatan has probably been populated since 800 BC. Nevertheless, evidence of the existence of the Maya date from 435 AD, as stated in the Chilam Balam books, a series of texts considered sacred by the Maya people, where they tell of their religious beliefs, medicine, astronomy, as well as their mathematical finds and discoveries.
Large, numerous cities were founded during the pre-Columbian period of Yucatan, among which were some of the most important, such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Mayapan. Originally, these three cities had a political and military alliance that was later dissolved because of certain differences between the rulers of the cities which could not be resolved pacifically. This would later make it easier for the Spaniards to conquer Yucatan.
In 1527, Francisco de Montejo joined Hernan Cortez in the conquest of the recently found lands and was assigned to command the takeover of the Yucatan Peninsula. This was only achieved by Montejo's son until 1542, when the last battle was won against the Maya resistance in Merida. This would start the period in Mexican history known as ''La Colonia'' which would last for three centuries, until Mexico's independence war.
By the end of the 19th century, Yucatan would be the scenario of a violent ethnic and land-related conflict, since the Maya people were severely exploited by the Spanish landowners. This conflict known as Guerra de Castas (Caste War) would last from 1847 to 1901, time during which the natives confronted the criollos (descendents of Spaniards born in Yucatan) and the mestizos (of Mayan and Spanish or Mayan and Creole origins), with the purpose of obtaining land, at that time the only source of wealth in Yucatan.
A Prosperous Land
Until the 1950's, the product that impelled Yucatan's economic growth and the subsequent period of splendor of the cities in the state was henequen, a sort of agave plant which has leaves that are used to produce an extremely resistant fiber. The golden years of Yucatan ended with the boom of synthetic fibers in the second part of the 20th century.
Nowadays, the Yucatan receives thousands of visitors from all around the globe, most of them interested in the historical aspects of the region. That's why many old manors and 19th century haciendas are carefully preserved, and have been turned into interesting museums or luxurious hotels. Those large properties were once henequen production centers.
The natural beauties of Yucatan are presented to travelers in as pristine conditions as possible: natural wells known as cenotes, grottos, and lagoons are protected by Yucatan's government and citizens alike, so those places can be enjoyed by future visitors and locals as well. The same is done with the ancient buildings of cities like Chichen Itza or Uxmal, where Kukulcan and Chac were worshiped. These gods were in charge of bringing harmony to the Maya Universe, a universe we now invite you to explore.