Around the capital Merida, for every old hacienda henequenera there's at least one cenote. As happened with the semi-recovered Hacienda Mucuyché, together, they form some of the most sublime places in southeastern Mexico.
The primary destination of the day was even the archaeological site of Mayapan, a Mayan city-state that, in its heyday, rebelled from the rule of Chichen Itza and ascended to the political capital of the peninsula, from 1220 to 1440.
As happens time and time again, through these stops, the route chosen by Fausto, the guide, passed through a first old ranch producer of sisal, that of Lepan.
Aware of the curious admiration that that monumental legacy generated in us, the guide makes a short stop.
A tree with a huge, almost oval crown, produces a shade in which, at that time, residents and visitors take refuge. It appears at the bottom of a dry but open lawn that, as we know, makes a baseball field.
A Must Stop at Old Hacienda Lepan
At the opposite end, the main mansion of the ranch, crowned by an emblazoned pediment.
Still a low wall, complemented by a dense hedge from which three palm trees emerge, probably buritis.
And another facade full of arches, from which two chimneys seem to project.
The latter was the wine cellar (warehouse) in which the dry fiber of the agaves henequen it was compressed and wrapped.
It was heading for export aboard a train that would cover part of the rail network that came to connect most of the haciendas each other and to the port of Progreso.
The context that led to the construction of Hacienda Lepan and the hundreds of rivals began to form just two centuries after the landing of the Spanish Conquistadors from the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico, the decline of Mayapan and the decay of the, until then, resplendent Mayan world.
The Proliferation of Farms that followed the Early Times of Colonization
Consolidating the success of the campaign by the trio of Francisco de Montejos (the pioneer, the Waiter and the first's nephew), these consanguineous rulers founded the main cities in the region: Salamanca, Mérida, Campeche, Valladolid, all with names transposed from Spain.
Thus, they laid the foundations for the occupation and exploration of the territory, which they were convinced could obtain wealth comparable to those that Hernán Cortés had found in the Valley of Mexico.
Newly arrived settlers expelled or enslaved the Maya and carved up the territory. They became owners of huge farms that, in a short time, became producers mainly of cattle and corn.
Elsewhere, from the blue agave of which would produce tequila and the mezcal.
An agave other than blue would gain its own importance.
The Industrial Revolution and the Sudden Valuation of Henequen
Until, when the second half of the XNUMXth century arrived, with the Industrial Revolution spreading from England to the world, the demand for ropes, bags, threads, rugs, hammocks and, soon, for mere fiber for a panoply increased. of other purposes.
The already privileged large landowners were faced with what they would come to call Green Gold / Oro Verde: henequen, Mexican name for a type of agave (fourcroydes agave) originating in the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula.
The cactus species was easy and inexpensive to plant and maintain. The profits generated by the sale of its fiber, these, proved to be fetched.
As they saw themselves as millionaires, homeowners felt encouraged to spend.
A certain exhibitionist rivalry quickly spread, in the form of open and sumptuous mansions, with architectures that combined Hispanic and European elements with colonial-Yucatecan chromatic exuberance.
The Clerical and Haunted Past of Hacienda Lepan
As for Hacienda Lepan in particular, records and knowledge are limited. It is known that, at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, it belonged to José María Menezes, priest of Tecoh (a town located a few kilometers to the north), vicar and governor of the Bishopric.
At that time, the property was called Hacienda San Buenaventura, Lepan. Later, a certain Marcos Duarte, already the owner of another large hacienda, to San António Xukú, but determined to increase its profits from the henequen
It is also said that the Mayan inhabitants of the area there detected a uay-keken and a uay-pek, supernatural creatures that, just thinking about them, make any indigenous person shiver.
The first is definable as a bewitched pig. The second, as a witch-dog, both portrayed, often, with a werewolf look.
That hour, with the sun halfway to its zenith and the heat squeezing, was the least suitable for tormenting us.
We had an obvious delay in arriving in Mayapan. Without further ado, we resume road 184 which, after the town from Telchaquillo, there it leads.
We dedicate a good two hours to the archaeological site. After which we point east.
We were supposed to have lunch at a Hacienda Mucuyché, which, for a change, we would visit in a planned and painstaking way. And yet, on the way there, the unexpected sight of another, with majestic portals and facades, motivates us to a new scale.
The Xcanchakan Hacienda: Another Stopover, New Haunt
The responsible is Hacienda Xcanchakan, instead of Lepan, object of a profusion of writings and descriptions.
It must have been established in 1840 by the same priest Menezes da Lepan. Here and there, with stones taken from the ruins of Mayapan. There remains what remains of a factory that supplied ice to the city of Mérida.
Unsurprisingly, from 1850 onwards, the cultivation and processing of henequen became a priority. He created the wealth that allowed him to enlarge and beautify the three-story mansion and the chapel.
Hacienda Xcanchakan has had several other owners. It remained “señorial” until 1937. In that year, its lands were divided among the peasants of these parts.
Currently, they inhabit it and exploit a considerable plantation of henequen more than a thousand residents, Mayans and mestizos, although the distinction is not always simple.
While there, we marvel at its brownish yellow arch of Moorish architecture and the blood-colored chapel in front of it, kids cyclists, teenage motorcyclists and elderly women watch us shopping.
The exploratory and photographic hustle we are in intrigues them.
With the sister property and lunch waiting, Fausto interrupts her again.
The Hacienda and the Dazzling Cenotes of Hacienda Mucuyché
A mere 11km later, we enter Mucuyché, through an arched stone portico, flanked by walls and large trees.
From there, we see that ranch aside, we were in a sophisticated and commercial domain quite different from the previous ones.
A Hacienda Mucuyche was created during the XNUMXth century.
At one point, it covered 5 hectares, cultivated almost entirely with agave henequen
Faced with the recent lack of owner-investors and abandonment, the state of Yucatan took over and took over its management.
We stop at a ticket office. A local guide unlocks access for us and opens an explanatory tour. Step by step, we confirmed that the farm was in recovery.
The Cenote “Carlota” and “Azul Maya” that spent centuries in hiding
Fully functional, were their cenotes, as local underground ponds and the canal that connected them.
Os cenotes are large geological porosities opened in the vastness of limestone generated, 66 million years ago by the impact of the Chicxulub meteorite that extinguished the dinosaurs and 75% of the species of face of the earth.
Os Mayas they considered us entrances to Xibalba, a mythological underworld, place of dread.
Today, Mexicans and outsiders from all over flock to them for the relaxing aquatic retreat they provide. We would have ours.
Meanwhile, the guide leads us to a staircase.
At the top, a tile panel shows Empress Charlotte in the company of her husband, Maximilian of Habsburg-Lorraine, King Maximilian I of Mexico.
The panel praises an alleged visit by the Empress of Mexico to hacienda, It is estimated that the year 1865 took place.
From what little we had learned about Mexican history, we knew that the period when Napoleon tried to take over Mexico and when he made Maximilian and Charlotte his puppet rulers is one of the most despised by Mexicans.
On the contrary, they are proud of the reaction of their leaders and the people who, in less than six years, forced the French to withdraw, executed Maximilian and thus aggravated the sudden madness of Charlotte, who died in Belgium in 1927.
Nevertheless, the management of the Mucuyché hacienda praised the presence of the empress.
From Cenote “Carlota” to “Azul Maya” through a Green Channel
The crystalline lagoon, full of small fish and delimited by a gallery with a mossy roof, at the bottom of the stairs, was called “Carlota”.
After the explanation of the guide is over, that's where we get in and refresh.
From the first pond, in a relaxed float, we crossed a small natural tunnel to a channel excavated in the rock, lined with vines with hanging roots and other plants with striped leaves that, in search of light, almost crossed it.
At the end of this channel, we are baptized by a dripping waterfall, a final ritual of access to the cenote largest of the set, for reasons, soon, obvious, called “Azul Maia”.
This cave and its lagoon proved to be large, full of stalactites, stalagmites and other labyrinthine formations that artificial lighting made them shine blue and bright.
In our days, and the era of agave and sizal has long ended, the cenotes of Yucatan are themselves an inexhaustible source.
The entry of "General Adult" From Cenotes Hacienda Mucuyche It cost about €30.
And yet, as the guide assures us, almost four centuries have passed without owners and workers discovering them.
The dense tropical vegetation around the farm buildings hid them.
Had it not been for the recent excavation of a well and the wonderful Mucuyche cenotes would remain exclusive to the underworld.