Henequen, Yucatan's Green Gold

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This photo by photographer Eduardo Cervantes shows rows and rows of henequén as it dries under the hot Yucatecan sun. When the henequén is chopped and shredded, it is yellow and wet. After a few hours under the hot sun, it turns a beautiful white color and is dry.

Yucatán is known worldwide for its henequén. However, this incredible industry has seen better days. In 1916, more than 200,000 tons a year were cultivated and processed in some 200 henequén processing factories. A testament to this important era are all the henequén haciendas that dot the map throughout the state and the incredible mansions on the Paseo de Montejo that were witnesses to, and products of, the era of the Green Gold.

Nowadays, the market produces a mere 5,000 tons a year in some 18 plantations. The majority of the production is used for wall coverings and rugs in decoration and twine for farmers. The main cause of the downfall of the henequén industry was the invention of synthetic fibers in the 1950's.

The henequén plant is perfect for the Yucatán in that it grows happily in our rocky, inhospitable land, and doesn't require much water. It takes five years from the time a henequén plant is planted until its leaves are ready to be harvested for production. With new technology the time is being reduced to two years. There is a new industry that is extracting honey and alcohol from the plant, making it a somewhat thriving business.

To see a working henequén hacienda, we suggest you visit Hacienda Sotuta de Peon near Tecoh, just 40 kilometers from Mérida.

This living hacienda offers daily "Into the Past" tours that include seeing the henequén being processed in the antique machinery, a trip into the henequén plantations on mule drawn carts, a stop at a Mayan house, and a stop at the cenote where you can swim in the crystal clear waters. The tour ends at the main house where you will get a feel for how the hacienda plantations owners lived. There is a restaurant which serves delicious Yucatecan food.

Tour times: 10 am and 1 pm, Monday to Sunday
Distance from Mérida : 45 kilometers (25 miles)
Tour rates (including transportation hotel-hacienda-hotel, tour, and lunch): Adults: $770 pesos; Children: $385 pesos.
Tour rates (only tour): Adults: $365 pesos; Children: $180 pesos. Restaurant service optional.

There is also a night tour at 6 pm Monday to Saturday for groups of minimum 40 persons.

Tour of Cenote Dzul Ha: (Caballero del Agua) at the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. Monday to Sunday: Package includes: Tour in "truck". Visit to Casa Maya. Life jacket at cenote. Optional: Restaurant service. Adult $220.00 pesos. Children: $110.00 pesos

Note: Rates include all taxes. Gratuities not included. Open Monday to Sunday. Tours are at 10 am and 1 pm. 

Tel. (999) 941 8639
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.haciendaviva.com

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Yucatan Today is the leading tourist guide of Merida, Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula and was recently voted the best tourism website in all of Mexico! In our companion monthly magazine, we bring you the information you need to enjoy your experience while you are here. Read more