Tuesday, December 18, 2007


by John M. Grimsrud
At six AM on December 14th Jane and I rolled out of our house with our little folding bicycles. We were headed for a downtown bus terminal and at six-thirty we were boarded and were progressing out of town headed for our first destination.
We didn’t realize it until we got off the bus at eight AM in downtown Telchaquillo that we had actually visited this sleepy little off the main road place more than twenty years earlier.
For orientation purposes you can easily find on the above maps the location of Yucatan, Mérida and our color coded bus and 40 kilometer bicycle day trip.
TELCHAQUILLO? This is definitely not a tourist crossroads with sophisticated glitter and glitz enticing advertisements beckoning visitors to hang out here.
Early morning main street Telchaquillo with its conspicuous lack of motor vehicles beckons eco friendly bicyclers. Silently the above tricycle conveys mom, pop and the kids down the tranquil main roadway along with their load of sacate grass for cattle feed freshly cut from the nearby countryside.
In the city zocalo or park is this rather deep cenote conveniently fitted with a staircase leading all the way down to water level eight meters below the surface. A low wall around the top keeps pedestrian mishaps to a minimum.
Across the street from Telchaquillo’s dominative park is the modest unkempt no frills church that doesn’t even have a paved walkway to its front door. Even with the sad state of this impoverished impecunious little outpost some rag-tag carnival company has hauled in these shoddy amusement rides you can see above in order to ring a few centavos out of this hard pressed hardscrabble economy.
At a wide spot in this narrow silent little side road leading out of Telchaquillo, a profusion of brilliant blazing morning glories light up the wild jungle and are neatly color coordinated with Jane’s outfit. The little black seeds from these vines were used by the ancient Maya as psychedelic mind altering medicines.
This is the end of the pavement at the seldom visited silent Mayan village of Pixya. (Pixya in Maya means “wounded knee” and is pronounced; peas-yah) The ancient neglected hacienda in the background has recently seen some meager renovations by the absentee landlord while the townsfolk scratch out of the surrounding jungle the most meager of livings that keeps them in a wretched state of poverty. To make maters worse the government neglects the education of the children who don’t even have a single computer in their school.
Biking east from little Pixya we picked up this voluntary guide who likes to raise sand with his spirited cross country hurried pace of bike riding. Armed with a machete and a 16 gauge single shot shotgun Manual Chable is always on the alert for wild game to feed his family. This scant low scrub jungle is vigorously harvested of its meager wood supply, leña used for home cooking because of the prohibitively high cost of LP gas.
The road is an ancient Mayan “sacbe” road in constant use over the centuries and was part of a system that united the prehispanic world of indigenous America together. Sacbe means white road in Maya and they were given this designation because of the fact that these thoroughfares were actually plastered with white pavement. The only structural presence on our five kilometer track across the sacbe road to the gruta-ruta cenote pavilion pictured below was a walled in cemetery. The ten by twenty meter cemetery compound spoke volumes about the impoverished inhabitants and reeked an unmistakable breath robbing stench of putrefying flesh that cut through the fresh flower scented air like a blast of foul malodorous death.
Confabulating with Manual Chable our Mayan jungle guide at the newly constructed palm thatched pavilion overlooking the cenote we visited the previous week but arriving from the opposite direction. I take a needed rest.
This is our guide Manual Chable with his no frills Mexican bicycle that includes a seat with no springs that will jolt your kidneys into a state of nonfunctioning on the sacbe roads. The spiky plants in the background are henequen and the entire state of Yucatan had been covered with them. Henequen was cultivated for its fiber used in the manufacture of sisal rope which is biodegradable. During the great world wars the production of this fiber made Yucatan the richest state in Mexico, then came man-made fibers and the industry collapsed. Recently the plants have come back into favor for the production of a tequila knock-off substitute.
This is one of two gates along the Mayan sacbe road enclosing a cattle ranch we traversed. Check out the size of the stones used in the stacked stone wall that is cheaper to construct than barbwire is to string in this land of slave labor wages.
I followed a small jungle path off the road here and came across a ten meter deep cenote with dangerously steep stone walls that could easily trap an unobservant jungle stroller.
The black hole in the photo is the mouth of the cenote with its one-way steep slick stone sides and a pool of water at the bottom. If you fell into this cenote and managed to survive your fall your chances of rescue would be slim to none treading water and screaming for help in this sparsely populated place.
Nearly everything that survives in this semi-arid jungle scrub has spines and stickers like the cactus and henequen plants you see here along side the sacbe Mayan road. A kilometer out of Pixya on our return trip one of those spines punctured my tire. Luck was with us because the only motor vehicle we saw all morning materialized heading our way and transported me and my deflated tire into the little village of Pixya.
Here I am with my rescue team. This is the humble abode of the Ku Puch family.
When I asked what his name was the man with the cap said; “Ku” and the other fellow responded; Fernando. On the house address plaque the name was Ku Puch and the address merely stated Hacienda Pixya. In the small villages of Yucatan it is common for the home addresses to be designated as; “domicilio conocido” or “the house is known”
In the front yard of the Ku Puch family an amazing variety of curiosities are found. First it became a bicycle repair shop where a patch was applied to the spine puncture wound my tire had acquired. The rock barren yard is also the kitchen of the Ku family where they cook over an open wood fire using three stones and a refrigerator grate. Six mangy mutts of questionable pedigree struggled to rouse themselves when we all arrived slowly sauntered aside as the repair job got under way. Check out the electric service entrance fastened to the worm eaten wooden pole where the bare wires have no conduit protection and of course no ground wire…shockingly this all passes the local building code!
All of the heroic efforts to repair my bicycle tire were to no avail as the tire blew out after I had traveled less than one-hundred meters leaving the tube ruptured beyond further repair. We were all saddened by the turn of events.
I got a ride to Telchaquillo with another truck as Jane rode her bicycle behind and we searched the town for a replacement tube.
Plan “B” was to catch the bus back to Mérida, which we did and believe it or not visited six bicycle shops before I got a replacement tube.
(Mexico is notorious for its total lack of inventory control and often times stores will stock huge quantities of seldom used out-of-date merchandise and at the same time have nothing available in current high demand items.)
This is at the bus stop in Telchaquillo where we had no problem purchasing sufficient provisions to get us back home to Mérida.
Our little folding bicycles make public transportation wonderfully fun and easy because we can board any bus or colectivo taxi that comes along and they are frequent.
We have several other bicycle/ bus day trips out of Telchaquillo planned so stay tuned.

Bus to Telchaquillo:
Luz bus
Calle 67 x Calle 50
Downtown Mérida
Departs every hour starting at 5:30 AM

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bike and Bus: Tecoh to Tekit and Ticul, Yucatan

Jane and I took a 7:20 AM departure from Mérida’s downtown 2nd class bus terminal at the corner of 50 and 67 with our Dahon folding bicycles stowed aboard. This was the beginning of our two day off the beaten path bicycle excursion, first by bus arriving at Tecoh at 9 AM.
Yucatan has a one-of-a-kind topography. This is where 65,000,000 years ago an event happened that drastically and forevermore altered life on this planet.
The meteoroid that impacted the earth struck the Yucatan with such an impact it brought about an ice age so abruptly that the dinosaurs were totally demised.
Read the following; T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez, (a good read)
National Geographic Magazine had several articles over the past 20 years
This impact formed the Chicxulub Crater whose epicenter was thirty kilometers north of Mérida and the after-splash of molten rock sent projectiles as far away as Belize and the Mexican state of Veracruz.
With that meteoroid impact the Yucatan peninsula became a geographical rarity with no rivers, only aguadas, cenotes and grutas…these are essentially the same thing but with different exposure to the earths surface.
Aguadas are open ponds near the surface.
Cenotes are sunken open ponds or sink-holes in the limestone rock.
Grutas are subterranean caves containing ponds.
Well, Jane and I will bike the zone of grutas and cenotes that I call the “Gruta Ruta”.
The following short story is told with captioned photos;
At Tecoh the new director of the grutas is Baldo Kugeh, above in his no-frills office. Last spring when Jane and I first discovered that the Tecoh director of tourism, Javier Francisco Acosta was busy developing an off-road bicycle route to 13 different area grutas we couldn’t wait to return to check it all out. Well, we discovered at the municipal building that our friend Javier was gone because the new governor makes it her practice to fire all employees and install her own group of cronies with their own agenda.
This is the quiet and tranquil “Gruta Ruta” with its conspicuous lack of motor vehicles.
Along the “Gruta Ruta” in the small town of Sabacché, this is one of the typical Mayan homes along the picturesque main street.
This is main street Sabacché where goats range peacefully free on the “Gruta Ruta”.
José Pech Ramirez, a resident of Sabacché struck up a conversation with us and soon we are all off to visit one of the recently improved grutas by bike traveling across an ancient “sacbe” Mayan road with local knowledge because there are no road signs.
As José Pech was speaking to us in his limited English his friends gathered across the road to observe the activities. Sabacché is more than just quiet, there is virtually no motor vehicle activity and the only business in town consisted of a molino to grind corn that had no tortillas and a small convenience store located in a Mayan thatched roof palapa. The people were more than just friendly, when I went to the Molino to try and buy a few tortillas for a snack I discovered that they only ground the corn to make masa. I spoke to them in Maya, and the lady asked me if I was hungry, I said yes. Even though they had no tortillas in a few minutes a little girl arrived in the park with tortillas and a big smile. We have always found that these wonderful people would freely share whatever they had.
As we ate our tortillas, free ranging turkeys came to visit pleading for a morsel.
This is the new stair leading down into the gruta/cenote and above is a palm thatched pavilion. This dense jungle setting has a mystical aura of fresh scented flowering foliage and only the exuberant sounds of wild birds singing. We arrived by way of an ancient Mayan sacbe road, (sacbe in Maya means white road and they were straight as a die, leveled and plastered smooth). Still in use and perhaps thousands of years old the sacbe road gave us an eerie and haunting sensation as we passed the way of countless generations through the pristine jungle way. This gruta is was part of the adjacent area settlement that includes the Mayan ruins of Mayapan which had more than 4,000 stone structures.
Here José ponders the gruta as he gives us a factual tour rich in area history. His grandmother is a Mayan medicinal woman or “curadura” knowledgeable in the local traditional herbs and other native plants. She is eager to share her years of knowledge with everyone. José invited us to his home for dinner, but we graciously declined because we still had more than 30 kilometers of biking ahead of us and once we eat heavy our bicycles just about refuse to move and our hammocks beckon us to repose.
On the main street of Sabacché this welding project is being carried out with a bare minimum of tools and equipment. Soon this spiral stairway will be installed in one of the nearby cenotes as this tourist project grinds along through political turmoil.
Along the “Gruta Ruta” road to Tekit this humblest of roadside chapels religiously keeps a candle burning.
This “Gruta Ruta” roadside chapel has a distinctive Mayan significance and is closely tied to the Caste War cult that worshiped the “Talking Cross” and symbolizes the three green crosses in their secret ceremonies. This cult religion sprang up back in the 1850s at Chan Santa Cruz know known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto and inspired the Maya to persist.
On the “Gruta Ruta” the distinct lack of motor vehicles is a real plus to us bikers who prefer the sound of the breeze in the trees and free birds singing.
This is Tekit our day’s destination after a bus ride to Tecoh and 47 kilometers by bicycle.
Tekit’s finest accommodations and only rooms for rent are at the no frills Posada Can Sacbe which in Maya means (camino de culebras) road of snakes.
After a long and lovely day of bicycle excursion we are delighted and richly rewarded with this ample Mayan style eating extravaganza of roast pork and black beans done to perfection and garnished with traditional sauces.
Lupita the owner, operator and culinary artist who prepared our delightful traditional Mayan style lunch with her ninety year old mother who still radiates her special beauty.

We silently rolled out of quiet little out-of-the-way Tekit early as the first patrons began opening the market and the last stars still glimmered overhead. On this next 30 kilometer leg of our bicycle excursion we left the small rolling hills of the “Gruta Ruta” and entered the area of the grander Puuc hills that extend across the southern part of the state of Yucatan. With only the two very small towns of Mama and Chapab along our way we enjoyed the open country of fresh air and wildflowers with dazzling iridescent morning glories decorating a perfect morning ride. (The ancient Maya, masters of herbal medicine used seeds of the morning glory to take psychedelic trips akin to LSD).
This is one of many Mayan Gods that are represented in statuary adorning the streets of Ticul at the foot of the Puuc hills where we boardrd a bus for home in Mérida and arrived in time for lunch ending a spectacular two day bike/bus out-back Yucatan get-a-way…stay tuned for more! For more adventures check out: http://bicycleyucatan.wordpress.com

The Caste War Route from Felipe Carrillo Puerto to Tihosuco and Valladolid, by Bike and Bus

Also published at: http://bicycleyucatan.wordpress.com
This is the seldom visited crossroads one gasoline station town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto that has the historical significance of formerly being the infamous Mayan capital city of Chan Santa Cruz during the Caste War where no European was safe.
Today it is almost too peaceful and quiet as you can see from this late afternoon photo as I sit in the central plaza surrounded by historical icons.
Ironically the large church behind me was built by slave labor that only appropriately was put up by captured Creoles under the Mayan whip.
These Indigenous Maya enslaved under the Inquisition crazed Spanish after all had been forced to tear down their sacred temples and erect countless cathedrals and convents for more than three hundred years.
As I sat and pondered this reversal of circumstance, I thought that these Maya missed a golden opportunity to erect a sacred pyramid to their gods of old.
Also behind me is a statue of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, one of the few of Spanish descent who dedicated his life to rectifying many of the wrongs done to the Indigenous Maya through his social democratic reform.
When the right-wing conservatives snatched power the then governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto and his brothers were marched out to the Mérida cemetery and summarily blown to oblivion…that was 1924.
We had just spent several days visiting our kids and friends in Tulum and this was the beginning of another bike-bus adventure across the Yucatan Peninsula to our home in Mérida. Felipe Carrillo Puerto was our first stop on the Caste War Route.
Our recently remodeled hotel “El Hotel de la Zona Maya” was only a half block from the park in the photo above and close to shopping, restaurants and buses.
The town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto has a long and tortured historical past but little remains today to tell the agonized story that I will attempt to summarize in this presentation from the Mayan point of view. Remember; peaceful places have no history.

The capitulated Indigenous Mayan people under the Spanish were beaten, tortured, degraded, brutally enslaved and starved nutritionally and spiritually while they attempted to protect their families, homeland and way of life.
The opportunist Yucatecan Spanish conquerors had no problem putting a gun in the hand of the Mayan people when they had a political ax to grind with the Mexicans, but could instantaneously change tactics when these cannon fodder services were no longer needed.
Above is a relic of the Mayan attempt to keep their own brand of spirituality while being indoctrinated into the Spanish version of Roman Catholicism.
This is the “Talking Cross” that became a sacred icon of the Caste War Indigenous Maya in this, their capital city then called; Chan Santa Cruz.
To this day a rotating team of loyal followers of this mythical deity icon keep one week vigils at this chapel and the adjacent cenote cave where the Talking Cross was discovered.
This beautiful Mayan lady is performing her rotating one week vigil at the “Talking Cross” chapel located on a quiet side street in downtown Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Recently constructed, this chapel building enshrouds the Mayan “Talking Cross”. It is situated directly above the cenote where the cross originated.
In this stronghold of the Maya, the genetic power of ancestral heritage leaps to life in this 21st century artistic street painting.
Symbolism of ancient and modern clash with savage jungle and futuristic expression in this block long depiction of vented pent up socialistic frustrated expression.
Eyes, faces and strange dreamlike bizarre surreal images create a hieroglyphic communication attempting conveyance of far-away thoughts thrust into our present existence.
Talent of conveyance of thought puts a time-warp spin on this street art stretching across the centuries from the ancient pre-Columbian Maya to the Caste War town of Chan Santa Cruz and then into this 21st century world of Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
The Caste War route takes us to the quiet, removed jungle surrounded town of Tihosuco, Quintana Roo. Our folding bikes pack along in buses or colectivo taxis.
The Tihosuco church is a bizarre relic of Spanish Conquistadors. It collapsed in 1841 and was rebuilt then partially demolished in the Caste War, and abandoned for 80 years. It now remains in a state of frightful time-warp with its battle scars.
Looking out from the altar to the rear of this one-of-a-kind church you are astonishingly confronted by a shocking revelation. This otherwise complete structure has an entire wall totally missing and it has been gone since the beginning of the Caste War back in the mid-1800s.
If symbolic implications are intended then this edifice conveys an almighty message.
The Spanish Conquistadors took 19 years to get a foothold in Yucatan and did not totally subdue the Maya, but by 1700 the population of the Yucatan peninsula was reduced to 150,000 due to disease, displacement and starvation. By 1845 the Yucatan population had rebounded and risen to 580,000 including the Spanish minority.
Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821 and Yucatan a former territory joined the Mexican Union and the following history began to unfold;
The cultivation of henequen beginning in 1833 changed the economic, political and even the climatic conditions of Yucatan. (Henequen fiber is used in the making of sisal rope.)
Profitable sugarcane, prohibited under Spanish rule was also introduced to the peninsula.
These two products were extremely labor intensive so naturally the white Spanish land owners kept the Maya in a oppressed state of servitude indefinitely in serfdom.
In the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John L. Stephens in 1840, Stephens relates a remark made to him by one of the hacienda owners from Yucatan; “I am so lucky to be here and not in Cuba or Louisiana where they have to buy their slaves”.
In 1839 a native of Campeche, Miguel Barbachano moved to Mérida wanting to establish autonomy from Mexico.
Santiago Iman a state militiaman initiated a revolt of independence from Mexico beginning in the Yucatan city of Tizimin, then the third largest city in the north central part of the peninsula. Santiago armed and enlisted the Maya to battle the Mexican troops promising them an end to federal tax and church tributes.
Previously the Maya were forbidden to serve in the military.
Next they captured the second largest city, Valladolid and with that victory thousands of Indigenous Maya joined Santiago Iman.
Federal troops were driven from the last city on the peninsula at Campeche by June of 1840 and that made Yucatan an independent country.
By March 31, 1841 Yucatan was a fully functional entity with Santiago Mendez as president and Miguel Barbachano as vice president.
This state of affairs irked the Mexicans who immediately barred Yucatecan shipping.
Yucatan in turn enlisted the independent Republic of Texas to guard their ports with its navy for a monthly fee of $8,000 just to keep the Mexicans out.
Officially on October 1, 1841 Yucatan was declared a Republic.
Mexican president Santa Anna attempted a negotiated return of Yucatan to Mexico which failed and next Mexico invaded.
(Santa Anna was the president that led the battle of the Alamo where his Mayan troops led the charge as cannon fodder. Santa Anna was defeated shortly thereafter at San Jacinto, Texas where he attempted to slip away disguised as a women and was the sole survivor. His next caper was to sell away a huge portion of Mexican territory to the U.S. which made him grossly unpopular at home.)
In 1843 Yucatan reunited with Mexico and political balance disappeared as long time grievances of renewed resistance escalated among the poorer impoverished peasants.
1845, General Santa Anna who had no love for the quarrelsome Yucatecans but needed their money reneged on open port agreements and taxed sugar and rum, so Yucatan again split off from Mexico in this ongoing shell game of political alliance.
By 1846 Yucatan voted neutrality in the war between the U. S. and Mexico. The governor, Miguel Barbachano capitulated and sold out to the Mexicans and at the same time claimed neutrality with the U.S. and begged for annexation.
In a crafty ploy Yucatan president Menendez sent Justo Sierra O’Reilly to the U.S. to negotiate for arms, help keep the Mexicans out, lift the blockade and end duties.
During this war Mérida armed the Mayas for the third time and promised special considerations but as soon as the conflict ended it was back to business as usual with the Indians.
Instability, centuries of degradation and deceit, dislocations, territorial disputes and extreme economic hardships set the stage for this tit-for-tat Caste War that raged for over half a century and still smolders on to this day.
In 1847 the disgruntled Maya troops rebelled in a caste war that they started in Valladolid, machete murdering 85 people to avenge ancient wrongs.
The Maya recognized the white man as their true enemy for robbing their land, imposing slavery; whippings and many other brutalities. The Maya then resorted to guerilla war tactics.
In retaliation the white Yucatecans invaded the ranch of one of the Mayan leaders and raped a 12 year old Indian girl. This drove the Mayan factions to unite against a common enemy and they pushed the white Yucatecans back to Mérida burning towns and pillaging as they went.
The Maya pushed south and east in Yucatan and Quintana Roo to Bacalar and established their capital of Chan Santa Cruz presently known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
This war became a vindictive bloody and brutal political shell game of opportunistic alliances because now independent Yucatan could not ask Mexico for assistance.
In 1848 president Menendez asked U.S. president Polk for two thousand troops to save the white Yucatecans from the heathen Indian savages also known as the Indigenous Mayan.
Here yet another example of America’s zealous enthusiasm for ridding the planet of Indians with their invasion of Yucatan. The above information is from the Caste War Museum in Tihosuco, Quintana Roo. Ironically the Caste War Museum in nearby Spanish held Valladolid, Yucatan, depicts the Maya as heathen savages. (Above is a rough translation of the Tihosuco Caste War Museum sign.) Certification of North American soldiers wounded. In 1848 at the port of Sisal, Yucatan 938 American soldiers arrived to annihilate the Mayas. In May of 1849 the Americans returned home after suffering the loss of 70 dead and 170 wounded.
Excerpts from Nelson Reed’s book; The Caste War of Yucatan p.110-114;
The Thirteenth Infantry Regiment, US Army, had been mustered out of Mobile, Alabama, in the summer of 1848, following the end of the Mexican War…they accepted an offer of the Yucatecan Government-8 dollars a month for enlisted men plus 320 acres of land after peace…they were the first American filibusters…shipped from New Orleans to Sisal in several schooners, 938 of them, and were sent down to Tekax, where the advance party was committed in September 1848.
The noise of their heavy boots as they marched, the constant load talking in the ranks, the pipe smoking and flower picking, all of this was noted with uneasiness by the Yucatecan veteran Juan de Dios Novelo, who was accustomed to more cautious deportment on that Ambush-laden trail. And there they met their first barricade, they laughed at Novelo’s suggestion of the usual flanking infiltration, fixing bayonets to make a frontal assault, knowing that no Mexican, much less an Indian, could face cold steel. They were wrong. The first volley caught them point blank, and Novelo had his hands full bring out forty casualties, one slung on either side of a mule.
Many of the American officers resigned after a week of such fighting, but others stayed on and gave a good account of themselves. Instead of easy loot and frightened Latins, they had suffered 70 killed and 170 wounded, and had nothing to show for it except a revised opinion of Yucatecans.
Nelson Reeds’s well documented adventuresome book filled with real life intrigue reads like a novel and you will find it an unforgettable volume tremendously impressive and memorable.
The British supplied guns and ammunition to the Mayas through Belize in exchange for exotic hard woods such as mahogany and zapote and later formed an alliance with the Mexicans abandoning the Maya which then led to the demise of the Indigenous cause.
In 1848 the Mexicans exploited this unrest and divided the peninsula into to three parts, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatan, leaving Yucatan to fend for itself.
In 1849Yucatan governor Miguel Barbachano began the practice of expelling Mayan men between the age of 12 and 30 to Cuba as slaves to work in the sugarcane plantations.
Barbachano’s mandate was; “All Indians will be taken from their homes who had taken up arms against the Yucatan and be deported.”
War of the Castes that began in 1847; this oil painting is from a collection located in the Municipal Palace in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico and painted by Fernando Castro Pacheco starting in 1971.
THE CASTE WAR; The so called “Caste War” in Yucatan lasted more than fifty years and cost 300,000 lives; it ended up reduced to historical ill-feelings, with no political peace and no armistice. It is, of course, one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of the peninsula. There are many theories regarding the motives that caused the war to start, one of which is that the outbreak was due to the build up of hatred and bitterness among the Mayan people faced with tyranny of whites who exploited and abused them.
More excerpts from Nelson Reed’s book; The Caste War of Yucatan p. 128
Yucatan’s only natural resource had been the land and the people to work it. Now the land was recovered, but not the people, and there wasn’t enough food for those that survived. Taking their chances with snipers and the machete as they harvested rebel Mayan fields, the soldiers weren’t happy to see that some corn wasted on captive savages. They didn’t take prisoners except under direct command, or occasionally for a five-peso reward.
With these facts in mind, Governor Barbachano took a step for which his name is still remembered in Mexico. He begin selling the Maya to Cuba. There were many apparent justifications: it saved their lives; they were rebels and thus liable to the most sever punishment (execution, or as was decreed by Congress, ten years’ banishment); they were sent on a ten year work contract; and finally the state needed money. But still, it was slavery.

The Maya were considered savages by the white Spanish.
In 1849 the first load of 140 slaves was sent off to Cuba. Self serving Cuban merchants conspired with the Yucatecan authorities for guns and ammunition in exchange for the Mayan slaves.
(There was a growing demand for slaves in Cuba due to the fact that the Spanish had outlawed slavery there.)
Ultimately this unscrupulous business took all Mayan regardless of whether they had been rebels or not and this despicable trade in human flesh continued until 1861.
The Maya held out until the end of the century though the war officially ended in 1855 after 247,000 were killed.
At their capital of Chan Santa Cruz, today known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo a religious cult sprang to life and was organized by Venancio Puc and called The Talking Cross. Puc was judge and jury, priest, general and absolute commander of his new religious sect, interviewing all visitors, appointing all chiefs and ordering assassinations. Puc made it perfectly clear that there could be no treaty or compromise with the whites and ordered all prisoners brought to Chan Santa Cruz for execution.
Ultimately Puc was killed and his Talking Cross fell silent. Puc’s loyal military followers discovered the deceit of the Talking Cross and attempted to expunge the fraud of the Cross that only spoke for thirteen years and died with Puc.
I don’t want to kill the intrigue of this extraordinary story by telling you all. I do however encourage you to read this history and discover a true narrative stranger than a fairy tale.
Quintana Roo did not become a Mexican state until 1974 and until recently was a duty free territory rift with smuggled goods.
During the years of the Caste War Mexico was a political mess of changing governments. President Santa Anna and Benito Juarez were in and out of office interspersed by Emperor Maximilian of the Hapsburgs. Not until Porfirio Diaz brought stability beginning in 1876 that lasted until 1910 did Mexico prosper. Porfirio Diaz however had a game plan for Mexico that was to ruthlessly exploit the Ingenious.
In 1899 federal general Ignacio Bravo came to Yucatan to crush all of the Maya with British complicity. The British had been supplying guns and ammunition to the Maya but had a change of heart and cut off their cooperation, thus leaving the Maya defenseless.
In 1901 federal troops conquered the Mayan capital city of Chan Santa Cruz and the government established Quintana Roo as a territory.
During the course of the war the Maya that could be rounded up were sold off to Cuba as slaves and the city of Tihosuco was totally abandoned for the next 80 years.
In 1915 Mexican revolutionary General Salvador Alvarado was sent into the Yucatan to restore order.
Yucatan had become Mexico’s most prosperous state due to the booming henequen and sugar industries.
Alvarado canceled all ‘debt labor’ and freed 60,000 Mayan and their families following 350 years of slavery and the Caste War ended after 60 brutal convoluted years.
At the Caste War Museum in Tihosuco Dr. Arturo Carballo Sandoval from the Instituto Tecnológico de Cancun presents a eco-tourism lecture to this group of interested ladies from the area involved in a cooperative effort of sustainable low impact travel such as our bicycle touring. We arrived at exactly the right time to be part of this informative lecture.
As part of the ongoing activities at the Tihosuco Caste War Museum, the guide Antonia Poot demonstrates the spinning of native cotton with talented coordination and her simple but authentic implements. Twirling a tapered and polished shaft of zapote wood balanced in the base of a jicara bowl with one hand she deftly dispenses with practiced dexterity cotton from a ball with the other hand miraculously transforming it into a neat finished product. The cotton thread will, among other things, go into making candle wicks that the local ladies will sell along with a variety of herbal Mayan remedies plus soaps and oils, all products of the wild uncontaminated jungle.
These Mayan ladies dressed in their traditional hand embroidered dress called huipil and the scarf known as a rebozo that has a multitude of uses that include head cover, shawl and baby sling are visiting the Tihosuco Museum from the nearby town of Tepich. They have come for a seminar on eco-tourism. They enjoyed seeing the photo I had just taken of them.
The Tihosuco Caste War Museum has as part of its presentation a Mayan herbal remedies garden complete with these eager and informative young tour guides.
A collection of village artifacts spanning the centuries is represented here in this amalgamation of folk art and hunters arrowheads donated by town folks.
Little Tihosuco has no hotel or restaurant but you can just the same get fed the exquisite local cuisine just by taking the advice of the museum administration and visiting the home of Doña Lucia. Here in the above photo are Doña Lucia and Jane plus numerous grand and great grandchildren of Doña Lucia of which she has 38. By the way, the food and service were excellent and they even pulled our bicycles into their living room when it started to rain.
To prove that the town of Tihosuco is located in the wild jungle this is the view out the doorway of Doña Lucia’s living room/local knowledge restaurant.
As I was snapping photos of this wild javelin or jungle pig, Doña Lucia emphatically informed me of the aggressive savage temperament of these unsociable creatures.

Valladolid, Yucatan’s third largest city is where we end the Caste War Route and take our bikes on bus back to Mérida. Valladolid is home to the other Caste War Museum, this one depicting the Creole version of that convoluted conflict.

In the cities municipal building situated on the central zocolo an unprecedented collection of murals dynamically depict the powerfully earthshaking and monumentally inspiring events that shaped our world of today.

Below the Mayan “diviner”, or h’men meaning the man who understands, obsidian dagger in one hand and in the other, his “clear stone” or zaztun in the other.
As the h’men gazes into his zaztun in terror stricken astonished amazement he discovers the fateful horror that awaits his ancient civilization.
Recommended reading;
YUCATAN A WORLD APART by Edward H. Mosley and Edward D. Terry
TIME AMONG THE MAYA by Ronald Wright
THE CULT OF THE HOLY CROSS by Charlotte Zimmerman
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN YUCATAN by John L. Stephens (two volumes)