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Yucatan Sisal History

Henequen industry

· Sisal

The Maya are credited for their discovery and cultivation of this natural fiber, originally found in the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula. Used for ropes, cables, nets , lassos, curtains, hammock and dense fabrics, sisal was exported as the world's binder twine, putting this quaint seaside village on the map.

Originally under the influence of Spain, Sisal, Mexico, was granted a port on February 13, 1810 by the Spanish Goverment. Gaining independence in 1811, Sisal became a key influence in Yucatan history, operating as the principal port for the state capital, Merida. Located approximately 32 miles from the city, Sisal was a natural and convenient choice for proximity to the sea and trade route access.

Thriving during the henequen (sisal) boom, the seaport town of Sisal welcomed Europeans and Americans by introducing them to unspoiled land and awe-inspiring ruins of the Maya Empire. The Maya are credited for their discovery and cultivation of this natural fiber, originally found in the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula. Used for ropes, cables, nets , lassos, curtains, hammock and dense fabrics, sisal was exported as the world’s binder twine, putting this quaint seaside village on the map. Maya history shows seafaring through the port of Sisal as early as 1100, making this area rich in history.

Sisal the white gold

The Yucatan was heralded “one of the few truly socialistic states in the world” in the 1930’s. “This unity of business and political power makes the state one of the strongest in the Mexican union. It is important economically to the rest of Mexico. Its efficient organization makes it one of the first contributors to the national budget.” Sisal, Mexico was the gateway to the world for Merida and the Yucatan.

Henequen production in the Yucatan peaked in the 1960’s at 160,000 tons. Today less than 5,000 tons are produced, all of which are converted into local products. With the decline of henequen exportation, Sisal morphed into a small fishing village, where shrimp farms flourished for many years. Today, miles of unspoiled beaches line the coast with picture perfect palm trees swaying in the breeze. The state government has been improving the town with fresh paint on buildings, new roads connecting Sisal to Merida, and restoration of the historical town center.

Sisal the white gold

Progresso has replaced Sisal as Merida’s main port, moving the noise and cruise ships down the eastern coast of the Yucatan. The charm of Sisal remains. The historical society and the government are protecting the roots of this village. With the continued maintenance and dedication to the area, this seaport town is once again becoming a gateway for many. With new developments along the ocean shores, Sisal is now an oasis for the lucky few who have discovered it.

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