Archive for the ‘Yucatan’ Category

Rio Lagartos, Yucatan – Visit Sendero Peten Tucha at the Reserva de La Biosfera Ria Lagartos

November 10, 2012


On the seldom traveled road from Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, to Las Coloradas between kilometer 8 and 9 there is a culvert and nearby a small sign denoting 50 meters to the entrance of the hiking path Sendero Peten Tucha (A peten is a low area of land known as a hammock that emerges from the wetland marsh)

If you are looking for the perfect unspoiled wetlands getaway with no tour buses or trinket shops, this is for you. In the photo Jane stands before a palapa located at the entrance to the trail, where you may relax and refresh in the welcome tranquil shade.

This is a wetlands walking tour. We did however take our bicycles although wehad to walk in several places. Along the trail you will find numerous well shaded benches where the tropical forest ambiance can be appreciated to the fullest. The footpath, sender, divides around a huge open fresh water spring. One side of the foot path is on an elevated boardwalk through the wetlands of a mangrove hammock. The other side is a smooth well shaded pathway and both converge at a tall observation tower that commands a magnificent view.

The above sign warns: No nadir – cuidado – cocodrilos  (Do not swim – caution – crocodiles).

At the end of the trail is a pond that is actually a flowing fresh water spring.  It is home to crocodiles that only make their presence known when you tempt them by swimming in their private pond.

Climb the viewing tower situated at one side of the pond, and you may spot a crocodile, some turtles, or tropical birds, or hear the call of a tucha (Mayan word for monkey).

This is a small slice of the unspoiled Yucatan that tourists miss most…we love it.

For more information, read Jim Conrad’s naturalist’s newsletter:

Where to Stay:

Villa de Pescadores

Malecón and Calle 14

Rio Lagartos, Yucatan

Related link: Tizimín: A Hub For Exploring Eastern Yucatan


Yucatán’s Magic-Mérida Side Trips: Treasures of Mayab

October 2, 2011

Finally the book for traveling adventurers who want to see more than just trinket shops and crowded tourist traps has arrived.

Just launched — our new book, Yucatán’s Magic – Mérida Side Trips: Treasures of Mayab

–Built one stone at a time like the Mayan pyramids–

Over a quarter of a century of inspired exploration and recording of our travels in captioned photo stories has led my wife and me to compile an impressive collection of outings that are the foundation for this book, built one story at a time.

We present the best of the best after over twenty-five years; places, excursions, and outings. Each place we have visited we liked for different reasons; tranquility, history, view of village life, and connect with the Maya past and present, change of scenery and a look at a uniquely distinctive region.

Available at for Kindle and in paperback.

To download  e-book EPUB edition, click here.

2011 Mérida, Yucatán – Faces of Carnival

March 8, 2011

To view more of John’s photos of Faces of Carnival, click here.


January 6, 2011

80 kilometers south of Mérida with great bus links, Santa Elena is the perfect place  for bike excursions. Unique room rentals plus good eats are all here.
Piping hot tortillas fresh from local corn are produced across from the church.
This noisy contraption efficiently removes corn from the cob in seconds.
This unique little out of the tourist loop frontier town abounds in photo opts. Many interesting and unusual sights besides the many Mayan ruins untouched by the conquistadors are here plus it is a bird watchers paradise.
The town is small, very rural and just far enough away from Mérida to not have any chain stores. The above palapa home is also a convenience store
This is a look inside the palapa convenience store where the staples of life are found.  Something to eat, something to drink and even smokes are available here where there is a conspicuous lack of motor noises.
The kids ride their little bicycle triple loaded on the quiet streets of Santa Elena where time seems to have passed the place by and much of the housing is still as it was several thousands of years ago.
Hustle and bustle have not arrived here in Santa Elena where nature and human habitat commingle. Other than electric service, these traditional Mayan homes are totally constructed from local materials available in the surrounding jungle.
The Maya held many secrets of survival here in this semi arid nearly soil-less rocky terrain where they managed to flourish.
In the 1860’s Germans established a colony here, Villa Carlota. They were merely cannon fodder in the protracted Caste War and a buffer against the Maya.  Even with their strong work ethic and savvy European agricultural knowledge they failed.
Amazingly the Mayan temples south and east of here plus Uxmal all escaped the plunder of the Spanish conquistadors.
Little Santa Elena has a couple of cantinas where the Yucatecan tradition of beer and botanas is a favorite.  Note; none of the clients arrived by automobile…only bicycles.
Perched upon the most prominent point in town, the substantial church was constructed from a Mayan temple with construction starting in the 16th century with the Indian chapel and the completion of the church in 1779…recycling dates back centuries here.
Peering down from the church steps also built from the Mayan temple materials you can see the Mérida-Campeche bus in the city center loading passengers.
Viewed from the choir loft, the magnitude of this structure becomes apparent.
(View our other Santa Elena stories for more information on the interesting history this area abounds in.)  Also recommended reading is; Mayan Missions by Richard and Rosalind Perry.
Two kilometers from the city center, the Santa Elena church presents a stunning vista. Note the conspicuous lack of traffic as Jane stands on the Uxmal road.
This is the heart of town, note the cleanliness. Bus patrons wait in the shade.
South of town the Sacbe Bungalows commingles with nature and is our destination.
Annette and Edgar are the owners, operators and managers of the most ecologically friendly accommodations to be found in Yucatán,  Sacbe Bungalows. With over twenty years of dedicated involvement in keeping a balance of nature alive and well,, they have established a harmony with nature.
From their solar heated water system to the extensive collection of well marked and labeled trees, shrubs and a cactus garden the serenity is so complete it makes you want to whisper.
This place is not only bicycle friendly, it happens to be the perfect jumping off place for bike tours to Uxmal, Ticul, the Mayan ruins of Labáh, Sayil, Labná, Loltún and on to the Ruta Puuc hills with more Mayan ruins than you could visit in a season. The roads of the Puuc region are mostly quiet and well paved.
The place is meticulously clean and perfectly maintained. It has a peaceful natural ambiance where bird watching is tops.
When you feel the need to find a quiet place to escape to, this is your place.
As this planet becomes further overrun with the push and shove of hurried humanity places like Bungalows Sacbe become even more of a rare treasure.
French, English and Spanish are spoken here.
A December day finds Jane out examining one of the cactus gardens adjacent to the pool. This is the dry season and there is little or no rain for six months.
Viewed from our patio porch at our bungalow the view is of nothing but nature. Each of the bungalows is situated so that they are hidden from the others giving the grounds a special atmosphere rarely found elsewhere.
Our bikes roll up to the patio where we spend many pleasant hours with nature.
Annette, the owner has made the Sacbe Bungalow experience positively wonderful by labeling the trees, shrubs and cactus with signs like the one you see above.
Strolling through the extensive dry jungle grounds at Sacbe is a fun adventure and educational.
Also on the south side of Santa Elena is the recently opened restaurant and hotel named the Pickled Onion owned and operated by Valerie Pickles. (At present the hotel is a series of Mayan style palapa cabins.)
Jane Grimsrud of Bicycle Yucatan with Valerie Pickels owner, developer and manager of the Pickled Onion Restaurant and Hotel at Santa Elena, Yucatán.
Nestled in a tropical setting this is one of several Mayan style palapa cabins that make up the Pickled Onion Hotel.
Chicken fajitas are served up in portions ample enough to feed two.
Clean, quiet and friendly, the Pickled Onion Restaurant a place you will want to frequent. They are bicycle friendly and speak English and Spanish.
Other eating options in Santa Elena include the Chac Mool restaurant featuring Yucatecan specialties and the small open air restaurant in the city center across from the municipal building…they open early and speak Spanish and Maya. More information can be found on the website of the Pickled Onion.
While biking the secondary side-roads of Santa Elena area photo ops abound like this ancient chapel in the process of being reclaimed by the jungle vegetation.
This gem of a quiet jungle road was pointed out to us by the owner of Bungalows Sacbe, Annette.  It turned out to be just a few meters from their entrance and was their favorite.
Fresh air, no traffic and picturesque Mayan milpa farms made this route enchanting.
This area of the Puuc Hills is very thinly populated due to the fact that water is scarce in the extreme.  At the Bungalows Sacbe their water well went down nearly four hundred feet. When they put it in twenty years ago it cost them almost as much as their house and land.
A huff and a puff got us up the hill heading for Ticul. If you look closely far off in the distance you will be able to discern the Puuc Hills and our starting point at Santa Elena. The lack of traffic makes these roads excellent for biking.
This is Ticul as viewed from the loading dock of the bus terminal. This church dates from 1625 and is actively maintained.
Visit our other Ticul stories for more informative information and photos.
From Ticul, an hour and a half bus ride takes Jane and I back to the streets of Mérida.
Thirty five minutes from the city center bus terminal in Mérida and we are home in our jungle sanctuary garden swinging in our hammocks and reminiscing about our lovely Yucatecan sojourn.

Bus information


October 18, 2010

With our folding bicycles loaded for an unlimited get-away sojourn, we pedaled to the TAME bus terminal in downtown Mérida. Jane and I weren’t coming home until we felt like it.
At 9:30 AM on a blue skied Monday morning we boarded our Mayab bus and rolled across Yucatán’s seasonally green out-back. This was good!
One hundred kilometers later we disembarked at Ticul. We love the place. This is the season of fresh corn and all of the delightfully delicious local foods made from it are only available in these places when the milpa farmers bring their just harvested maiz [corn] to market.
We headed directly to the main market for panuchos.  This alone makes the trip worthwhile. Everything is garden fresh.
Still in the market. we devour freshly made pool kan-es, known in Spanish as tortitas de masa con ibes. These elegant little deep fried cakes of masa [corn dough] are filled with ibes, a white bean also known as frijol blanco. Topped with tangy sauce and diced sweet onion, they are scrumptious. Meat toppings are available.
Ticul is known for its pottery and this ornate water urn, a relic of the past is still in daily use.
Ticul’s plaza is popular especially under the shade of this almond tree. The economical covered tricycle taxis quietly glide around town making for a peaceful easy going atmosphere.
Afternoons when the shadows grow long the plaza fills with venders selling home made eats and drinks. This little business is packed onto a tricycle and features snow-cones. An ice block in the box below is shaved to make the snow to absorb the sweet flavorings that are concocted from local fruits. No artificial colors or flavors are used. Eager customers joyfully wait in anticipation of the exotic tropical delights.
The snow-cones make for happy faces and big satisfied smiles.
Fresh from the milpa, sweet hot corn on the cob is served with chili, salt and lime juice. Jane and I cannot resist. This lady’s business is portable and fits in the pail she carries to the plaza.  Her wonderful product is in big demand and was sold out in just a few minutes. There is not enough room here to tell of all the delicious seasonal fresh corn delights available in these outlying towns.

More eats arrive; this lady has bags of peeled sweet oranges, mandarins and fried corn snacks that the customers love to sprinkle with hot sauce.
Evenings in the plaza are tranquil and pleasant for families and lovers where numerous venders convey home produced treats.
The streets of Ticul are adorned with statuary depicting Mayan ritual ceremonies and these two were just delivered to the plaza and await their placement.
Ticul is an artsy-craftsy rarity with its artistic pottery and statuary reflecting Mayan culture. A concert dome and open air theatre are also prominent features of the city center plaza.
Footwear is produced in countless mom and pop shops throughout the city. This is Ticul’s main export industry.
This home business takes to the road on a tricycle, setting up shop in the little park selling something to eat, then will roll home at night.
Magnolia Palma is the lady director of the Ticul district for CFE, La Comisión Federal de Electricidad, a friend and extremely knowledgeable in area happenings. Jane and I were on somewhat of a fact finding trip and this is the person that could answer all of our questions.
On the way from Ticul between Dzan and Mani we stopped at the Ecological school.
At Mani, rural housing abounds, like this unconventional Mayan palapa featuring a carved in stone jungle tiger adornment and a Tio Sam house next door.  These newly constructed cement block houses are jokingly referred to as “Tio Sam” or Uncle Sam houses because the money to build them came from Mexicans who went to the US as workers.
Across the street from the palapa house in the above photo we spotted this electrical service with a painted likeness of Che Guevara. This is a strongly socialist country where universal health care is provided. One of the major reasons the Mexicans find fault with the US is because in the US thousands die each year of curable diseases because they can’t afford health care.
Under the shade of a kind old almond tree in the city plaza of Mani Jane and I pause for our morning coffee and a special treat of hot freshly made tortillas. The new corn is seasonal and this is the season.
A Mayan beauty of Mani ironically poses in front of the church where her ancestors were brutally tortured and their sacred books burned.
Little Mani is very rural and surrounded by traditional Mayan milpa farms that produce the corn and other produce to feed these communities.  Notice the conspicuous lack of motor vehicles.
The molino or tortilla shop where we always buy tortillas now had maiz de elote or fresh corn from the cob, which our tasty tortillas came from. Those tortillas are so good they are worth the trip to Mani.
The secret of making corn nutritious was discovered in Mexico over three thousand years ago and is called nixtamalization. The corn is boiled with powdered lime stone the night before it is to be ground and that process unlocks the protein making it a valuable food source.
Happy smiling children tell a lot about the nature of the inhabitants.
Conveniently located on the Oxkutzcab plaza the Hotel Trujeque  is basic but clean, and very reasonable. They are bicycle friendly. Note the new addition to town; the little motorized tricycle taxis are taking over from the quiet little people powered taxis.
Street pageants seem to be spontaneous here filling the air with excited enthusiasm.
Yucatán is fun, friendly and fascinating.

Additional resources and blogs about Ticul, Dzan, Mani and Oxkutzcab:
Feb. 10, 2010

Nov. 2008

Feb. 2008 Mani

March 2008 Mani

August 2007

Feb. 2007

Dec. 2007



February 27, 2010

(In Yucatán, Mexico, a mestizo is a person of mixed Spanish and Mayan parentage.)

Monument in Chetumal, Quintana Roo dedicated to Gonzalo Guerrero, his wife Zazil Ha and their children, the first mestizos.

This fascinating story actually begins with the birth of Gonzalo Guerrero back in the early 1470’s at Palos, Andalusia, Spain.
Trained as a military combatant he fought to drive the last of the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula by 1492 ending eight centuries of Islamic occupation. Then he took up his next position of soldier/sailor on Columbus’s first ocean crossing expedition aboard the small open carvel vessel, Niña.
This soldier of fortune’s story did not reappear in the annals of history again until 1511. Gonzalo set sail in good weather from the Gulf of Darien on the Colombian coast of South America north bound with looted treasure and slaves.
What happened next is one of the worst nightmare stories that could happen to anyone.
Forty year old Gonzalo was plummeted into the sea aboard a makeshift raft with no food or water, one of eighteen men and two women to survive the wrath of a hurricane that dismasted his ship and sunk it.
Only eight lived to make landfall, having to resort to cannibalism in order to survive.
Salvation did not happen. The group of eight survivors were apprehended and enslaved by their Mayan Cocom captors on the Yucatán coast.
Four of these survivors were sacrificed and eaten immediately. The others were caged and fattened for a future festival of flesh feasting. The fattening gave the remaining four the strength to escape to the Tutul Xiues tribe of Mayas who were enemies of the Cocom’s.

(An interesting fact of logistic history; in the recorded accounts of the first encounters of these Europeans arrival in Yucatán it was noted that hammocks were in use by the natives.)

Tutul Xiues made slaves of these surviving Spaniards. Due to extreme hard work and exhaustion only Gonzalo Guerrero and Geronimo de Aguilar survived.
Geronimo de Aguilar kept his religion and cultural ways but Gonzalo Guerrero took up the Mayan ways and became a military advisor and trainer teaching the Maya the combat tactics of the Spanish.  It has been speculated that this Spanish combat training gave the Mayan people of the eastern jungle part of the Yucatán peninsula the ability to drive out the conquistadors. The Mayan of the Quintana Roo region, (eastern jungle) have never been completely subdued and it wasn’t until Méxican federal forces put down the protracted Caste War in the early 1900’s that this area became a territorial part of México.
Gonzalo Guerrero left a lasting legacy with his newly adopted countrymen.
Next Gonzalo kills an alligator attacking his master and gains his freedom from slavery. He then engaged in ritual mutilation and tattooing that included piercing his ears and cheeks. These acts assimilated him into the Mayan way of life.
Gonzalo next took a Mayan princess named Zazil Ha as his wife and was given the temples of Ichpaatún north of Chetumal, presently designated on maps as Oxtankah.
Chetumal Bay has been a major route of commerce since the days of the ancient Maya because it linked sea-going trade routes to rivers incorporating man-made canals. Lamanai is one of the three most prominent Mayan settlements that remained continuously active through the post-classic period and even after European arrival that is linked by river/canal to Chetumal Bay.
In 1519 Hernán Cortez arrived at the island of Cozumel and attempted to rescue the two Spanish survivors, Geronimo de Aquilar and Gonzalo Guerrero from the Maya.
Gonzalo Guerrero replies; “I married a Mayan woman, have three children, am chief and captain, taken their ways with tattoos, pierced ears and scared face…this is my place.”
Gonzalo’s daughter was rumored to have been sacrificed in the cenote at Chichén Itza to end a locust plague.
He eventually met his fate in battle against the Spanish invaders.
Geronimo de Aguilar went with Cortez and took a job as translator.
For centuries Gonzalo Guerrero was despised by the Spanish for being a traitor, defector, and renegade. He was a man, who had fought against his countrymen, turned his back on his land of birth, society, renounced his faith and denied Christ.
After the independence of Mexico a change took place; strangely some Mexicans descended from the conquerors now began to feel a real passion for the Mayan culture. From the Maya one name that symbolizes the struggle in opposition to colonial imperialist power and a struggle for freedom was Gonzalo Guerrero.
Ultimately Guerrero would go from villain to hero and from traitor to a champion of freedom.
The Mayan ruins and Church at Oxtankah in the jungle north of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico have been restored and memorialize this extraordinary man and his wife, Zazil Ha, the parents of the first mestizo. An adjacent lagoon in the area of the Oxtankah ruins near Bacalar bears his name.
On the prestigious Paseo de Montejo in Mérida a monument now commemorates his memory. Donated to the city of Mérida by the founder of Akumal, Pablo Bush Romero who was also the president of the Explorers Club of México this bronze monument sculpted by Raul Ayala is perched atop a stone pedestal at the north end of Paseo de Montejo.

Remarkably this monument to one of the most noteworthy Spaniards to ever venture to the New World, Gonzalo Guerrero, his wife, Zazil Ha and their three children sits between eight lanes of bustling traffic.
There is no sign of recognition or plaque of explanation and few people if any that pass here are ever aware of the incredibly fascinating story behind this first Spaniard to integrate into Yucatán.

There is no sign of recognition or plaque of explanation and few people if any that pass here are ever aware of the incredibly fascinating story behind this first Spaniard to integrate into Yucatán.

The symbolic sculpture of Gonzalo Guerrero attired in his Mayan clothing with his wife Zazil Ha behind cradling one of his infant children while another of his three mestizo children plays with a Spanish conquistador war helmet tells much of this epic story.

This sculpture of Gonzalo Guerrero is a part of the monument in Chetumal dedicated to the Cradle of the Mestizo.


December 14, 2008


The Yucatecan hammock is the most versatile, most easily stowed and comfortably sensible furniture item that is
perfectly suited to tropical living and you can easily take them anywhere.
Yucatecan hammocks lend themselves well to an easy going laidback atmosphere that goes hand in glove with the
natural ambiance of ecologically friendly tall shade trees or cool high ceiling open-air tropical dwellings. For all the information about hammocks that we think you need to know, check out our website: www.bicycleyucatan.comcaribbeanhamaca


July 3, 2008

Here is another out of the travelers loop road trip to the places that tourists miss most.
Twenty five years ago when Jane and I first ate in this Tizimin restaurant called Tres Reyes, we arrived by train from Mérida. Well that train has been out of service for over twenty years now but this fixture of downtown Tizimin still hasn’t changed. Over those years the town went from third largest in Yucatan to second largest and it is a mystery to me because the place has no alluring magnetic cultural attractions. To the north of town is Yucatan’s only real cowboy country complete with huge ranchos and lots of beef cattle.

Our travels continue to Buctzotz, Dzilam González and Dzidzantún. Read more:

Mani Field trip starting in Oxkutzcab, March 2008

April 4, 2008

Mani Field trip starting in Oxkutzcab, March 2008


Field trip to Mani conducted by Lennie Martin of the IWC Maya Studies group and Estela Keim of the IWC Merida Hispanic Culture group.  Jane and John started the trip in Oxkutzcab, Yucatan and biked the following day to Mani to join the group.

For photos from Mani, click the link below and view as a slide show:

For the story, click the link below:

Recommended Reading:

Ambivalent Conquests by Inga Clendinnen

Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John L. Stephens

The Caste War of Yucatan by Nelson Reed

Maya Missions by Richard and Rosalind Perry

Time Among the Maya by Ronald Wright

Genesis by Eduardo Galeano

Open Veins by Eduardo Galeano

Dreaming of the Maya Fifth Sun by Leonide Martin


March 22, 2008

sotuta faces 2

SOTUTA BY BIKE AND BUS: Historical crossroads of the Mayan civilization.

sotuta 4

We began this unusual out-back Yucatan day-trip with our usual 7 kilometer bike trip to the local bus terminal on the corner of 50 and 67 in the city center of Mérida.
We rolled east-bound out of the bustling city traffic with our folding bicycles stowed aboard to the out of the tourist loop history laden diminutive town of Sotuta.
Our first visit to little Sotuta had been nearly twenty-five years earlier at the end of the thriving henequen era when Sotuta was at the end of the still functional narrow gauge railroad line. In those days the town was renowned for being the stronghold for a dissident populist democratic movement in Yucatan and even had one of the most powerful radio stations blasting out their autonomous egalitarian message. The Mexican military maintained a fortified barracks prominently placed on the main city plaza from the beginnings of the Caste War that begin in 1848 and was not relinquished until 1998 when indigenous rights were at a proverbial boiling point. This heightened indigenous rights movement was brought about by the EZLN or the Zapatistas who squared off and took on the Federal government January 1st 1994 forcing their issue of human rights into international news.
A quarter of a century ago when traveling across Yucatan small villages could easily be spotted off at a distance nestled under a grove of fruit bearing shade trees adrift in a sea of henequen fields extending far out to the horizon in all directions.
Amazingly now on our 80 kilometer ride from Mérida to Sotuta we spotted but one small area of cultivated henequen, a token patch in a miniscule village of Huhí, 20 kilometers northwest of our final destination of Sotuta. This is bicycle paradise.
The quiet narrow paved country roads of the Sotuta area are scarcely two meters wide and have a conspicuous lack of motor vehicles and you can hear them coming from five kilometers off.
Sotuta is a strange little place whose complicated and poorly recorded history speaks to us today through the structural remains of its few antiquated edifices that are anthropological memorials.
Discover the detailed history in the following books; Inga Clendinnen’s Ambivalent Conquests, Richard Perry’s marvelously documented book Mayan Missions and Nelson Reed’s fact filled compendium The Caste War of Yucatan. Current political history of Mexico’s indigenous is brought to life in John Ross’s outstandingly powerful book; ¡ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible. It is a must read.
Now look at this out of the way Yucatan town through our captioned photo story;

sotuta 2
This is Sotuta’s downtown main street adjacent to the city central plaza with its conspicuous lack of motor vehicles. Sotuta is clean, quiet, friendly and poor.
sotuta 6

This bare bones meat market is definitely a low overhead operation catering to drive up bicycle riding clients on the main street of Sotuta.
sotuta 8
Tall trees, brilliant flowers and time worn statuary adorn the central plaza park.
sotuta 10
sotuta 12
Meticulously clean traditionally dressed Mayan ladies carry their ground corn home from the molino in the style of Yucatan, on their head. This corn is from local milpa farms.

sotuta 14
This is one of four retablos dating from 1550 to 1730 to be found in the Sotuta church.
sotuta 16
From the church you can view the alleged historical home of Nachi Cocom.
sotuta 18
This is a memorial in Sotuta’s central plaza to the gallant Mayan king and war-lord Nachi Cocom who stood his ground against the Spanish conquistadors in the mid-1500s.
sotuta 20
Above is an interesting and paradoxical memorial to the Mayan king Nachi Cocom with his alleged home in the background. For whatever it is worth the above structure was definitely built upon a Mayan temple. It was constructed in the 18th century and Nachi Cocom died in 1561. Cocom was supposedly converted to Christianity but continued to worship his ancestral Mayan gods. From the sixty year Caste War that began in 1848 until 1998 the above structure was a military barracks.
sotuta 22
Looking west from the church door tranquil fresh air with no motor traffic or stop lights offers a blessed contrast to Mérida’s horn-honking high-powered aggressive neurotic pushy packed streets.
sotuta 24 El goyo
Friendly old “El Goyo” keeps the city plaza spotlessly tidied up. He shows us his treasured watch, a gift from his 45 year old son that immigrated to the US and now-days seldom returns to visit. Many local families are divided by this economic immigration.
sotuta 26
Real wealth is found in the smiling faces of these otherwise economically depleted locals.
sotuta 28
Sotuta’s centuries still speak out in the ornate stone work gleaned from the now non-existent Mayan ruins. The Spanish utilized the temples of old for building materials.
sotuta 30
Under heavy political pressure generated by the Zapatista uprisings in the state of Chiapas, on January 23, 1998 Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo came here to personally give this property back to the people of Sotuta to be used as a museum.
sotuta 32
The Sotuta museum building has an interesting but cloudy history. It is obvious that it stands upon a Mayan temple and the structure is constructed from materials taken from it. The dates of subsequent construction at this site are purely conjecture. It is likely that the famous Mayan king Nachi Cocom had his home here when the Spanish took Sotuta in 1542 and made a prisoner of him in 1549. The Spanish built a military barracks at this spot in the 18th century and it became an armed garrison in 1848, occupied until 1998.
sotuta 34
Within the museum building is found a photo presentation by Humberto Suaste Blanco depicting time honored Mayan rituals from prominent centers of indigenous heritage. Also some history of the Spanish influence with their wars and occupation is explained. An exhibition of many colorful typical regional indigenous costumes from various Mexican locations gives a prospective of diversity like this colorful one from the west.
sotuta 36
Looking out from the museum toward the church gives a panorama little changed over the centuries of colonial Spanish influence.
sotuta 38
Looking down from the same museum balcony to the seldom traveled street below that circles the cities central plaza gives some idea of the tranquil remoteness of Sotuta just 80 kilometers remover from the hustle and bustle of Mérida. The entrepreneurial street vendor has set up a very portable covered kitchen and dining area which is typical of enterprising Latinos.
sotuta 40
In front of the municipal building non-polluting quiet taxis queue up for prospective customers. Few motor vehicles and no stop lights give the place a pleasant charm.
sotuta 42
This is our no frills lunch spot housed in an ancient colonial building on the city plaza.
sotuta 44
Our lunch spot owner Margarita Rejon, seated and her friend Mirna Cocom jovially entertain us with hilarious accounts of local happenings…the food was great.
sotuta 46
Speaking of Cocom, a family name synonymous with nearly five centuries of Sotuta history, here in the central plaza is a stone bust of Nachi Cocom…still a legend.
sotuta 48
Beauty in a smile and friendly pleasantness give this lovely lady bedecked in her typical Mayan hand stitched dress a special charm that make Sotuta a nice place to be. She keeps the park spotlessly and maliciously clean.
sotuta 50
With a Mayan smile this young couple represents Sotuta’s next generation.
sotuta 52
More than just a family, this group has something unique in their backyard. Only three blocks removed from the city plaza they have a cenote and gruta where neighbors come to cool off and swim in its refreshing waters. In years gone by the cenotes were crucial sources of water here in Yucatan where there are no rivers or lakes.
sotuta 54
Above is located the municipal market and the city museum and in the foreground awaits the meat fresh for the morning market. Here there are more bicycles than motor vehicles.
Cocoa or chocolate was cultivated here and used as currency by the Mayan people when the conquistadors first arrived.
sotuta 56
I load our bicycles aboard our bus back to Mérida and get a snooze along the way.
sotuta 58
Our Dahon folding bicycles collapse in twelve seconds and fit in a space the size of a traveling bag easily stowed onboard a taxi, train or airplane. With seven gears they effortlessly roll along with the big bikes.

Here is a short synopsis of chronicled local history;
The peaceful Mayan people ruled the Yucatan until around the year 1000 AD when the Itza invaded giving such names as; Chichen Itza.
The Cocom family dynasty displaced the Xiu at Mayapan around the year 1200.
In 1460 the Xiu family dynasty killed the Cocom leaders and their families.
This led to a war dispersing the family Chels to Ah Kin Chel;
The Cocom family from Mayapan to Sotuta
And the Xiu family to Mani
Below is a painting with historical information found in Mérida’s municipal building.

sotuta 60

Nachi Cocom was one of the Mayan leaders during the conquest. His strong, rebellious spirit contributed to his heroic resistance to the Spanish, inflecting many losses on the conquistadors. It was several years before he finally surrendered his arms to the enemy. Now an old man he was forced to accept Christianity, and was baptized in the name of Juan Cocom. However, in secret he continued to worship the stone gods he had never really abandoned.
The following excerpt is from my recommended reading list; Inga Clendinnen’s “Ambivalent Conquests”;
Page 81: “Not long after the, (auto de fe), Landa was urgently called to Sotuta. The heavy summons probably had to do with the suicide in prison before interrogation of Lorenzo Cocom, chief of the head village, lord of the province, and brother and successor to Juan Nachi Cocom, Landa’s old informant, who had died the previous year. Cocom’s suicide was interpreted as proof of his guilty involvement in idolatries.
Certainly fear ran before the friars. When Pizarro and his brothers arrived in the head village they found the villagers had fled, to return only when some of their encomenderos – now identified as their protectors against the assaults of the friars – arrived. In Kanchunup, a village only half a gigue from Sotuta village, two Indians had hanged themselves at word of the friars’ coming. Such proof of ‘wickedness’ strengthened the friars’ resolve and the vehemence of their interrogations. One Spaniard forced to serve as constable to the Inquisition in Sotuta recalled that some chiefs and lords were flogged while they hung suspended until the blood ran. But it was of Hocaba-Homun, with Fray Miguel de la Puebla in charge, that the darkest tales were told. While the Spaniards pressed to serve the inquisition in the other provinces carried out their duties with aversion, the enlisted constable in Hocaba-Homun seems to have taken some pride in his work. Dissatisfied with the hoist, he constructed a version of the ‘burro’, extensively used by the Inquisition in Spain for the administration of torture of the water and the cords. The victim was secured face up on a wooden frame, and cords were twisted around thighs and upper arms. The cords could be tightened by the turning of a rod inserted between the flesh and frame. The victim’s mouth was forced open, and quantities of water were poured in, usually through a cloth to increase the sensation of drowning. In the careful protocol observed by the interrogators of the Spanish Inquisition the accused was given ample time between each ‘turn’ and vessel of water to confess his guilt, but the Hocabá constable observed no such niceties. His individual contribution was to trample on the distended belly of the victim, so that the swallowed water was violently discharged. At least one Indian died lashed to the ‘burro’.
Inga Clendinnen’s Ambivalent Conquests is filled with numerous pearls of insight into the world of Yucatan and the Maya. I will condense analogy she made regarding the relationship between the Maya and honey bees. The Maya had a sense of the mutual benefits of inter-dependence, of the enhancement of the individual through membership of a complex of groups. The Maya had an attachment to collective life between age and youth, male and female, and greater and lesser rank and of man within the natural order. Those routines were to prove durable when subjugation had swept away the external material signs of rank. (This is part of the reason that the Mayan collective community has survived nearly five centuries under conquistador oppression.)

Peaceful places have no history, so Sotuta’s history is packed with incredible events from the conquistadors to the Caste War and the henequen revolution.
If you are interested in history that shaped Mexico you will find each book of my recommended reading well worth the effort.
If you are interested in bicycle adventures then you must cycle this end of the planet.
Try this web site:

The name of Nachi Cocom is from the Maya and “Naal” refers to his mother’s family; thus Na-Chi or mothers name Chi.