Submitted by Justin Jennings, Curator, Department of World Cultures. Follow his Maya adventures with ROMTravel.
Today, we took a break from the world of the Pre-Hispanic Maya, and took a trip to a hacienda that has been painstakingly assembled as it would have stood at the beginning of the twentieth century. At that time, the haciendas dominated the Mexican economy. The hacienda owners built fantastic fortunes while the workers found themselves in debts so onerous that they often passed them down from one generation to the next. The haciendas were built on saysil, an agave that was sometimes called “green gold”. Saysil was the fibre made from this agave, spun into cords, and sold around the world. The owner of the hacienda today has not only rebuilt the hacienda itself, but has managed to
track down furniture of the era (down to a pair of little rocking chairs for the gremlin-like creatures that some still believe make mischief in the Yucatan). Even more impressively, the new owner has managed to get the old machines up and running so we could see the whole process from cutting the cactus leaves to separating the fibre, created bales, and spinning the cord. The machines were deafening, but it took us back to another era. A great day? Well, we topped it off by jumping on a mule-drawn carriage that ran on a railroad track to talk to a man who worked the agave fields in the 1940s for the hacienda. We then took a dip in an underground cenote, a sinkhole with crystal clear water. Yes, a really great day!