Monday, December 31, 2018

Yucatan: The Norias

We close this year's posts on Yucatán with a look at its colonial water sources:
Although there is little surface water in Yucatán, almost all the settlements since early Maya times are situated close to cenotes or underground sinkholes, many of which give access to flowing fresh water streams.
   Several early missions made use of hydraulic devices to extract this vital resource, some of them incorporating mule powered water wheels, or “norias” housed in domed or thatched well houses .
   Some of these have survived and indeed still function to this day, now with electric pumps. Here we illustrate the most notable examples:

the noria at San Bernardino de Sisal (Valladolid )
the thatched village noria at Yaxcabá
the restored domed noria at Conkal
the noria at Mamá
the noria at Mani
text and images © 2018 Richard D. Perry

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Yucatán: San Mateo Mopilá

Mopilá, view of open chapel
Founded atop an ancient Maya platform, this former visita of Yaxcabá evolved in the usual Yucatecan fashion: at first a domed open chapel, later fitted with a broad aisled nave in front.

The substantial church at Mopilá was set afire during the 19th century Caste War and abandoned until recent times when it was cleared of rubble and partly refurbished, with some of the pillars reinstated, although it is still roofless and missing the colonial church front. 

The sole surviving colonial remnant, apart from a small stone holy water basin, is a large wooden altarpiece fashioned in provincial baroque style in the popular regional colors of red and gold.
   Now stripped of images it is mounted in the apse (the former open chapel) and was imported from another location, most likely Yaxcabá where there are similar retablos.
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry. images from online sources

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Yucatán: San Bernabé Teyá

We continue our posts on lesser known missions in Yucatán with a look at Teyá, ("Sapodilla"near Izamal.
In a classic Yucatecan T-plan format, remnants of the early 17th century stone chapel of Teyá, formerly a visita of Izamal, are embedded in the apse of the grand 18th century parish church of San Bernabé. 
The former cemetery and its ornate gateway stand in the atrium adjacent to original visita structure on the south side of the church.
Dating from the 1750s, the church facade is distinguished mostly by its crowning belfry (espadaña) and imposing choir window with carved stone jambs and lintel.
Aside from an old carved font, little else remains of the original visita mission.
A pair of late colonial retablos stands along the nave together with a tulip shaped wall pulpit painted with portraits of the Four Evangelists.
pulpit with portrait of St Mark
Another surviving colonial artifact of interest is the standard holder in the form of a lion beside the altar rail.
text and color images © 1983 & 2018 Richard D. Perry

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Yucatan: San Gaspar Timucuy

Like dozens of other rural churches across Yucatán, San Gaspar Timucuy (Place of the Doves) started life in the later 1500s as a thatched open chapel, visited by friars from one of the large area monasteries—in 1656 it was reported as a dependency of nearby Tecoh.
Fronted by a raised atrium, likely of prehispanic origin, the rustic church front has been remodeled over time, now sporting a curved onion gable with matching belfries.
The original chapel, now the apse of the church, houses a large and highly colorful retablo framed in rustic, late baroque style with estípite pilasters and a scrolled gable.
St. Bernardine of Siena
Folkloric paintings include a portrait of the patron saint as well as one of the aged and infirm Franciscan eminence, St. Bernardine of Siena, with the radiant Holy Name and his three rejected episcopal miters.
text and graphic © 2018 Richard D. Perry.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Yucatán: San Pedro & San Pablo Teabo

The 17th century church at Teabo stands on an elevated foundation within a walled atrium. As at nearby Oxkutzcab, on which it is undoubtedly modeled, the broad nave follows a basilican plan; two rows of tall interior columns support arches on which the renovated roof rests.
Evidence of the long Franciscan sojourn is everywhere: the Five Wounds appear on the upper facade in conjunction with the Crossed Arms and a dedicatory plaque below the choir window bears the dates 1694 and 1696, marking the building and completion of the church.
The Retablo
One of the few remaining colonial furnishings inside the church is the splendid retablo of Las Animas on the south side of the nave. This handsome altarpiece closely resembles those at nearby Mani and may be the work of the same master. Caryatid columns separate the compartments, and the altarpiece is finished in vibrant reds and blues against a white background.

A folkloric relief panel at the base illustrates the suffering of souls in Purgatory, who appeal to St. Joseph and Our Lady of Sorrows for help. 
This theme of redemption is continued on the pediment, which depicts the cross with the Three Marys.
Statues of San Miguel and the risen Christ occupy the side niches. 


Peter, Paul and the Risen Christ statues
A pair of white stone pedestals—probably former lectern bases—stands by the altar, supporting the draped figures of St. Peter and St. Paul, the patrons of the church.
text and images © 2019 Richard D. Perry
see our post on the Teabo murals

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Haciendas of Yucatán: San Juan Tabí

In our books, web pages and blog posts on Yucatán we have mentioned a few of the numerous and varied haciendas of the peninsula and their chapels. Here we visit one of the most interesting and picturesque examples: Hacienda Tabí.
Large estates, or haciendas were numerous in Yucatán, especially in the populous northwestern area of the colony. Originally founded for the raising of cattle and later in the colonial period, sugar cane, by the late 1800s and into the 20th century dozens were founded or converted to the production of henequen fiber from the agave plant—green gold—a crop well suited to this arid region.   
   Several of the largest haciendas belonged to a handful of prominent local landowners, notably the extended Peón family, whose estates included those at Uxmal, Uayalceh, Xcanchakán and Tabí.
   As noted, in the absence of hotels during the colonial era and into the 20th century, these haciendas also served the needs of elite travelers and foreign explorers, including the Empress Carlota, John Lloyd Stephens, Frederick Ober, Henry Mercer, Thomas Gann, Sylvanus Morley and Robert Stacy Judd among many others, often providing transportation and labor in addition to food and lodging.

The vast sugar hacienda of Tabi, in the Puuc hills of western Yucatan, was one of the grandest. Even within living memory Tabi was well known to travelers as a hospitable refuge on the edge of the "wilderness."   
   Founded some time in the 1600s as a cattle ranch, it was expanded over the next 200 years, often at the expense of Maya communal lands, to produce field crops. In 1855 it passed into the hands of the Peon family who converted the estate to plantation agriculture, principally sugar. 
   With the decline of the sugar industry, and then the decline of henequen boom after 1900, the hacienda rapidly declined and by mid century was largely abandoned. 

The present imposing main house, or Palacio, of Tabí, with its grand arcades and double stairway was added during the Peon ownership period. The facade was rebuilt again in the early 1900s, shortly before its abandonment as a functioning hacienda, its lands then sold off after the Revolution.   
   Although long neglected, the mansion is now owned by the state and is being refurbished as an educational facility.

However, the imposing hacienda chapel opposite remains abandoned, roofless, overgrown and neglected.
Dedicated to John the Baptist, the chapel building is late—dedicated in 1896—but designed in classic Yucatecan style with a tall but plain front with simple arched openings and an undulating belfry or espadaña
   Its original marble facing is gone, as are the bells, which once used to mark the daily routine of the hacienda. The wooden altarpiece and statue of the patron saint are also missing. 
  Elegant arches along the nave, supported a log roof in Yucatecan bovedilla style—unfortunately burned during the 19th century Caste War.
Chapel interior, facing apse (image © Larry Miller)
Chapel interior, facing choir end showing log sockets in the arches (image © Larry Miller)
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry. photography by the author and Larry Miller
Planning to visit Yucatán?  Take our guidebooks along
please visit our other Yucatán hacienda posts: Xcanchakan; Blanca Flor

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Haciendas of Yucatán: Xcanchakan

Until recent times accommodations for travelers in Yucatán were few and far between. Early visitors relied on the hospitality of the large estates or haciendas, which were numerous in the more populous region of northwestern Yucatan.
   Originally confined to the raising of cattle and later, sugar cane, by the late 1800’s and into the early 20th century dozens of haciendas were converted to the production of henequen fiber—from the agave plant—a crop ideally suited to the arid climate.

Several of the largest haciendas belonged to a handful of prominent landowners. The haciendas catered to the needs of foreign explorers and travelers, often supplying needed transportation and labor in addition to food and lodging.
   Hacienda Xcanchakán was one of several large estates that belonged to the Peón family, leading members of the interrelated Yucatán landowning class and ruling elite. Located near the town of Tecoh, it was originally founded as an encomienda and was one of the most southerly of the great colonial estates. Formerly confined to the raising of corn and cattle, it prospered as a sugar plantation during the early 1800s. Later, it was converted into a henequen estate, a model of industrialized agriculture—another Yucatán boom that flourished briefly from the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
Hacienda Xcanchakán in 1842, after Frederick Catherwood

The celebrated traveler John Lloyd Stephens described his visit to Xcanchakan:

“It was nearly dark when we reached the stately hacienda of Xcanchakan, one of the three finest in Yucatan, and containing nearly seven hundred souls... The house is perhaps one of the best in the country, and being within one day's ride of the capital, and accessible by calesa [carriage), it is a favourite residence of its venerable proprietor. The whole condition of the hacienda showed that it was often subject to the master's eye, and the character of that master may be judged of from the fact that his major-domo, the same who was attendant upon us, had been with him twenty-six years.”
                          from Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vol. 1 (1842)

Architecturally, the hacienda buildings reflect its changing fortunes over the centuries. The earliest structures were built using cut stone from the ruins at nearby Mayapan. The original main house, or casa principal, is an impressive three story building, unique among hacienda buildings in Yucatan, with lobed arcades on the two upper levels. 
An arcaded breezeway, also with moorish style arcades and a raised belfry, or espadaña, links the main residence to the adjacent noria, or well house. The other side of the casa is faced along its entire length by another attractive arcade.
   A range of later industrial structures, including the engine house and vast machinery shed, leads off at right angles. These buildings, now abandoned along with much of their rusting machinery, are extremely plain, with simple arcades and metal roofs.
Only the chapel, across the courtyard from the main house, reflects the neoclassical taste of the era in which it was erected (c. 1800), as evidence its pedimented doorway, elegant espadaña and bulls-eye window.
the chapel espadaña
Today, many of these old haciendas are being restored as luxury
inns and resorts for the affluent visitor, including Xcanchakan.
text and images © 2005 & 2018 Richard D. Perry

Friday, November 30, 2018

Haciendas of Yucatán: San Antonio Xocnaceh

We continue our posts on the haciendas of Yucatán and their chapels, with a look at this one in the Puuc region of the peninsula:
This roofless chapel near Oxkutzcab, until recently abandoned since the Caste War of the 19th century, now functions as a reception area adjunct to the private hacienda, open to selected visitors.
The classic 18th century Yucatecan facade features twin belfries with pointed Gothic openings. The sharply pitched center pediment frames an empty niche that once housed a stone statue of the patron saint, St Anthony.
Despite long neglect and exposure to the weather, vestiges of colorful 18th century murals still cling to the surfaces along the nave and in the sanctuary.
mural of St. Anthony
While most of these remnants consist of floral bands and friezes, a portrait of St Anthony, the patron saint, has also survived.
The chapel interior today
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
photography by the author and Jürgen Putz
please visit our other Yucatán hacienda posts: Tabi; Blanca Flor