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Yucatán (peninsula, North America)

Yucatán (yōōkətăn´), peninsula, c.70,000 sq mi (181,300 sq km), mostly in SE Mexico, separating the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico. It comprises the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, Mexico; the country of Belize; and part of Petén, Guatemala. Mérida, Campeche, and Cancún, Mexico and Belize City, Belize are the chief cities of Yucatán. The inhabitants are predominantly the modern descendants of the Maya.

The peninsula is largely a low, flat, limestone tableland rising to c.500 ft (150 m) in the south. To the north and west the plain continues as the Campeche Bank, stretching under shallow water c.150 mi (240 km) from the low, sandy shoreline. Along the NW coast are is the ancient, buried Chicxulub crater, an impact site associated with the mass extinction in which the dinosaurs died out. The eastern coast rises in low cliffs in the north and is indented by bays and paralleled by islands and cays in the south; Cozumel is the largest island. Short ranges of hills cross the peninsula at scattered intervals. The only rivers are those flowing E and NW from Petén.

Climate

In the northern half of the tableland, rainfall is light and is absorbed by the porous limestone. Water for people and livestock comes from underground rivers and wells (cenotes) from which it is often pumped by windmills, and from surface pools (aguadas). The land has tropical dry and rainy seasons, but generally in the north the climate is hot and dry, and in the south hot and humid. The peninsula is subject to hurricanes.

Economy

Most of the northern half, although covered with only a few inches of subsoil, is one of the most important henequen-raising regions of the world; the uncultivated area is under a dense growth of scrub, cactus, sapote wood, and mangrove thickets. Subsistence crops, tobacco, and cotton also are grown. Magnificent forests of tropical hardwoods in SW Campeche, Petén, and Belize provide the basis for a lumber industry. This area teems with tropical life, including the jaguar, the armadillo, the iguana, and the Yucatán turkey. Fishing is important along the Yucatán coast. Many of the peninsula's fine beaches and archaeological sites have been developed for tourism, which is a significant part of the peninsula's economy. By the early years of the 21st cent. resort development in Mexico on the peninsula's E coast was extensive, especially at Cancún and to its south along c.60-mi (100 km) stretch of beach popularly known as the Mayan Riviera. Yucatán also possesses large oil deposits, and Mexico in particular has developed a substantiael oil industry on the peninsula.

History

Centuries before the arrival of the Spanish, Yucatán was the seat of a great civilization (see Maya). Probably the first Europeans to arrive were the two survivors of a Spanish shipwreck (1511)—Gonzalo de Guerrero, who joined the Maya, and Gerónimo de Aguilar, who was rescued by Hernán Cortés in 1519 and became his interpreter. Later (1524–25) Cortés made an epic march across the base of the peninsula to Honduras. Francisco Fernández de córdoba had in 1517 already skirted the coast, and in the following year Juan de Grijalva had explored the same area. The battling with the Maya began in 1527 by Francisco de Montejo and continued until 1546, when his son, Francisco de Montejo the younger, crushed the revolt of a coalition of Mayan groups. Mayan resistance to Spanish (and later Mexican) rule perpetuated into the early 20th cent.

Bibliography

See F. F. Blom, The Conquest of Yucatan (1971); E. H. Moseley and E. D. Terry, ed., Yucatan: A World Apart (1980); G. D. Jones, Maya Resistance to Spanish Rule (1989).

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Yucatán (state, Mexico)

Yucatán (yōōkətăn´, –kätän´), state (1990 pop. 1,362,940), 14,868 sq mi (38,508 sq km), SE Mexico, occupying most of the northern part of the Yucatán peninsula. It lies between Campeche and Quintana Roo. The principal industry is tourism and the cultivation and preparation of henequen—mostly exported to the United States. Citrus production has gained in importance in recent years, and textile production, tobacco and other farming, and fishing are also important. Roads and rail lines connect many of the larger towns with the capital, Mérida. By 300 BC, and until Columbian times, Yucatán was populated by the Maya. Cortés came to Yucatán in 1519. It became a state when Mexico won independence (1821) but seceded from 1839 to 1843. There were severe political uprisings in 1847 and in 1910. Several of the most famous Mayan ruins, including Tulúm, Chichén Itzá, and Uxmal, are located here.

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Yucatán

Yucatán State in the n part of the Yucatán Peninsula, se Mexico; the capital is Mérida. The terrain is low-lying, covered in places with scrub and cactus thickets. Once the centre of the Maya civilization, the Spanish conquered Yucatán in the 1540s. The region is a major producer of henequen (sisal hemp used for cordage). Other products: tobacco, sugar, cotton, tropical fruits. Fishing is an important industry. Area: 38,508sq km (14,868sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,655,707.

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Yucatán

YucatánAbadan, Abidjan, Amman, Antoine, Arne, Aswan, Avon, Azerbaijan, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bantustan, barn, Bhutan, Dagestan, darn, dewan, Farne, guan, Hahn, Hanuman, Hindustan, Huascarán, Iban, Iran, Isfahan, Juan, Kazakhstan, khan, Koran, Kurdistan, Kurgan, Kyrgyzstan, macédoine, Mahon, maidan, Marne, Michoacán, Oman, Pakistan, pan, Pathan, Qumran, Rajasthan, Shan, Siân, Sichuan, skarn, soutane, Sudan, Tai'an, t'ai chi ch'uan, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Taklimakan, tarn, Tatarstan, Tehran, Tenochtitlán, Turkestan, Turkmenistan, tzigane, Uzbekistan, Vientiane, yarn, Yinchuan, yuan, Yucatán •Autobahn • Lindisfarne •Bildungsroman • Nisan • Khoisan •Afghanistan • bhagwan • Karajan

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Yucatán

Yucatán

Yucatán, a peninsula in southeastern Mexico, including the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, northern Tabasco, northeastern Chiapas, and the northern parts of the modern republics of Guatemala and Belize. The region has been occupied for millennia, most notably by the Maya, who built their civilization in the area some time after 300 b.c. Europeans arrived on the peninsula during the first decade of the sixteenth century and the Spanish conquistadors conquered the Mayas in 1542, the year in which the Spaniards founded the city of Mérida, the capital of the colonial province and of the modern state of Yucatán. One unfortunate result of contact with Europeans for the Mayas was a substantial demographic decline caused by the wars of conquest, forced labor, and by the introduction of Old World diseases. The Maya population, which had numbered at least 500,000 and perhaps as high as 800,000 in the early sixteenth century, declined to only about 100,000 by the late seventeenth century.

The colonial regime was at first based almost entirely on Maya peasant community labor, which produced food and exportable goods, especially cotton textiles, for the Spanish colonists. Spaniards limited their own activities to stock raising on ranches (estancias), although in Campeche (the western part of the peninsula) the colonists also organized production of salt and dyewood and established a shipbuilding industry. Politically, the province of Yucatán was ruled by a governor captain-general (gobernador capitán general) appointed by the Spanish crown.

In the eighteenth century the Maya population began a demographic recovery, while at the same time the number of non-Indians—Spaniards, mestizos, and mulattoes—also increased substantially. By 1800 the population of the province was over 400,000. Demographic growth resulted in an increased demand for food and other goods, thus leading to the expansion of the landed estates, which produced not only cattle but also maize, sugarcane, rice, and cotton. The economy was also stimulated by commercial and political reforms, including the establishment of the intendancy (chief administrator), which resulted in increased trade with Cuba and the abolition of the Repartimiento (a peonage system that coerced the Maya into producing cotton textiles).

Yucatán did not participate in the Mexican struggle for independence, but once Mexico became independent in 1821, Yucatán adhered to the rules of the new nation. Disagreements with the Mexican government, however, led Yucatán's rulers on several occasions to declare the state a sovereign nation. In the decades after independence from Spain those rulers also carried out a program of decolonization and modernization, which, in effect, ended up further depriving Maya communities of their traditional lands. As a result, in 1847 the Mayas of the eastern and central parts of the state rose in rebellion and attempted to drive the non-Indians from the peninsula. This Caste War of Yucatán lasted several decades (although most of the violence ended in 1855) and resulted in death and destruction on a massive scale.

In the late nineteenth century, Yucatán—which had been separated from the state of Campeche in 1858—began a recovery based on the export of sisal, or Henequen fiber. Eventually, enormous profits were earned by the large landowners, and Yucatán became the most prosperous state in Mexico. This recovery was accomplished, however, by instituting a rigorous system of debt peonage to force the Mayas to work on the plantations, and, consequently, little of the wealth trickled down to the peasants, who made up the majority of the population.

The conservative regime was so well entrenched that it survived the early years of the Mexican Revolution. In 1915, however, the Carranza government, after putting down one last Yucatecan separatist movement, imposed a reformist governor, Salvador Alvarado (1879–1924), who abolished peonage and permitted labor to organize. By 1918 the socialists, led by Felipe Carrillo Puerto (1872–1924), had become the leading political party, and they took power in 1920. Two years later Carrillo Puerto was elected governor. The socialists attempted radical reforms, but their government was overthrown by reactionaries in late 1923; Carrillo Puerto and several of his supporters were executed by firing squad in early 1924. As a result, the Mexican government came to control politics in Yucatán, working through the socialists, who became the basis for the ruling party in the state.

In the 1930s, President Lázaro Cárdenas (1895–1970) destroyed the landowning aristocracy in Yucatán by carrying out an agrarian reform. At the same time, however, the henequen industry, which almost ceased to exist by 1990, had begun its long-term decline. Yucatán's economy came to be based mostly on commerce and tourism, with only a minor amount of industry.

See alsoCárdenas del Río, Lázaro; Carrillo Puerto, Felipe; Caste War of Yucatán; Conquistadores; Diseases; Estancia; Gobernador; Henequen Industry; Maya, The; Mérida; Repartimiento; Textile Industry: The Colonial Era.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Eligio Ancona, Historia de Yucatán, 5 vols. (1878–1880).

Juan Francisco Molina Solís, Historia de Yucatán durante la dominación española, 3 vols. (1904–1913).

Gilbert M. Joseph, Revolution from Without: Yucatán, Mexico, and the United States, 1880–1924 (1982).

Nancy M. Farriss, Maya Society Under Colonial Rule (1984).

Allen Wells, Yucatán's Gilded Age: Haciendas, Henequen, and International Harvester, 1860–1915 (1985).

Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517–1570 (1987).

Robert W. Patch, Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1648–1812 (1993).

Additional Bibliography

Bracamonte y Sosa, Pedro. La memoria enclaustrada: Historia indígena de Yucatán, 1750–1915. México, D.F.: CIESAS: INI, 1994.

Coerver, Don M; Pasztor, Suzanne B, and Buffington, Robert. Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. Santa Barbara, CA: 2004.

Joyce, Kelly. An Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

Patch, Robert. Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1648–1812. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.

Quezada, Sergio. Breve historia de Yucatán. México: Colegio de México, Fideicomiso Historia de las Américas, 2004.

Reed, Nelson A. The Caste War of Yucatán. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Sierra O'Reilly, Justo. Los indios de Yucatán. Mérida, Yucatán, México: Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, 1994.

                                       Robert W. Patch

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