About the Yucatán


The Yucatán Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico, includes the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo (as well as parts of Belize and Guatemala).  The peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean; its nearest neighbor by sea is Cuba.

Because the Yucatán is separated from the rest of Mexico by a range of mountains, it developed a unique culture.

It was first settled by the Mayas, an advanced per-Columbian civilization.  Later it was colonized by the Spanish, who created a network of haciendas, producing cattle, chicle, and henequen.  Rope made from henequen fibers was durable and moisture resistant, so Yucatán ports became important shipping centers.

As synthetic materials replaced chicle and henequen, agriculture became less important to the Yucatán.  Today, the region is heavily dependent on tourism.

Attractions include many important Mayan archeological sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Spanish-colonial sites such as Merida, haciendas, nature parks and eco-tourism, and coastal resorts like Cancún and Cozumel along the Riviera Maya.

Yucatán also has a distinctive cuisine that is quite different from typical Mexican food.  Dishes such as cochinita pibil and sopa de lima have recently been popularized in the United States by chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless, on his television show Mexico – One Plate at a Time.