‘Ecoaventura Yucatan’ organizes an excursion to the trenches that defended Mérida from pirates

(Photo: Ecoaventura Yucatan)

(MERIDA, YUC. – ECOAVENTURA YUCATAN).- 6 kilometers south of the port of Chelem stands a complex that served as a defense for the city of Mérida. Not many people are aware of the fear that the population of the Yucatecan capital had in the face of a possible pirate invasion; and the hikers of Ecoaventura Yucatán, led by Dr. Jorge Victoria Ojeda, will organize an expedition to reveal the secrets of these bastions hidden in the mountains.

Chelem Yucatan

Those trenches respond to the protection of Mérida. It has always been thought that piracy was limited to Campeche and Bacalar, whose military architecture is evident; However, since the 17th century, the constant harassment of pirates in the peninsular region with the intention of reaching the capital of Yucatan caused it to also be protected.

“You have to take into account a very important factor: fear. I emphasize it, because now we see it distant – more than 30 kilometers from the coast – but what would the population feel at that time ?

From the end of the 17th century, he continued, a whole defensive strategy began to be put together to protect Mérida. This began in the 16th century when lookouts were installed on the north coast, especially in the region of the gulf that includes Campeche; and some on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo.

“The lookout from Chuburná, Ixil,  Sisaland from Santa Clara Ports. It was a wooden tower where the subject climbed to observe the sea and see if ships passed by. It was the first element of prevention on the coast”, explained the researcher.

Later, Dr. Victoria explained, in the same 17th century, trenches were built, a kind of parapet to protect the roads that came from the coast to the city of Mérida, where the citadel of San Benito was located, built in the second half of the seventeenth century.

“This defensive system was made up, at the vertex of Sisal-Mérida-Santa Clara. By 1722 there were 17 sets of trenches protecting those roads. If we go back to the previous century, again we talk about fear”, he exposed.

Just as the people of Campeche, he said, managed to get the royal authority to grant them a wall; the trustees of Merida asked the king to authorize them to build their own. If it weren’t for that fear, they wouldn’t spend this money on that company.

“However, they requested it and told the king that they would pay for it, but when it was finished they would not give him a penny. There is no document that says no, but in 1685 there was still talk of the wall that the Merida encomenderos requested.

There is no documentation that has registered a pirate invasion in Mérida. There have been attempts in Campeche, Hampolol, where they were arrested; and some English who came to Ixil; to Sisal, but not to Mérida.

Patrimonial diffusion 

The militias, especially pardos -Afro-descendants- were the ones who occupied these trenches where the most outstanding position was that of the lookout, whose task was to watch the horizon waiting for intruders.

On the expedition, the context of what happened will be explained to them; and how they should react to these buildings and the things they come across, with an emphasis on protecting Merida, which will eventually lead to the trenches.

“Our interest is to spread it so that the competent authorities realize it. If they like tourism, then that’s great, let them see it from that point of view. We are interested in it as a patrimonial asset of the Yucatecans that is being lost, ” he said.

According to some sources, there were clashes with the English in colonial times, that is, at the end of the 18th century. These are wall sets of almost two meters, 90 centimeters (cm) thick and 60 meters long, approximately. They are three stone complexes.

“It is an attempt to make visible the destruction of these historical monuments that are part of a little-disclosed heritage in Yucatan, about the presence of pirates on our coasts. When we hear pirates, we refer to Campeche, but there were also pirates here,” added Roberto Casares, promoter of the initiative.

To attend, you can visit the Facebook page of Ecoaventura Yucatán, where they will also give a theoretical-practical workshop on the subject. It is a route for intermediates due to the sinuosity of its paths. It is recommended to bring water and comfortable clothing. There is no cost to attend and they leave at 6:00 a.m. from Carls Jr. on the highway to Progreso.

The Yucatan Times
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