Home Feature Why are there so many cenotes in Yucatan?

Why are there so many cenotes in Yucatan?

by Magali Alvarez
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The word “cenote” comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” which means hole with water, and has become a window to the subway world, allowing us to learn about the life that lives there.

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the five physiographic zones of the Mexican Republic and represents 2% of the country’s surface, with 39,340 km2. The number of cenotes in the state is approximately eight thousand, which besides being a natural jewel, have a great importance in history and culture, since for the Mayas they represented a sacred site to carry out rituals and funerary practices.

Why are there cenotes in Yucatan?

A historic event was 66 million years ago in Chicxulub, because the impact of a meteorite triggered a mass extinction that wiped out 75% of life on earth.

The ring of cenotes in Yucatan is due to a semicircular alignment of bodies of crystalline water is related to the theory of the impact of an asteroid of regular dimensions with approximately 10 kilometers in circumference, which produced a crater of 150 kilometers in diameter, when it hit what is today the Yucatan Peninsula, which had not emerged from the sea apparently influencing the formation of this ring of cenotes by fracturing the calcium carbonate rocks that make up the peninsular platform.

It is estimated that the Cenotes Ring represents between 11% and 12% of all the cenotes in the state, this historical fact marked the end of the Mesozoic Era.

The origin of the cenotes is due to the geomorphological process called karst, which consists of the combination of the mechanisms of dissolution, collapse and construction of limestone. Karst is a slow dissolution process that takes millions of years to develop, every hundred years the advance in the rock is about 5mm approximately, abundant especially in limestone rocks.

Photo: National Geographic

From the scientific point of view

The meteorite impacted with a great force that generated a lot of pressure and the center of the crater became impermeable crystalline rock that prevented the flow of water is why the water began to seep through the limestone rock on the periphery of the crater and erode the material. This is how, little by little over the millennia, the more than 900 cenotes lined up in a semicircle appeared and the other half of the ring is in the sea.

How to get to Chicxulub?

Chicxulub Puerto is located 8 km east of the port of Progreso, 40 km north-northeast of the city of Merida, Yucatan, and 20 km north of another town of the same name, the head of the municipality called Chicxulub Pueblo.

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