Home Headlines The rise and fall of the henequen industry in Yucatan

The rise and fall of the henequen industry in Yucatan

by Yucatan Times
2 comments

The henequen industry in Yucatan, Mexico, was once a major source of wealth and prosperity for the region. Henequen, also known as sisal, is a plant native to Yucatan that produces a strong and durable fiber that can be used for making ropes, twine, sacks, carpets, and other products.

The Mayans called the plant ki and used its fiber for various purposes. The Spaniards introduced the plant to the world market in the 19th century and soon it became a highly demanded commodity. Yucatan became the world’s leading producer and exporter of henequen, earning the nickname of “the green gold”. The henequen industry generated enormous profits for the landowners and merchants, who built lavish mansions and public buildings in the capital city of Merida. The industry also employed thousands of workers, mostly Mayan peasants, who labored under harsh conditions in the plantations and factories.

However, the henequen industry also faced many challenges and difficulties throughout its history. The industry was dependent on foreign markets and vulnerable to fluctuations in demand and prices. The industry also faced competition from other producers of natural fibers, such as Brazil and East Africa, as well as from synthetic fibers that emerged in the 20th century.

The industry also had negative social and environmental impacts, such as the concentration of land and wealth in few hands, the exploitation and oppression of the workers, the deforestation and erosion of the soil, and the loss of biodiversity.

The henequen industry declined rapidly after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which brought social and political changes to the country. The industry never recovered from the effects of the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the technological innovations that reduced the demand for natural fibers.

By the second half of the 20th century, the henequen industry was practically extinct, leaving behind a legacy of cultural and historical heritage that can still be seen today in Yucatan.

TYT Newsroom

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