THE CONTEMPORARY YUCATAN PENINSULA, AN EXPLORATION

Satellite photograph of the Yucatan Peninsula. NASA

The Yucatan Peninsula was one of the habitats of the former Maya civilization; nowadays it is part of the contemporary Mexican Caribbean. Three of the thirty-one Mexican federal states delineate it: Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche.

The peninsula is a homogenous landscape hosting diverse human territories such as cities and villages. It is a homogenous landscape in a multifarious sense: in terms of geomorphology, climate, vegetation, history and culture. On the other hand, the current diversity of its human territories could be exemplified by contrasting some of the cities located there: Merida was founded on January 6th 1542 by the Spanish conquistadors and it has been the most important urban centre of the region throughout the years, up to becoming a dynamic city that reaches today a population of nearly one million people. In contrast, located on the east edge of the peninsula, (on the Quintana Roo state) the city of Cancun is a mass tourism mecca which receives around 7 million visitors each year. On April 2012 the people of Cancun celebrated the 42nd anniversary of its foundation; this city is perhaps the most suitable example of a contemporary emerging human landscape in Mexico.

Former Mayan political centres of the peninsula are today one of the most visited archaeological sites in the country; the most famous site is Chichen Itza, where an estimated 1.2 million tourists visit the ruins every year. The catholic Spanish heritage on the peninsula left an important cultural legacy of three hundred years; the most visible legacy today can be seen on the architecture of several buildings and in the initial configuration of some cities.

A Catholic church, a Mayan ruin and a local house in Yucatan, April 2012. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

The history and culture of the peninsula have shaped a particular social identity; it is not a surprise that for 7 years (1841-1848) the Republic of Yucatan was an independent nation. The contemporary society of Yucatan has a strong identity and nowadays the flag of the State of Yucatan has the same importance as the Mexican flag in the public buildings.The Yucatan Peninsula –like many other regions within the territory of Mexico, hosts a millenarian past that is visible in the everyday landscape. However, most of the literature that analyse the cartographic experience of the Mexican human settlements have focused solely on the construction of the modern national state of Mexico (1821-present, 191 years), showing indifference towards one thousand years of pre-colonial and colonial geographic consciousnesses in this landscape.

A Catholic church in the city of Merida, April 2012. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)
A hotel in Cancun, Quintana Roo. April 2012. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

As expressed before, a cartographic depiction of sustainable environments in Mexico will be incomplete if it does not consider the richness and contradictions of each cartographic identity. Andrew Sluyter observed that only relatively recently, stimulated by the blossoming of self-critical Western intellectual movements such as postcolonial studies, has a comprehensive effort to theorize the relationship between colonialism and landscape even begun to achieve momentum. The representation of the habitats of the 21st century in Mexico must acknowledge the pre-colonial, colonial and post colonial awareness of the Mexican geography.

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One thought on “THE CONTEMPORARY YUCATAN PENINSULA, AN EXPLORATION

  1. Qué buena la segunda foto, resume todo lo que dices más abajo en el texto. Muy buen blog e interesantísima la investigación!

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