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VALLADOLID                                                                                                                                                              Printer friendly version

 
 

Valladolid, a city built out of stone, is situated in the Yucatán, exactly half way between Mérida and Cancún and only 29 miles east of Chichén-Itzá. The city dates back to the early days of the Spanish Conquest and was built in the 1500's. The attractions in Valladolid are actually quite incredible. Travelers should remember that upon arriving in Valladolid, you need to set your watch back, several hundred years. Valladolid is a small, quaint city-town that still preserves a special colonial flavor. Here, you will see the majority of the town’s people still using the typical dress of the Mayan, colonial architecture around the Main Plaza and many historical buildings;

The city of Valladolid was once a ritual and ceremonial center of the Maya Civilization called "Zaci," (ancient capital of the province of the Cupules) which means white hawk in Mayan. In 1543 the Spanish Conqueror Francisco de Montejo, The Nephew, descended on the area near Zaci to straighten out the “Cupules,” a large group of Maya who did not take kindly to Spanish intervention. After making war on the Cupules he built Valladolid on top of the temples. Valladolid, after the city of the same name in Spain is where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were married. Interestingly enough the Spanish Government has recently deemed Valladolid as one of the most authentic Spanish cities in the Americas and has granted large sums of money to aid in its preservation.

In all there are 8 separate parts to the city, counting the center or "El Centro" or "Zocalo," which is one of the most beautiful and majestic places on earth. The park is kept immaculate in fact it is cleaned every day, seven days a week, at 5 AM, by a host of park sweepers and cleaners. If you do not jog early you will never see them. The park is also home to probably 10,000 birds all of which great early risers with a din that has to be seen (or heard) to be believed. On the south side of the park is the majestic Cathedral of San Gervasio. The cathedral was completed in 1570 by The Franciscans. But, due the struggle between the Maya and the Spanish the church was desecrated by violence. So in 1702, it was destroyed and rebuilt. The church is considered chastised and is the only one whose main doors face north instead of west.

In all there are seven Cathedrals in the eight barrios (neighborhoods) of Valladolid. That is because each section has a church except Bacalar, which only has a park and the cemetery. The barrio of San Juan has a very interesting, small, but quite unique cathedral. All of the churches have parks located nearby. One of the most famous cathedrals in the Yucatán Peninsula is located in Valladolid.

This cathedral is called “Sisal” to the locals, but is better known as The Monastery of Saint Bernardino of Siena. It was the first church constructed on American soil and its size is imposing. It is one of the most beautiful buildings of the colonial era. Construction was started in the year 1552, under the direction of the Franciscan Friar Juan de Mérida and Fathers Hernando de Guevara and Francisco de la Torre. It was erected over the vault of a very large cenote. You can still see some of the original paintings behind the altar piece, as well as its ancient garden with its water wheel. Another amazing thing about the monastery is that it was created to be self sustaining. The monks raised all their own food; they planted huge orchards and vegetable gardens and had fresh water from the cenote. The monastery was completed in 1560. One note of interest is that the word for monastery and convent in Spanish is Convento.

Located a few blocks east of the center of Valladolid is the beautiful cenote Zaci. You can climb down the stairs and visit this cenote which is open to the air on one side with the other side covered by stalactites and stalagmites. A beautiful restaurant with a thatch roof is located at the site and it is open daily until dark.

One block east of the Zocalo is the Museum of San Roque which houses hundreds of items pertaining to the life of the Maya. From the Maya wars to agricultural pursuits. The museum also has a beautiful park in the back with plants of Valladolid and the region. The museum is open daily, free of charge.

A short distance west of Valladolid is the enchanting refreshing cenote at Dzitnup. The sun shines through a hole in the ceiling lighting the water below in a very majestic pattern. There are a myriad of stories about rituals and such that were performed by the Maya in this cenote, but the truth is that the cenote was discovered in modern times by a farmer whose pig fell in. Pig in Mayan is “kiken,” and that is the actual name of the cenote.

Valladolid is also the marketplace for over a hundred small villages where the descendants of the Maya make handicrafts and grow crops. These descendants of the Maya are hard working and industrious, and they are a very spiritual and peaceful people. They come to Valladolid, everyday to sell their wares in the market place and on the streets. The atmosphere is definitely from another time as you barter with the maker of fine garments and hammocks. In reality there are a number of items produced in and around Valladolid. The leather crafts include: Huarache sandals, belts, wallets and hand-bags. Silver and goldsmith artists thrive in Valladolid and buyers come from all over México to buy items. You can also buy typical region clothes 100 per cent handmade. Many of these cloths are made at home by women supplementing the family income.

Valladolid is also located in the middle of the Maya Ruins. There is no city closer to more ruins than Valladolid. The new archeological findings at Ek Balam are astounding. The ruins are located 20 minutes north of the city.

A new International Airport is nearly completed near Valladolid, which will allow travelers easier access to the heartland of the Maya. The airport construction holds with the stone and wood motif of the Maya and is considered to be a work of art in its own right.

FOUNDATION OF VALLADOLID - The 24th of May of 1543:
Relatively calm or more calm than the provinces in the east of the Yucatán. Francisco de Montejo, the Nephew, returned from his camp at Chouac-Há, where on the 24th of May of 1543 with legal authority he founded the municipality of Valladolid after the city of the same name in Castilla, Spain. The new town was formed under the Holy Virgin of the Remedies and named for the Patron Saint San Jerbes.

On top of the beloved hill of Chohuac-Há on the very south of the lagoon you could find a road that led to the town of Aké where you could go to Chouac-Há it was there they installed the signs serving as symbols of authority.

ATTRACTIONS:

EX-CONVENTO DE SAN BERNARDINO DE SIENA:
It is called "Sisal" to the locals, but is better known as the Monastery of Saint Bernardino of Siena. It was the first church constructed on American soil and its size is imposing.

It is one of the most beautiful buildings of the colonial era. Construction was started in the year 1552, under the direction of the Franciscan Friar Juan de Mérida and Fathers Hernando de Guevara and Francisco de la Torre. It was erected over the vault of a very large cenote. You can still see some of the original paintings behind the altar piece, as well as its ancient garden with its water wheel. Another amazing thing about the monastery is that it was created to be self sustaining.

The monks raised all their own food; they planted huge orchards and vegetable gardens and had fresh water from the cenote. The monastery was completed in 1560. One note of interest is that the word for monastery and convent in Spanish is Convento.

LA CALZADA DE LOS FRAILES:
In order to arrive at the convent you pass the "Calzada de los Frailes," (Street of the monks) which starts at "Las Cinco Calles" (five streets) and ends at the ex-convent de San Bernardino de Siena.

On this street you can see the incredible colonial constructions which were built in the 1600's. This street has been admired by thousands and is a place where your imagination will return you to days gone by.

THE SAN ROQUE MUSEUM:
San Roque was a temple and a Franciscan Convent and in the year 1575 became a center for the evangelism of the Maya until 1634 when it was changed to a hospital, the first in the village named for the sainted name of Jesus.

The building was renamed after several war victims were buried in the back of the building after being executed. Because of this the church was partly rebuilt with the door facing north instead of west as all of the other catholic churches.

The building was also part of the first spark of the Mexican Revolution when some perpetrators were executed in the back patio and then buried there in 1910. Reconstruction and restoration of the building started in 1983, returning it to its current splendor. In 1993 the building was converted into a museum.

In San Roque was founded the Brotherhood of la Santa Veracruz which was in Valladolid, Mérida and Campeche in the year 1575, or 30 years after the city was moved from the original site of Chouac-Há to Zací.

THE COAT OF ARMS OF VALLADOLID:
The Coat of Arms of the city was created by Attorney Juan Francisco Peón Ancona, recorded in the archives of Heraldry and in accordance with the rules governing Spanish Coat of Arms. The Coat of Arms is a mix of many elements and symbols: Six Spanish towers that symbolize the suburbs or barrios of Valladolid (Sisal, Bacalar, Candelaria, Santa Lucía and San Juan). A Maya zero which represents the influence of their culture. A bouquet of flowers of Xtabentún. A branch with a cotton ball which speaks to the first industrial textile of the nation. In the center is a White Dove, the symbol of “Zaci” in Mayan. The base color red represents the blood shed by the Maya during the conquest. The emblem “Heroic City” stands out proclaiming the honor of the city whose residents have stood up and rebelled at different times demonstrating their courage and valor, that is where the city gets its name, "The Heroic City."

The Coat of Arms was created in 1973, under the tutelage of the Municipal President Sr. Juan Alcocer Rosado, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the city status of Valladolid. That date in history is the 13th of December in the year 1823.

CENOTE ZACI:
Located in the heart of Valladolid, this is a semi-open cenote that has a diameter of 150 feet and is 260 feet deep. This is a popular cenote for swimming in the refreshing turquoise waters. You will see a rare species of eyeless black fish known as "lub." A third of the cenote is covered with stalactites and stalagmites and there is a walkway around the entire cenote. There is also a great restaurant on the property.

CENOTE DZINUP OR KEKEN:
Located 4.3 miles southeast of Valladolid, this cenote is underground with a hole in the ceiling. It is probably one of the most photographed cenotes in the Yucatán. Deep, refreshing, crystal clear waters await you and it is a great cenote for swimming. There is lighting and a guide rope to make it easier to enter. Don't forget to buy a picture postcard from the kids at the entrance as taking a picture just never turns out right and you will want a picture of this to show the family.

Valladolid is the location of some very important Yucatán history. The Caste War began here in 1849. There are seven churches in different neighborhoods that should be visited, the impressive San Bernardino Convent, two important cenotes (Zaci and Dzitnup - this last one great for swimming), the San Roque Museum, and the Government Palace with its huge murals depicting Mexican history. Sometime during your visit, you will also want to sample the flavorful cuisine from Valladolid, including the local dishes of lomitos de Valladolid, longaniza and chicken escabeche. And located just 20 minutes north of Valladolid on the road to Tizimín, is the Mayan ruin of Ek Balam.

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Yucatan, Valladolid, Cathedral San Gervasio - Photo by SECTUR Valladolid

The Cathedral of San Gervasio in Valladolid

Yucatan, Valladolid, Convent of San Bernandino of Siena, Church - Photo by SECTUR Valladolid
The Church of San Bernardino of Siena in Valladolid
Yucatan, Valladolid, Cenote Dzinup - Photo by Visitmexico
Cenote Dzitnup in Valladolid
Yucatan, Valladolid, Main Plaza, Maya Women Textile vendors in Huipil - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Textile Market in Valladolid
Yucatan, Valladolid, Convent of San Bernandino of Siena, explanade 1 - Photo by SECTUR Valladolid
The Convent of San Bernardino of Siena in Valladolid
Yucatan, Valladolid, Convent of San Bernandino of Siena, Jesus with huipil - Photo by SECTUR Valladolid
Wooden Christ at The Convent of San Bernardino of Siena in Valladolid
Yucatan, Valladolid, Cenote Zaci, aerial - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Valladolid
Cenote Zaci in Valladolid