Pronunciation: yoo-kah-THAN

Origin of state name: The name reflects a translation error. The Spaniards misunderstood the native Mayas when they gave the name of their land. The Spaniards thought the Mayas said Yucatán, so that is the name they gave to the land.

Capital: Mérida (MEH-ree-dah)

Entered country: 1824.

Coat of Arms: A deer, representing the native Mayan people, leaps over an agave plant, once an important crop in the region. Representing the shared Mayan and Spanish heritage of the state, the symbols at the top and bottom of the border are Mayan arches and the symbols on the left and right are Spanish bell towers.

Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez's birthday (March 21); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).

Flag: There is no official state flag.

Time: 6 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

1 Location and Size

Yucatán is bordered on the north by the Gulf of Mexico, on the east and southeast by the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and in the southwest by the Mexican state of Campeche. It covers an area of 43,380 square kilometers (16,749 square miles), about half the size of the US state of Maine.

Yucatán consists mainly of lowland areas, with the driest lands in the northwest. It sits on a horizontal bed of limestone, parts of which have been dissolved by rainwater, forming underground lakes. Its coastal regions feature white sand beaches and mangrove forests a few miles inland. To the south near Campeche are some rainforest areas, but most of the land is dry and does not support much vegetation.

2 Climate

The warm waters of the Caribbean Sea contribute to the climate, which is generally warm and humid. It has an average

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal, Yucatan.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal, Yucatan.
temperature of 25° c to 27° c (77° f to 81° f ), rarely dropping below 16° c (61° f ) or rising above 49° c (120° f ). The heaviest rainfall occurs in the summer months. Average annual rainfall in this area is 115 centimeters (45 inches).

3 Plants and Animals

Cedar, ceiba, pich, and poak trees are found throughout the region. Some of the most common animals include anteaters, porcupines, and raccoons. Pumas, jaguars, and long-tailed monkeys are found in some regions. Common birds include parrots, macaws, cardinals, and bluebirds. Octopus and dolphins can be found in the coastal waters.

4 Environmental Protection

In 2003, the state government was considering the establishment of a new program to monitor industrial pollution. Isla Contoy is an uninhabited island off the coast that is a protected national park. Pelicans and egrets live on the island, along with other endangered species of birds. The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a protected area of tropical rainforests, mangroves, and marshes. The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is another important protected area. The Reserve Estatal El Palmar is a state

park that is known as a wetland of international importance.

5 Population, Ethnic Groups, Languages

Yucatán had a total population of 1,658,210 in 2000; of the total, 818,205 were men and 840,005 were women. The population density was 42 people per square kilometer (109 people per square mile). The capital, Mérida, is the most populous city, with 680,000 inhabitants.

Most citizens speak Spanish as their first language. A large number of people, about 37% of the population, speak indigenous (native) languages. This is the highest percentage of indigenous speakers in the country.

6 Religions

According to the 2000 census, 75% of the population, or seven million people, were Roman Catholic; 7%, or 123,162 people, were Protestant. That year there were also 12,416 Seventh-Day Adventists, 24,553 Jehovah's Witnesses, and over 60,000 people who reported no religion.

7 Transportation

Federal highways, roads, and rail lines connect Yucatán with its neighboring states. There are almost 9,000 kilometers (5,625 miles) of highways and over 600 kilometers (375 miles) of railway in the state. A four-lane toll road crosses the peninsula from Cancún (in the state of Quintana Roo) through Mérida toward the state of Campeche. Drivers traveling the full length of the road will pass through several toll booths ( casetas de cobro ) to pay tolls that total about us$24.

Common road hazards are speed bumps ( topes ) in villages and rural areas. Most topes are marked by signs.

Public transportation via city bus systems is available in Mérida and other cities. The town of Progresso, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mérida, is an important port for state commerce. Travel to major Mexican cities and international destinations is made possible by the Mérida Licenciado-Manuel Crescencio Rejon International Airport.

8 History

The Mayan civilization, one of the most advanced Amerindian cultures of the ancient Americas, began in the Yucatán near 2500 B . C . Between 300 and 900 A . D ., the Maya built several cities in the Yucatán region. The Toltec culture arrived in 987 A . D . led by its leader, Quetzalcóatl. Although the Toltec groups mixed with the Maya and other groups that inhabited the region, Toltec culture eventually emerged as the predominating culture in the region before the arrival of the Spanish. During the 12th century, the Maya city-state of Mayapán waged war against Chichen-Itzá. After a military victory, Mayapán expanded its influence over the rest of the area. The so-called Cocom dynasty (named after the Mayan Cocom tribe and kingly family) ruled until the mid-13th century. The post-classic Maya period ended around 1250 A . D . Most cities were abandoned, but those that remained continued their inter-city military conflicts.

The first Spaniards to visit the region were the survivors of the Pedro de Valdivia (c. 1498–1553) expedition that left the Central American country of Panama in 1511 toward Santo Domingo in the West Indies, but

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos The observatory at Chichen Itza.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

The observatory at Chichen Itza.
shipwrecked near Yucatán before reaching its final destination. Two survivors, Jerónimo de Aguilar and Gonzalo Guerrero, became incorporated into Maya civilization. Guerrero married the daughter of the Chetumal chief and their son was the first officially recorded Mestizo (mixed Indian and Spanish) in Mexico. Jerónimo de Aguilar was later rescued by Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés's (1485–1547) expedition.

In 1513, on his expedition to Florida, Juan Ponce de León (1460–1521) sailed near Yucatán but never disembarked in the region. In 1517, Francisco Fernández de Córdoba set foot in Cozumel, off the coast of the modern-day state of Quintana Roo, but was expelled by the Indians. He returned to Cuba. There he was informed of the existence of the region that was initially considered an island. The Hernán Cortés expedition that sailed off Cuba in 1519 briefly stopped by Yucatán, where Jerónimo de Aguilar was rescued, and then went north and disembarked in Veracruz.

Francisco de Montejo (c. 1479–1553) initiated the conquest of Yucatán in 1527 but was so fiercely fought against by the Indians that he fled. He returned three years later with his son Francisco de Montejo y León but was again unsuccessful in his effort to overpower the native Indians. A third attempt in 1537 proved successful. De Montejo founded the cities of Campeche in 1540 and Mérida in 1542. Gaspar Pecheco, known for his cruel treatment of the Indians, completed the conquest on the western end of the region. Franciscan priests built more than thirty convents in an effort to convert the indigenous people to the Catholic faith. Spanish oppression and the diseases brought by the conquistadors (Spanish conquerors) significantly reduced the Amerindian population from an estimated 5 million in 1500 to 3.5 million a century later.

An indigenous rebellion led by Jacinto Canek in 1761 resulted in the deaths of thousands of Indians and the execution of Canek in the city of Mérida. Other indigenous revolts during the colonial period consolidated Yucatán's reputation as a region whose fierce Indians would not easily surrender to Spanish rule.

Yucatán did not participate in the independence movement of 1810. The Spanish authorities controlled the region and prevented any insurgencies. In 1821, with the Plan of Iguala, Yucatán was made a part of independent Mexico. Yucatán was formally made a state in 1824 and a new constitution was written in 1825. In addition to the federalist-centralist and liberal-conservative conflicts that characterized much of 19th century Mexico, Yucatán also experienced a number of indigenous rebellions during those decades.

After the Mexican Revolution in 1917, where different factions fought for control of the peninsula, the revolutionary victors brought peace to the region. In 1931, the territory of Quintana Roo was separated from Yucatán and made into an autonomous state. A new indigenous revolt in 1937 led Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas (1895–1970) to adopt an aggressive land reform program in the state where Indians were given communal lands.

9 State and Local Government

The highest authority is the state governor, democratically elected for a nonrenewable six-year term. A unicameral (single chamber) legislature, the state congress, is elected every three years. Its twenty-five members include fifteen legislators elected from single member districts and ten legislators elected by proportional representation. All are elected for nonrenewable three-year terms. The legislature generally meets once a year, but extra sessions can be called by the governor or by a permanent committee if the need arises. State services receive funding from the federal government. Although formal provisions for separation of powers exist in the constitution, the overwhelming power historically exercised by the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) prevented many of those provisions from being effectively enforced.

The 106 municipalities that comprise Yucatán hold democratic elections for municipal presidents and council members every three years. Immediate re-election is not allowed. Although some decentralization initiatives are producing positive results, the state still has a long way to go to achieve successful decentralization.

10 Political Parties

The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRI is composed only of civilians and embraces all sorts of

© Peter Langer/EPD Photos The Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital, Mérida, lies on one side of the Plaza Mayor, a wide square with trees and park benches.
© Peter Langer/EPD Photos

The Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital, Mérida, lies on one side of the Plaza Mayor, a wide square with trees and park benches.
political opinion. There are three significant pressure groups working within the PRI: labor, the peasantry, and the "popular" sector, which includes bureaucrats, teachers, and small business people. Although the PRI dominated politics in the state since the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1917, the 2001 gubernatorial elections gave the governorship to the conservative PAN. Patricio Patrón became the first non-PRI governor of the state. The PRI remains very powerful in rural areas, but the PAN has consolidated its presence in large urban areas.

11 Judicial System

The Superior Tribunal of Justice is the highest court in the state. Its six members are appointed by the state congress for nonrenewable four-year terms. Only qualified and experienced attorneys can be appointed to the highest state court. Because of the excessive power and influence of the governor during the years of PRI rule, the judiciary exercised limited autonomy. In addition, an electoral tribunal and local courts are also part of the state judiciary.

12 Economy

Service-based companies account for about 23% of the state economy. Trade activities (such as agribusiness, the textile and apparel industries, and furniture) account for about 21% of the economy, followed by finance and insurance at 19%, manufacturing at 13%, transportation and communications at 10%, agriculture and livestock at 7%, construction at 6%, and mining at 1%.

13 Industry

Most of the state's industry is focused on food processing and textiles. There are some electronics manufacturing plants within the state as well. The state has some assembly plants owned by US companies.

14 Labor

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages increase 17%, from $2.09 per hour in 1999 to $2.46 per hour in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 per hour in 2000.) After one year, workers are entitled by law to six days paid vacation.

15 Agriculture

Agriculture is very important to the economy of the region. Major crops include corn, beans, sorghum, oranges, mangoes, and lemons. Cattle, pigs, and horses are the primary livestock animals. The state is well-known as a major supplier of honey.

16 Natural Resources

Fishing is an important economic activity along the coast. The catch includes sea bass, octopus, and shark. Oil is the most important mineral resource, but sand, gravel, clay, and salt are also mined, primarily for the production of construction materials.

17 Energy and Power

Almost all of the energy in Mexico is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). In February 2002, the CFE introduced new electric rates. For households that use less than 140 kilowatt hours per month, there was no rate increase. (This is about 75% of all households in Mexico, according to CFE).

18 Health

The state of Yucatán has 18 general hospitals, 317 outpatient centers, and 44 surgical centers.

Most of the Mexican population is covered under a government health plan. The IMSS (Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social) covers the general population. The ISSSTE (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de Trabajadores del Estado) covers state workers.

19 Housing

About one-half of the housing available in the state of Yucatán is in good repair. More than 19% is in need of significant upgrading. Many homes do not have running water or access to electricity.

20 Education

The system of public education was first started by President Benito Juárez (1806–1872) in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students from ages six to sixteen. According to the 2000 census, there were approximately 369,000 school-age students in the state. Many students elect

© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp A Mayan woman weaves a hammock.
© Kal Muller/Woodfin Camp

A Mayan woman weaves a hammock.
to go to private schools. The thirty-one states of Mexico all have at least one state university. The Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (Independent University of Yucatán) is in Mérida.

21 Arts

Yucatán has fifteen auditoriums and twelve theaters. There are thirty-one local cultural centers in cities and towns in the state. Research on the Mayan calendar is carried out at the Maya World Studies Center in Mérida. The calendar is used for astronomical calculations, date calculations, and markers for ceremonial dates.

22 Libraries and Museums

Yucatán has 144 libraries and fifty-five museums. The capital, Mérida, has a coin museum, a planetarium, the Museum of Anthropology and History, an Olympic museum, a museum of sacred art, and a contemporary art museum.

23 Media

The capital city, Mérida, publishes four daily newspapers: Diario de Yucatán, Diario del Sureste, Por Esto, and La Revista Peninsular.

24 Tourism, Travel, and Recreation

Mérida was founded on ancient Mayan ruins. The cathedral of San Ildefonso was built over Mayan ruins, using some of the Mayan stones. Hidalgo Park and the marketplaces, Lucas de Galvez and the Portal de Granos, are popular sites for tourists to visit in Mérida. El Centenario Zoo is also found in the capital.

25 Sports

The baseball season in Mexico is from April to August. The oldest league dates from 1925 and is called the Liga Mexicana. There is a Liga Mexicana team, Leones, in the state.

26 Famous People

Agustin de Iturbide (1783–1824) was a Mexican revolutionary who helped win independence for Mexico and was the "Emperor of Mexico" from 1822 to 1823.

27 Bibliography


Cancun and the Yucatan. London, Eng.: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.

Carew-Miller, Anna. Famous People of Mexico. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003. DeAngelis, Gina. Mexico. Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2003.

Supples, Kevin. Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Web Sites

Mexico for Kids. http://www.elbalero.gob.mx/index_kids.html (accessed on June 15, 2004).

State of Yucatan. http://www.yucatan.gob.mx (accessed on June 15, 2004).

Yucatan Today: The Tourist Guide. http://www.yucatantoday.com/ (accessed on June 15, 2004).

Also read article about Yucatán from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Ivan Godfrey
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 3, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
Can you inform me as to the railway lines in yucatan that are still in use ?. Or that have recently been abandoned but still in situe ?
Jeffry Jones
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 17, 2012 @ 11:11 am
I was wondering what their culture was or their common traditions
Matthew Young
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 13, 2019 @ 11:11 am
I wanted to know what are their geographical features

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: