Geographic History of Henequen in Yucatan, Mexico

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 18 December 2016

Geographic History of Henequen in Yucatan, Mexico

In Yucatan, Mexico, one of the main considered exports has been henequen that can be obtained from the plant Agave Fourcroydes. The henequen fiber has become significant to the economic stand of Yucatan since this product has conceived intense demand by international importers, such as the United States, China, Europe, etc. According to Cook (1994), during 1990s, the production of henequen has surged to a total economic export of 150,000 tons annually. In fact, the main production of henequen originates mainly from the state of Yucatan Mexico (p. 29).

The state of Yucatan, Mexico, has significantly obtained economic benefits from the exports made through these henequen fibers, such as rope, rigs, sacks, and raw forms. They are usually shipped within the proximity of Merida and other cores of henequen production (Patch, 1993 p. 206). The bloom of henequen during the nineteenth century has significantly boosted the economy of the state, especially considering that they are world’s main exported of this product. From the analysis of the blooms’ occurrence, significant characteristics that have been present in the topographical condition of the state caused this immense bloom and production.

The geography and climate of Yucatan State have been considered unique and very much suitable to the growth of henequen. In addition, considering the trends of exports and demands during the early 1900s, the market needs have significantly affected the consumption of the product. However, as the late nineteenth century approaches, the decline in the henequen demand in the market due to various reasons, such as competition, discovery of alternative products and conversion of haciendas in Yucatan, has become significantly noticeable.

In the study, the discussion gives emphasis on the chronological history of henequen exports from Yucatan, Mexico. The study starts with the analysis of henequen bloom during the early 1900s until its significant decline during the late 20th century. The study also provides important facts on henequen growth, export historical trends contribution of climate for its growth, and the history of its market decline. Discussion Geography of Yucatan The most evident characteristic of Yucatan Peninsula is the presence of limestone shelf from the eastern to western sections that surfaces above sea level.

The limestone shelf of Yucatan is present even below the sea, which is very much evident in the eastern Caribbean side. The key to the growth of Yucatan henequen is the thin limestone soils present as one of the characteristics of their lands (Sauer, 1993 p. 178). The areas of Merida and Ticul comprise the flat plains of Yucatan abundant in limestone deposits. Viewing the areas 60 km south from Merida, vast plains of Yucatan limestone are very much evident and the river areas are flow under the soil.

According to Greensfelder & Dogett (2006), the significant characteristic of limestone present in Yucatan is the porous feature, which enables storage of mineral deposits as well as water source. Such features are important in promoting the growth of henequen plants, since the limestone act as the primary nutrient banks of crop roots (p. 17). The borders of the Yucatan state involve the Campeche located in the southern portion, Quintana Roo in the southeastern portion, and the Gulf of Mexico in the north and western perspective.

Throughout the peninsula, lakes called lagunas are very much evident and from here on, Yucatan has also utilized cenotes or the collapsed freshwater caverns in order to obtain their freshwater. Yucatan also has their limestone pools called chenes, which also acts as their freshwater storage since the water deposits are usually brought by the underground streams. From this variety of ecologic characteristics has aroused the vast variation of exotic flora and fauna that kept the survival of Mayan civilization present in the area (Perry, 2001 p. 9). Climatology of Yucatan

The Yucatan climate entails humid temperatures from November to February, while the driest season progress from November to April. Yucatan climatology is usually tropical and hot temperature progresses in an annual scope. The average annual temperatures for the Mexican Caribbean is 78 degrees F or 25. 5 degrees C with significant deviations of 5 to 7 degrees F. During the day temperatures can push into the 80s and overnight temperatures can drop as low as the 50s and low 60s degree F. The coolest months in this region are the between December to February, where the average highs are from 74 to 76 degrees F (Page, 2005 p. 10).

Analyzing one of the areas where henequen is prominently produced, Merida, which is tropical and humid, obtains the annual precipitation of about 1,050mm, which signifies to potential evapotransportation of 2,000 mm (Anton, 1996 p. 118). The climatic condition of wet and dry area has been beneficial to the industry of henequen growth since this plant tend to adapt to tropical and humid environment, which describes Yucatan peninsula as the perfect place. Added by Anton (1996), the precipitation rates present in the entire peninsula accounts to a variation of 500 mm near the northwestern shore to more than 1,300 mm in the northeastern (p.

118). The Yucatan climate has been viewed as one of the contributors for the plant’s intense growth. The Agave Fourcroydes (Henequen) The henequen plant is very similar to the usual African sisal; hence, it has acquired the name Yucatan Sisal. The Agave fourcroydes plant can be easily recognized through their leaves that have a prickly and grayish green color. The leaves are processed in the same fashion as sisal, while the strands are carefully cleansed and place under the sun to dry (Cook, 1984 p. 29).

The henequen stalks can extend up to 2 meters long and 10 cm to 15 cm wide. The preferential disadvantage of this plant is the presence of thorns, which is also viewed as one of the primary reasons for the preference of consumer to African sisal since stalks their stalks are free from thorns. A cultivated henequen plant can yield about 25 leaves annually from the fifth to the 16th year after its planting. Most commonly, the henequen plant can survive and grow for seven years without intensive maintenance.

In fact, with the favorable topographical condition of Yucatan, the henequen plant usually survives without being attended by farmers (Greensfelder and Doggett, 2003 p. 191). The process of extracting fiber from this plant involves the cutting of their leaves and, from the factories; they grind these until the fiber strands are revealed. The main use of henequen is for the binder twine in wheat harvesting. The advantage of henequen product over synthetic fibers is its resistance to marine life propagation, such as algae, barnacles, etc (Greensfelder and Doggett, 2003 p. 191).


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 18 December 2016

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