The Route of the Convents is formed by a series of churches of Yucatecan towns built during the colonization period. Here we can learn from the deep Catholic footprint in these Mayan lands.
La Route of the Convents is located in one of the most interesting areas to visit at the history level in the Yucatan Peninsula. In this area to the south Merida is where the settler settled mainly, where they found the largest population of Maya, the originators of these lands.
The Catholic colonizers They came with a clear idea: to expand and settle their Spanish-Catholic empire. They would achieve this by evangelizing the population and taking possession of the riches of the earth, which they were going to exploit thanks to the labor of Mayan indoctrinated by the Church. Their plan was perfect, they came from many wars and with a catholic spirit with great experience in discipline and strategy. They knew what they were playing.
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Religious orders in Yucatan
The franciscans arrived at 1544, followed by the Dominicans in 1546 and the Augustinians in 1553, having all headquarters in the Yucatan Peninsula. Between the different orders they fought for the power, something that we see reflected in magnificent constructions as the Convent of San Antonio de Padua de Izamal, demonstrating the Franciscan power. And at the same time it is an act of power of the new Catholic faith, built on the basis of the stones of the ancient Mayan cities, more monumental in construction if possible.
For a good settlement in these foreign lands it was fundamental three aspects: knowledge of indigenous languages, familiarization with local customs and the creation of convents.
Why were the convents a fundamental part of the success of colonization?
The convents were centers of indoctrination and evangelistic instruction. They were spaces de culture where they were educating, evangelize and teach arts and crafts to the Mayan population. In every original Mayan town a church or convent was created, from which they carved the new souls that they needed for their cause. To some Maya instructed in the Catholic faith they started as Christian police, as described in some chronicles.
To bring the new doctrine closer to the Mayan population they used methods of coercion and persuasion. One of the strategies of persuasion was the creation of open chapels, of which we have some examples in the Route of the Convents. Learning from local customs let them know that the Maya is not a friend of closed spaces and that their ceremonies were always open sky. Trying to take the Maya to a closed church would have been a tactical error they did not commit. In the open chapels the priest officiated from a sheltered platform under the roof, while the new parishioners gathered in the atrium, a large space surrounded by fences. Thus they remained under their known sky, and so the churches here took shape.
Before getting to build the first churches, the temples were of wood and straw without walls, where they were all sheltered. Still today we see sanctuaries that are built in this way in the Peninsula.
The convents in Yucatan
Many churches were part of convents where there were schools, workshops, hospitals, orchards, farm animals, cemetery, warehouses, the infirmary of the friars. Next to a first floor where there was the common dining room, the kitchen, library, pantry, bathrooms, profundis room... there was a second floor of austere cells. They were constructions of strength and sobriety. Normally the churches are of a ship without a cruise.
The churches of smaller towns do not usually have the side towers that serve as bell towers. The towers with bells were paid by who could, was one of the thousand ways to pay taxes. That tells us if the town was remarkable at the time of settlement of the colony.
We know that the orientation of the churches is to the west because of the liturgical disposition of Catholicism. This means that the best photos of the facades are at sunset.
Ecclesiastical norms and laws
Under the strict baton of the rattle of bells from the churches were marked the canonical hours and norms. The ecclesiastical laws directed the character of the population with strict rigor, except at parties, where excesses could be enjoyed. Masses were daily and take different hours, as is often the case with the liturgies of religions. After the last mass, it was time to pick up at home. Catalocism continues to permeate the culture of the Yucatec Maya people.
Churches on the route of the Convents
Around these Yucatecan churches the many stories that have been permeating Mayan life are collected. Every town has its church and its history. The list is long just counting the Route of the Convents: Chapel to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the temple to Our Lady of the Nativity of Acanceh, temple and convent Virgen de la Asunción de Tecoh, convent of San Antonio de Padua and the Chapel of San Cristóbal de Tekit, Franciscan convent of Mamma, convent of San Miguel Arcángel de Hands, where did the Act of faith of Fray Diego de Landa, convent and parish of San Antonio de Padua de Ticul, the parish and convent of San Pedro and San Pablo de Teabo, the temple of the Immaculate Conception of Chumayel, where they found one of the Chilam Balam, the church of the Virgen de la Concepción de Telchaquillo, the church San Francisco de Asís in Oxkutzcab, temple and convent of the Assumption of Muna, Parish of San Francisco de Uman.
The churches usually open early morning until the 13h and in the afternoons from the 16h
The Mayans and the Catholic Church
La Mayan population It was the labor of these churches. The Mayans were not obliged to pay tribute, which was the main livelihood of the churches. its tribute they called it another way, the half real factory using the Mayans to contribute in the construction with diverse materials and products, besides works in the churches.
The fact that during the Mayan civilization It was usual to pay tribute to the governors of city-states in the form of corn, clothing or public works, so that the new system would fit with strategic naturalness in the conquered Mayans. With some governors of some ethnic groups who joined the Spanish made favorable pacts. The pacts of war end up being with the foreign enemy to the detriment of the neighboring enemy.
At the end of the 16th century, the use of currency was extended. The submission of the Maya continues to be postponed in other ways, as it happened in the times of the Haciendas of henequen.
What else to do in this area
Also in this area you can visit haciendas, inheritance of colonization. The perfect combination to finish knowing this area of Convents, you have it with the Puuc Route, Mayapan, Loltún and the cenotes of the area like the cenote Kankirische him or him X-Batún.
Lodging: You find lodging in most towns in the area as Santa Elena, Oxkutzcab, Tecoh, Ticul and also near the archaeological zones of Uxmal. You can take advantage to stay in any of the Haciendas area.
How to walk the Route of the Convents
- CAR RENTAL: many travelers are encouraged drive through the tranquil Yucatan Peninsula. At your pace and you get everywhere. If you decide to do it for free, I recommend you stay a couple of days or more in this area, much to discover.
- TOUR WITH AGENCY: Mérida's travel agencies offer tours of the Convents Route.
- COLLECTIVE TRANSPORT: from Mérida depart collectively to Muna, or any of the towns for which you want to start the Route of the Convents.
It is special to visit this Yucatecan area where the Maya was evangelized without losing their ancestral customs and ceremonies. By visiting this area, you will experience the current Mayan tradition. The Route of the Convents It is a wonderful excuse to populate, learn and imbibe stories and people.
The route of the convents, townsLOCATION: The Route of the Convents is located south of Merida. Acanceh is located at 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Mérida. To get to Acanceh you must go to Kanasín (towards Cancún) and take the state road number 18, then follow the signs to Acanceh. Continue on the 18 road where you find most of the other stops on the Route. The return to Mérida would be by the 261 road, where Umán is located at 18 km southwest of Mérida.
HOW TO GET IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Collective transport from Mérida, 69 street with the 50 (1h 15 "to Acanceh). I recommend this route in your own car because of the ease of mobility in the area.
SCHEDULE AND SERVICES the churches usually open early morning until the 13h and in the afternoons from the 16. Do not be disappointed with the schedules because each one is governed by a pattern. Most are not paid.
WHAT TO BRING? Light and light clothing, hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, closed shoes better and some water always goes well. The heat in this area hits hard, especially from April to September. Oh, do not forget the swimsuit.
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