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FOTO: LAURA PASOS

CONVENT ROUTE enticing than ever, The Convent M ore Route is a day trip that will take you somewhat off the beaten path and into the heart of Yucatán. Meandering through the countryside of the west-central part of the state, you will visit Maya villages and archaeological sites, colonial churches, cathedrals and convents, courtyards and cenotes, all dating back centuries. The best way to do this route is by car. Gas up before leaving (one full tank will more than suffice). You should try to be on the road by 8 am. Start on the “Periférico” and go to Route 18 towards Kanasín. Follow the signs to Acancéh and on from there. The amount of time spent at each stop will vary from 10 to 45 minutes.

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Tecoh, 8 km down the road, has a market and a very ornate church and convent dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption. The carved stones and altar of the church, built upon the base of a very large Maya pyramid, along with the statues and paintings, are impressive. Visit Hacienda Sotuta de Peón, one

Maní

of the few henequén haciendas which is still in full production; the history is “live.” Next on the route is Telchaquillo, a small village that has a small, austere chapel and a wonderful cenote in the plaza that you can visit. Stairs have been carved for your convenience. Several kilometers out of Telchaquillo off to the right you will find the fantastic Maya pyramids of Mayapán. This walled city has 4,000 mounds. Mayapán is the size of Chichén Itzá, and an equally important city. Mayapán is considered the last great Maya capital. Entry: $45 pesos. Continue on 30 km to Tekit, a large prosperous-looking village. There you will find the parish of “San Antonio De Padua,” with a large temple that houses many ornate statues of saints in their individual niches. The altar itself is very simple but beautiful. The next small village, Mama, is a little over 7 km away. Mama is famous for its large beautiful bell-globed church containing a large garden, a well, and a closed atrium along with frescos on the wall, statues of saints in the niches, and a very ornate altar. It is believed this is the oldest church on the route. The temple and ex-Franciscan convent show the beautiful bell tower, irresistible to admire, as well as a closed atrium, which is the most famous of the region. Following the route for 10 more km, you will next come to Chumayel (Place of the Seeds) where the famous document “Chilam Balam” was found, sacred book of the Maya.

Here you can see the Templo de la Purísima Concepción built in the XVI century. This is a clear example of the medieval religious architecture brought to Yucatán by the first Spaniards. In the interior is the black wooden Christ, especially interesting. Teabo (6 km) is known for its two sacred buildings: the Parroquia and the Ex Convento de San Pedro y San Pablo, built during the 17th century. The interior has an altarpiece with a pair of caryatid columns and the Capilla de Indios from 1617. This area is also known for its embroidered hipiles. The final and perhaps most important stop on the Convent Route is Maní, where you will find a large church, convent and museum with explanations in English, Spanish, French and Maya. See Convento de San Miguel Arcángel, dating from 1549. This is the place where Fray Diego de Landa ordered the burning and destruction of many Maya statues and documents during the Franciscan movement to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity. They destroyed 5000 idols, 13 altars, 27 deerskin parchments, and 197 vessels of varying shapes and sizes. Upon realizing his great error, Fray Diego began to write down everything he could recall. This document is called “Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán.” If you are in Yucatán during Holy Week, be sure to visit Maní.

Where to Go and How!

22 km from Kanasín is Acancéh, where you will see an interesting combination of past and present. The main attraction is the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, which joins the pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern eras. Note the temple dedicated to our Lady of the Nativity and the chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Several blocks away are more remains of Maya pyramids with hieroglyphs. Ask around for the Templo de los Estucos, about four blocks away. Entry: $45 pesos.

Ticul, Maní and Oxkutzcab offer delicious Yucatecan cuisine at Restaurante Príncipe Tutul Xiu. To get back to Mérida, head to Ticul, then Muna, then to Umán, then on to Mérida.

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