Entrepreneurs Preserve Mayan Culture and Traditions at Centro Cultural y Artesanal in Izamal, Yucatán

Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal Calle 31 s/n Centro Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

Centro Cultural y Artesanal (Cultural Center) is located in the small, historical city of Izamal, located in the state of Yucatán, approximately 40 miles east of Mérida.  If you are planning on making a trip to Mérida, I highly recommend visiting the town of Izamal and, in particular, a visit to Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal.

Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

Named a “Pueblo Mágico” in 2002, Izamal is known in Yucatán as “The Yellow City”, as most of its buildings are painted yellow and “The City of Hills” as most of the hills are said to be the remains of ancient temple pyramids. It was an important archaeological site of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization and today, the Maya language is still heard as much as Spanish in Izamal. This historically significant location is also on the list of properties in line to become an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

The Centro Cultural y Artesanal de Izamal is operated by the “Las Tres Culturas” co-op, formed by a group of young entrepreneurs from Izamal with a strong desire to better themselves and promote their culture and Mayan traditions.  Located in a 16th century house, the center is a shining example of the beautiful, colonial architecture that was restored, updated and loaned by Grupo Plan, who are well-know for restoring haciendas in the peninsula. A cultural hub of the city, the center hosts a store, Henequen museum, gallery, Mayan massage area and outdoor café.

Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

When I first stepped into the cultural center, my eyes were dazzled by all of the colorful handcrafts and decorative artifacts that overflowed with expression; products from seven different co-ops in twelve different rural communities in the Peninsula. Each purchase made in the store supports the co-ops in their efforts to rescue and preserve their cultural traditions, and at the same time, generates income that allows them to improve the quality of life for their families. I was glad to select and buy some beautiful, handmade gifts knowing that the money they earned was used for a greater purpose.

Handmade soaps at Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

The museum center held the “Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular, Colección Fomento Cultural Banamex”, and included pieces of popular art of the highest quality representing a sample of the best workmanship in Mexico. All of the pieces exhibited in this museum show the traditions and characteristics of the Mexican people.

Handmade art at Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

After an extended, leisure stroll and careful examination throughout the store plus a guided tour of the museum, we stepped outside on the back patio to enjoy a drink at the café. The menu offered homemade ice cream made from fruits of the region, coffees, espresso, cappuccino, cookies, malts, horchata, Jamaica, lemonade and ice tea plus select food items. The architecture outside was visually stimulating and as equally impressive as the inside. I even took a photo of the sink in the ladies room because the design was just so simple and elegant (and also my favorite color).

Leave it to yours truly to take a photo of the bathroom sink. You have to admit, it’s awesome and large, and who wouldn’t want one of these? Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

Since time wasn’t much of a concern, I headed back inside the cultural center to visit the Henequen Museum, where historic, preserved photos with colorful descriptions of the Henequen haciendas adorned the walls. Henequen is an agave grown extensively in Yucatan, whose leaves yield a type of fiber resembling sisal, which was used to make rope and twine in the early to mid 20th century. The Henequen Museum presents recollections of buildings, from ruins to restoration.

Beautiful door at Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal ©The MEXICO Report

The center offers group packages and cultural workshops of traditional handcrafts of Izamal where participants make their own crafts. They also offer horse and carriage or bicycle tours of Izamal, visiting three handcraft workshops, which I will chronicle in a future article.

Izamal is located in the Mexican state of Yucatan. You can choose to fly into Cancun airport and take a shuttle or fly into Merida, depending on your departure city.

A visit here opened my eyes to the rich and cultured history celebrated by the people of the region. It made me acutely aware of the hard work and dedication by the craftspeople and their strong desire to present and share their talents with the world, while giving back to preserve their cultural heritage.

Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal, Yucatan

Cost to enter the museum is 20 pesos per person, guides optional and children under 10 are free.

Contact information:
Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal
Calle 31 s/n Centro Izamal
Yucatán, México
Tel.+ 52 (988)9541012
http://www.centroculturalizamal.org.mx

For a recollection of my first day in Mérida, click here:

Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at info@themexicoreport.com

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