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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Cost to enter the museum is 20 pesos per person, guides optional and children under 10 are free.
Centro Cultural y Artesanal Izamal
Calle 31 s/n Centro Izamal
Tel.+ 52 (988)9541012
For a recollection of my first day in Mérida, click here: