Sunday, October 18, 2009

Izincab Hacienda ; Yucatan RAVE Day 5

There are few smells I love more than that of my daughter’s skin and the early morning air in the tropical forest. There is no other smell like it. It hits you with the power of a thousand different blossoms, promised rain, and the musty scent of moist dirt and mossy shade. It truly fills your lungs and your soul with the rich aroma of mother earth at her very best.
That is the smell I woke up to this morning as I opened the double wooden doors on the window of my bedroom in the beautiful Hacienda Izancab, 45 minutes south of Merida, Yucatan. A magical corner of the Yucatan peninsula where time seems to have stopped still some 50 years ago.
The hundreds of stately haciendas that flourished during the first part of last century, providing jobs for thousands of Maya Indians and feeding the economic engine in this part of the world, depended on a single crop for the survival: henequen.
Henequen, or sisal as it is known in other parts of the world was grown here and its fibers shipped all over the world to make ropes and sacs for storing food. When artificial fibers were invented, however, they quickly replaced the less durable and more expensive natural fiber and the whole industry that supported the rich lifestyle of the hacenderos, collapsed.
The once proud haciendas proved too expensive to upkeep and they soon were abandoned and left to crumble under the persistence of rain, wind and sun, and the occasional hurricane.
My lovely bedroom, however, is not in a crumbling hacienda, but in an exquisitely renovated one, managed by Calderwood travel. They have rescued the decaying corpses of over 2 dozen of these haciendas and have restored them to their original beauty, while adding the comforts of the 21st century…namely hot water, air conditioning and the most fabulous Yucatecan cuisine in the land. They also have opened new job opportunities for the surrounding communities, who were also struggling after all jobs disappeared along with the henequen.
Jenny and I have a surreal dinner, sitting in the large veranda on our own and trying to imagine what the Doña of this hacienda was like. Did she keep busy with embroidery or horseback riding, or did she spend time swimming in the nearby cenotes? I am sure there are wonderful books written about every detail of this lifestyle, but as stroll throughout the impeccable grounds, we prefer to imagine what the gardens must have looked like and we wonder at the lavish parties that surely took place here.
We truly have the best job in the world; Starwood has graciously hosted us, along with several other photographers working on a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) to document the cultural and natural treasures in this area. We hope our images will inspire tourists weary of the bad news they hear about Mexico, to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, an area that is not only safe and friendly, but also magical and intensely Mexican.

Learn More about the Yucatan RAVE HERE

Read more RAVE photographer Blogs HERE
01_Logo_BILINGUE.jpgImages from the Yucatan
RAVE will be highlighted at
WILD9 November 6-13, 2009

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