Reserva Kiuic

Preserve and conserve the biodiversity of the Yucatán

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Open to the public by invitation or by reservation of groups of 15 people, the Kiuic reserve is located about 2.5 hours driving time from Mérida, in the Puuc (hilly) region, south of the Lol-Tún caves and Oxkutzcab. We were recently invited by the International Women’s Club of Mérida to go on a two day field trip to the Bio-cultural Reserve and archaeological site of Kiuic.

The concept of the Bio-cultural Reserve came about during the creation of the Mexican Civil Organization “Kaxil Kiuic”. If you break the name down you will see that “Kiuic” in Mayan means gathering place, “Kax” means forest and “il” means belonging to. So Kaxil Kiuic means the gathering place belonging to the forest. This non-profit organization is made up of Mexicans and Americans who, in conjunction with Millsaps College in Mississippi, work with individuals and educational institutions in both the US and Mexico to preserve and conserve the biodiversity, Maya culture and archaeological sites of the peninsula of Yucatán.

Kiuic is the first entity of its kind in the state of Yucatán. It is a place where students and others have done environmental impact studies and are working on developing a management plan. Kaxil Kiuic covers about 4000 acres. The area of Maya pyramids in Kiuic (located in the middle of the reserve) is characterized by their civic and ceremonial architecture and is in quite good condition. But this is not just an archaeology site; it is also a research and preservation center dedicated to the study of the dry tropical forest which is typical in this region of the tropics. We learned on this trip that the dry tropical forests of the world cover more land on the planet than the more well-known rainforests. We also learned that it is here at Kiuic that John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood explored and illustrated some of the pyramids they found in the area. These impressions are found in the popular Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (Volume 2).

 Identifying species is one of the first steps to preserving them. Due to the relatively untouched condition of the dry tropical forest on the Kiuic preserve, local informants and investigators have identified and registered, for instance, almost 30 species of unique vascular plants.

Kiuic offers a unique opportunity for students and investigators to explore the wealth of one of the richest environments on the peninsula, and actually serves as a living laboratory for these investigators. The reserve is also a site where the local inhabitants of the neighboring Mayan communities find help and respect in preserving their cultural heritage.

Kaxil Kiuic Research and Educational Center is slowly developing an eco-tourist area in the truest sense of the term, combining environmentally friendly practices such as solar-powered electricity with educational seminars and studies. There are thatched roof cabins where hammocks are hung for up to four people. Each cabin has a bathroom. There are two larger cabins that hold up to eight hammocks and each have two bathrooms. The kitchen/dining room palapa is large and comfortable. And last but not least, on the top of a mound, you will find the classroom open-air palapa. It is here that groups get together for classes, discussions, workshops and work. We were impressed with the passion and commitment of the site director James Callaghan and his limited but equally enthusiastic and dedicated staff. The site and center is not open to the general public, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, but to group tours which can be arranged through their web site. 

The biodiversity and deep historical roots make the Bio-cultural Reserve Kiuic an authentic and globally relevant place, where those that are interested in the history and culture of the Mayas can enter the jungle for a first-hand experience. And to see the world of the Mayas of yesterday and today is often an opportunity to learn something about our own selves and our potential for the future.

You can find information about Kaxil Kiuic at their website, www.kiuic.org