“You fell under Maní’s spell” were my dad’s exact words after I told him about my second adventure to Maní…in under a month. Yes, that’s right. Maní is a small, quiet curiosity in the very heart of Yucatán. You’ll hear the whisper of Maya words in the wind, in the conversations held between its inhabitants, and if you get involved, you might end up having a bilingual chat. Maní is magical, how could I not be enchanted?
The town’s history dates back to the time of the Maya, in this language “Maní” means “Where everything happened” (and let me tell you, a lot has gone down there). It was part of the Cacicazgo (a Colonial system that granted certain indigenous people, Caciques, with limited rule over certain territories or estates) led by the Tutul Xiú and served as a ceremonial center that received offerings for the annual festival to Kukulkán. When the Spaniards arrived to the Peninsula, Maní was one of the great capitals in Yucatán and became one of the main sites for the evangelization.
Former Convent of San Miguel Arcángel
Visit the former Convent of San Miguel Arcángel, built with stones from Maya buildings. Some of the stones have pre-Hispanic reliefs, so how about spending some time looking for clues from the past on the walls of the convent? Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds entertaining.
If you plan on going soon, you won’t be able to enter the church (except during mass) due to Covid. Still, admiring the magnificent convent from the outside is quite an experience, and you’ll still be able to see the gilded altarpieces from afar. Outside, on the left side of the church, you’ll see the open chapel’s enormous arch.
It’s worth mentioning that the convent is historically associated with the Auto de Fe undertaken by Fray Diego de Landa in 1562. During this event, thousands of Maya documents, artifacts, and images were burned.
Do you like embroidery? Are you a big fan of flowers like I am? Well, you’ll reach paradise once you step into any one of the workshops where embroidered garments – such as Huipiles, Ternos, blouses, and dresses – are made. You’ll also find floral and guayabera-inspired facemasks.
Our first stop was a visit to Doña Micaela, an embroiderer located on the main street of Maní, just around the corner from the former convent. Her house/workshop has no number, but you’ll notice it immediately thanks to its cheerful orange façade, white wall, and huano roof. Doña Micaela has been creating machine-embroidered garments for 59 years. With a bit of luck, you’ll see her turn on her machine and work her magic. Doña Micaela’s hands move to form the curves – going from thin to thick with a swift tug – that bring her designs to life.
Further along, we stopped at the U Najil Chuy family workshop, located next to the Municipal Palace. They call themselves “Las Jiménez,” and just like Doña Micaela, the Jiménez women specialize in machine embroidery and – to a lesser extent – cross stitch and other local techniques. During your visit, you’ll see that they have a large number of garments on display, sometimes you can even find wedding Ternos (they’re beautiful!). They also take custom orders.
Don Abuch, as the artisan is known, is a total character who works with guano palm. He can make anything you want, from tortilla baskets, bags, and rugs to hats and fans. If he doesn’t have it in stock, you can pick it up a couple of hours or a few days later.
His workshop is easy to find in Maní, just ask someone on the street for Don Abuch or type his name into Google Maps.
Maní has approximately 30 apiaries that keep stingless bees. I honestly couldn’t believe it when I heard that number (Maní is small, really small). We visited two of them: Lol-Ha and U Naajil Yuum K’iin.
The first is run by women in the community who want to protect and rescue stingless bees, specifically the local Xunán Kab (Melipona Beecheii). The visit begins with a ceremony in Maya to balance out the energies, then participants step into the apiary where they learn about these bees, the harvesting of their honey, and their healing properties. At the end of the tour, you can help support their efforts by buying their products derived from Melipona honey.
The second Meliponario (as these apiaries are called), U Naajil Yumm K’iin, is located on the outskirts of Maní. Here, you’ll continue to learn about Melipona bees, this time from Father Luis Quintal and surrounded by wide spaces full of trees and cabins.
Eat in Maní
You’re going to get hungry. Tradition dictates that if you go to Maní, you should stop at Príncipe Tutul Xiú for a generous serving of delicious, juicy Poc Chuc. Try to get there early because it gets crowded around lunchtime.
Looking for an experience where you can be in direct contact with Yucatecan cuisine? I have an option that you’ll adore: Doña Clotilde’s traditional cuisine. Don’t forget to contact them in advance to make your reservation.
Doña Clotilde speaks Maya, not Spanish, but she understands it and you’ll be able to communicate with the help of her daughters who interpret for visitors. While you chat, she’ll teach you to make tortillas by hand, and later you’ll go to a cool Palapa to enjoy some of her favorite dishes. We had Escabeche, and it was delicious.
Remember to bring cash (coins, $20 pesos, and $50 pesos bills) to make your purchases. The artisans do not usually accept credit cards and the nearest bank (Citibanamex and Banorte) is 10 minutes away, in Oxkutzkab.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Natalia Bejarano and Olivia Camarena for its use in Yucatán Today.
Doña Micaela Workshop
Cel. 9979 77 92 51 (Contact: Rosita)
U Najil Chuy Workshop
Calle 25 #202 x 26 y 28, Maní
Cel. 9999 07 07 78 (Contact: Candy Jiménez)
Don Abuch Workshop
Calle 31 #194 x 24 y 26, Maní
Tel. (997) 978 4115
Cel. 9971 11 85 72
U Naajil Yuum K’iin Apiary
Calle 34 S/N x 29, Maní
Doña Clotilde, Traditional cooking
Cel. 9991 39 81 33
FB: Doña Clotilde – Cocina Tradicional
Príncipe Tutul Xiú Restaurant
Calle 26 #208 x 25 y 27, Maní
Tel. (997) 978 4257
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