Janal Pixan and the Yucatecan traditions surrounding death comprise many things, but, unlike many other places, horror is not one of them. That doesn’t mean Yucatecos don’t love a good ghost story; you can fear apparitions here just as well.
A well-known story (a legend, by now) surrounds an abandoned hacienda in Cholul, said to be haunted. Located on the road that connects Cholul with Santa María Chi, a few meters before Fraccionamiento Parque Central, Hacienda Cancabchén is currently being devoured by vegetation. Only the boldest adventurers are welcome to what remains of its bell gable and double staircase. I accessed it on foot; it’s the only way.
“It’s true, what they say about lynching. My great-great-grandfather came home covered in blood that night.” Skeptical as I am, I never believed that the building had as much power as they say, or that when you arrive you are greeted by echoes of distant voices. “He came back with his hands as sharp as a machete, David. They had killed the devil.” Ileana swore we’d be friends as long as I never asked her to retell the story of what happened in that place more than a century and a half ago.
“One of my great-great-grandfather’s friends was a sisal fiber worker there. He was the one who inflamed the rest of them to kill the owner of the hacienda because he had raped his fiancée. My great-grandfather helped him chase the man. They all killed him. That’s what they say”.
The story is very similar regardless of who I ask. Sometimes the foreman is called José; others, his name is Samuel. Sometimes they say that there was no rape, but there was infidelity, and that both the woman and the foreman were murdered. Few say that they fled together, while a few others say that the husband, a descendant of sorcerers, committed suicide.
The only skull I saw during my visit was too small to be human. Not Samuel or José. Former Hacienda Cancabchén Casares de Sitpach. Its full real name is perhaps the only thing we can find out for sure if we ask in the villages.
In “Notes on the forgotten history of Cholul, Kanasín, San José Tzal, and Umán,” an article by Laura Machuca Gallegos for Península Magazine, brings up the story of the “most serious case” to have occurred on the property of Manuel Rodríguez Solís, a retired colonel. “Several complaints of abuse of authority had been filed, as he verbally threatened his workers, gave them very strong physical punishments, and subjected them to all kinds of abuses,” documents from the General Archive of the State of Yucatán read. “Until May 13, 1873, when a group of workers hacked him to death in broad daylight.” It is said that the Hacienda was cursed and that the person killed was the devil because, that same year, the children of those who lived nearby started dying.
On the other hand, Manuel Rodríguez is said to have also lost a daughter, Eulalia, who was kidnapped, along with her mother, Josefa, by the rebel chief Bernardino Cen. This is documented by Paul Sullivan in “The Life and Death of Bernardino Cen.”
I can’t really remember many things about my visit to the place. Just the shock of laying eyes on the walls, the crying I heard, and the feeling of something creeping up on my ankles. If anyone can help me escape, please come quickly.
By Dave S. Mayoral
Dave Mayoral (1998) thinks it’s difficult to write in the third person without laughing in the attempt, but his background in Modern Language and Literature, Contemporary Art History, and Cultural Management tends to help him a lot…
Photography by Dave S. Mayoral for its use in Yucatán Today.
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