Maní is a village of some 6,000 people in the southern part of the state of Yucatán, whose name means “the place where everything happened.” I had the fortune of visiting this Magical Town and meeting five very interesting individuals whose desire to share their warmth and knowledge made me understand exactly why there is magic in this town.
Solar Maya U Lu’umil Kuxtal
The first stop was a visit to Solar Maya U Lu’umil Kuxtal, where my traveling companions and I were received by an enormous space full of colorful flora and animated fauna, along with an exquisite breakfast prepared with incredible local ingredients prepared by Fátima Castillo, co-founder of this project. Solar Maya is Spanish for “Maya backyard,” and U Lu’umil Kuxtal is Maya for “life of the earth.” It makes sense, as Fátima and her husband, José, opened their backyard in 2020, with the intention of promoting sustainable practices, to generate consciousness about the Melipona bees and to offer unique experiences, first to their children and then in the future, to their guests. I must say they have certainly accomplished their goal!
Presently, Solar Maya is working with different educational institutions where they have workshops to teach the children and young adults about ancestral traditions, such as the care of the Melipona bees (thought to be sacred by the Maya), cultivate medicinal plants and share oral history from the grandparents for Janal Pixán (the local Day of the Dead celebration.) Another benefit is that they have turned into a selling point for other local entrepreneurs.
After finishing our breakfast, accompanied by our guide Andy Interián, Fátima took us to the beehive area. There, we had the good fortune of seeing and interacting with the different types of bees and to also sample the different honeys that each species produces. Each one was unique and more delicious than the other.
We said good-bye to Fátima, promised we would try her artisanal ice creams on the Maní plaza, and with that we left for our next stop: the Former Convent of San Miguel Arcangel. (St. Michael Archangel.)
The Former Convent of St. Michael Archangel
This former convent was the home of the Franciscan Friars when the evangelization of the Maya began in Maní. Andy explained to us that the convent was built with the stones where there had once been Maya pyramids. This was also the site where one of the most tragic events of the Yucatán Península history took place. In 1562, Friar Diego de Landa held the Maní Auto da Fe: when he found out that the Maya continued to adore their gods in secret after all the evangelizing that the Friars were doing, he gathered all the codices and Maya religious figures he could find and destroyed them all; this is one of the main reasons that a great part of what we know about the pre-Hispanic Maya culture comes from oral accounts and reconstructions only.
In spite of this terrible event, the people of Maní have been able to transform and adapt this space. Over time, the people have reconciled the religious and cultural expressions of Maya origin with those brought by the Spaniards, thus creating unique traditions in this village. This is especially noticeable in the church where one can see and appreciate figures that represent the mixture of beauty standards from both cultures.
A guided visit takes 35 minutes, starting every hour on the hour from noon to 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays (or by making a reservation in advance on weekdays) and costs $35 pesos. The visit includes the exterior, interior, the water wheel and the gardens. Tip: ask your guide to take you to the Xcabachén caves and to tell you about the ominous legend that involves them.
Lool-Ha Melipona Bee Farm
The Lool-Ha Melipona Bee Farm is run by a group of 10 women. One of them, Doña Eliza, hosted us on our visit. While the Solar Maya U Luúmil Kuxtal focuses on tourism and sustainable consumption, the feeling at this place is more spiritual: for Doña Eliza, a proud Maya, nature is sacred and we should respect it. Because of this, before extracting the honey from her hives, she asks the bees for permission to do it; this tradition comes from her grandmother, who instilled in her two mantras: if there are no bees, human beings can’t exist, and, honey is medicine.
If, in addition to communing with her stingless bees, you are interested in experiencing a Maya ceremony, ask for an appointment through the bee farm’s Facebook page or call 999 112 7825. Doña Eliza can perform “energy cleansings” and “energy balances.”
U Naajil Yuum K’iin Bee Farm
After a quick stop at the restaurant El Príncipe Tutul-Xiu for a delicious traditional Yucatecan Poc-chuc (grilled pork skirt steak) lunch, we arrive to our second to last stop of the day: the U Naajil Yuum K’iin Bee Farm. This farm, owned by the priest Father Luis Quintal, has a more educational focus. An important difference from the last two farms is that here you will see the hives inside of tree trunks (Jobones), an ancient Maya practice mentioned in the Madrid Codex, which is, in turn, based on how bees actually behave in nature.
Josué, Father Luis’ assistant, told us that they give workshops at this bee farm to disseminate the traditional ways of handling the beehives, as this is what they want people to learn and do, instead of just selling honey and its products. Besides selling the Jobones with mature hives, they offer accompaniment to those who want to maintain them, thus guaranteeing success so people’s hives can prosper for years to come. He added that within a few months they will also be offering lodging in Maya architecture homes located within their land.
Los Bordados de Mamá
Our last stop was at Los Bordados de Mamá (Mom’s Embroidery), a business where Alejandrina Caamal, together with two other talented women, embroider all kinds of clothing, from traditional hipiles to colorful blouses with incredible designs. Hipil blouses, if you haven’t seen one, are a new take on the traditional Yucatecan dress.
Alejandrina learned to embroider when she was 12 years old. Her grandmother taught her to draw the designs and her mother to embroider them. Presently, she works in cross stitch, open woven work, Raspado and dense stitches (the most common.)
The work involved in making one of these beautiful pieces of clothing is intense and can take weeks to finish depending on the size. Nevertheless, the beauty of these dresses (hipiles) and blouses is so great and appreciated, that Alejandrina has orders from many different parts of México.
The Magic of Maní
By sundown, and surrounded by multicolored lights at the Main Plaza, I was able to find the source of magic and mysticism that emanates from every corner of Maní. I could see it in the warm greetings that Andy gave everytime he ran into someone he knew; I saw it in Fátima’s and Eliza’s eyes when they passionately shared their knowledge inherited from their grandparents; I saw it in the convent’s walls, the origin of many syncretisms; I saw it in the ease in which Josué cut a trunk to explain how a Jobón is made; I saw it in Alejandrina’s vibrant designs. Personally, Maní’s residents are the magic in this Magical Town: they’re a worthy example of resilience in the face of adversity, taking control of the narrative of their story.
If you’re a nature lover, if you wish to learn more about the ancestral practices of beekeeping, or you’re simply looking to immerse yourself in a fascinating cultural context with a community that’ll make you feel at home, Maní is the perfect place to visit.
U Lu’umil Kuxtal Artisanal Ice Cream
Did you think that we forgot our promise to try Fátima’s ice cream? This homey ice cream shop with turquoise interiors offers a variety of Solar Maya U Lu’umil Kuxtal based flavors. One of the most emblematic ones is the pollen ice cream, which has a very surprising taste and is gathered from Fátima’s bee farm.
The tropical ice cream is another flavor worth mentioning. It’s perfect for a hot and sunny day since it’s prepared with passion fruit, mango, pineapple and a hint of mint, all which are harvested at the Solar.
By Sara Alba
Panamanian with a Mexican accent since 2005. Editorial Assistant, a walking jukebox, and always lurking on social media, in the constant search of hidden gems to visit and share.
Directory for Maní
Where to Eat
El Príncipe Tutul Xiu
Calle 26 x 25 y 27, Centro, Maní, Yucatán
Tel. 997 978 4257
Mon. – Sun. 11 am – 7 pm.
Tel. 997 115 0694
Mon. – Tue. 11 am – 5 pm.
Wed. – Sun. 11 am – 7 pm
Where to Stay
Tel. 997 108 5043
FB: Posada Mary
Hotel Sac Naj
Calle 23 x 26 y 28, Maní, Yucatán
Tel. 999 129 8197
FB: Hotel Sac-Naj
Open 24 hours
Things to Do
Solar Maya U Lu’umil Kuxtal
Calle 33 S/N x 12 Fracc. Aviación, Maní , Yucatán
Cel. 997 128 7200
FB: U lu’umil Kuxtal – Solar Maya
Mon. – Sun. 10 am – 6 pm
Tour of the Former Convent of St. Michael Archangel
Calle 25 x 26 y 28 Centro, Maní, Yucatán
Cel. 999 746 69 46 / Damary Pérez Interián
Cel. 999 442 8899/ Andy Interián Chan
Every day (with reservation)
Calle 20, 97850, Maní, Yucatán
Cel. 997 112 7825/ Elizabeth Interian
FB: Meliponario Lool-hà
Wed. – Sun. 10 am – 4 pm
Meliponario U Naajil Yuum K’iin
Calle 34 x 29 , 97850 Maní, Yucatán
Cel. 997 105 8121/ Luis Armando Quintal
FB: Meliponario “U Nahil Yumkin”
Mon. – Sun. 8 am – 6 pm
Los Bordados de Mamá
Calle 19 x 26 y 28 Maní, Yucatán
Cel. 997 112 3748
FB: Los Bordados de Mamá
Mon. – Sun. 9 am – 5 pm
Photography by Arianne Osalde and Sara Alba for use in Yucatán Today.
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