Cuxtal in Maya means “life.” The Cuxtal Reserve, covering 10,757 hectares, is a protected natural area right next to ​​Mérida. It includes Xmatkuil, Molas, Dzoyaxché, and six other municipalities. It was started as a reserve 25 years ago. The most incredible detail is that 50 percent of the water consumed in Mérida comes from the reserve. So, without Cuxtal there is no life.

The reported biodiversity of Cuxtal is surprising: in addition to the 242 species of plants, 35 species of mammals, 55 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, and 410 species of invertebrates, 168 species of birds have been registered! Can you imagine how many different birds you could see in one day? Just to go there to see birds seems like an incredible opportunity.

Preserving the flora and fauna in this area is also a way to ensure the protection of the aquifers that provide drinking water to almost half of Merida’s population. For this reason, in 1993 the region was declared a natural reserve.

The ecological area of Cutxtal has a strong Mayan presence, which has been threatened by the economic pressures that were generated when it was declared a reserve. Many of the local people began to have to travel to the south of Mérida to find work since they couldn’t make use of the natural resources of their land anymore. These changes have generated a loss of the original practices of the Maya culture and a lack of interest in preserving the natural resources there.

This is why the Cuxtal reserve administration’s work is so important. They’re a para-municipal organization that seeks to involve its inhabitants in the conservation of the ecosystems of the region. This will simultaneously reinforce their cultural identity while developing environmental education. The plan for the reserve also involves providing recreational and leisure areas and to generate nature tourism in the future.

More than 40 percent of the reserve is Maya jungle. Seven henequén haciendas, cenotes, and archaeological sites can be found in Cuxtal. Many of these spots are open to receive visitors and others are being recovered so as to be able to open their doors in the future. If you want to know more about Cuxtal, or get involved in one of its projects, you can find out more at:

Reserva Ecológica Cuxtal
Director Técnico: Alberto Baena
Correo: [email protected]
Sitio Web:


Editorial by Valentina Álvarez
Photography by Jesús García Barrón, Marcos Ramírez and Andrea Mier y Terán for use in Yucatán Today

Esta entrada también está disponible en: ES