Yaxunah comsiaría by Charlie ArgüellesYucatán is a state full of surprises. Behind every trip, every meal, and every road, a wonder awaits to be discovered. Typically, it’s in the most unexpected corners where you stumble upon incredible stories and precious objects.

 

That’s exactly what happens in Yaxunah, a picturesque village near Chichén Itzá. This community is known for its visitor center and for the eponymous archaeological site located on the outskirts of the town. Yet, a lesser-known fact is that many residents here excel in the artisanal weaving of hammocks and the creation of decorative items from cattle horns.

 

In the town hall building, located at the entrance of the town, you can find two community workshops. The first one is entirely dedicated to hammock weaving. Here, artisans use crochet threads in a wide variety of colors to gradually create traditional Yucatecan hammocks, using wooden needles and frames.

 

It’s worth noting that hammock weaving is no easy task. One is required to possess exceptional dexterity, a profound grasp of diverse stitching techniques, and strong mental math skills to craft a hammock as exquisite as the ones made in Yaxunah.

 

Moreover, each material and thread has a specific way of being manipulated. According to artisan manager Melissa Jurado, founder of Acahual, cotton threads and those made from synthetic materials like nylon are not used in the same way, and which one is used affects the look and feel of the final product.

 

Yaxunah cutlery made from horn by Charlie ArgüellesIn the second workshop, you can meet artisans like Martina Ek Chi and Santos Luciano Canul Tamayo, who welcomed us when we visited their workspace. They specialize in creating charms, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, as well as plates, forks, spoons, and glasses using cattle bones.

 

Yaxunah jewelry made from horn by Charlie ArguellesTheir designs are honestly stunning! Each item is unique, as the color and size of the pieces depend on the craftsperson’s signature style and the particular properties of the selected horns. In addition to the unique design, another interesting characteristic of horn-made products is their appearance: after being expertly treated and polished, the horn can resemble tortoiseshell, a material produced from the shells of critically endangered turtles that is now very much illegal for that same reason. 

 

But where do the horns used in Yaxunah come from? From Tizimín, of course. The northeastern region of Yucatán is known for its cattle farming, so the artisans of Yaxunah set up strategic partnerships with certain producers to repurpose their waste. Every two months, ranches from Tizimín dispatch between 400 and 500 horns to the workshop, breathing new life into materials that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

 

Yaxunah handcrafts, horn by Charlie ArgüellesIf you want to acquire a truly special souvenir, the next time you find yourself in the municipalities of Yaxcabá or Pisté, keep an eye out for a “Taxi del Jaguar” and ask them to take you to the village. There, you can make your purchases directly from the artisans in their workshops. The prices vary between $200 to $2,000 pesos for horn-derived items. Cotton hammocks are available starting at $1,000 pesos.

 

Your support keeps artisans’ livelihoods and skills going for generations to come; make sure to bring cash, as credit and debit cards are not accepted. 

 

We thank artisan manager Melissa Jurado, founder of the Acahual liaison platform, for introducing us to this artisan community and their work.

 

 

By Carlos Argüelles
Fashion designer and cultural agent. Lover of art, history, coffee, and Yucatecan gastronomy.

 

 

Photography by Carlos Argüelles for use in Yucatán Today.

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