Ancient Cholul ruins have haunted haciendas and pizza chains for neighbors

Sign up for the Roundup!

Get news from Yucatán Magazine once a week in your inbox. It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

*Your email address is safe with us. We will never share your information with any third party, except to comply with applicable law or valid legal processes or to protect the personal safety of our users or the public.
Cholul’s city hall also doubles as its market, though to get the best produce, you better get there early. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As Mérida continues to grow, much of Yucatán’s low-lying jungle has given way to high rises, malls, and suburbs. But the town of Cholul is not to be confused with its many suburbs and is still incredibly charming. 

But among the modern amenities of “modern Cholul” lay the remains of a bygone age when the Maya of Ichcanzijó ruled the land. 

As we have covered in previous articles about urban archaeological sites within Mérida, like Chen Hó and Altrabrisa, cultural heritage often takes a back seat to profit and modernity. 

In Mérida’s northeast, the area known as Cholul has, in recent years, been one of the most rapidly expanding areas of the city. 

A lone Maya temple in Cholul sits next to a grocery store, bank, and pizza chain. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

From the 18th to the 20th century, Cholul and its surrounding areas were known for their productive henequen haciendas, which funded the grand homes which line avenues like Paseo de Motejo and Colon. 

The former hacienda Cancabchén Casares has a reputation for being rather eerie, and many long-time residents insist that it is haunted. Photo: Courtesy

Part of the reason Cholul was so productive was due to its many cenotes and chultunes —  or ancient water reservoirs left behind by the Maya. 

In the Yucatec-Maya language, Cholul translates as soaked woods. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Just opposite the San Pedro Cholul suburb are the ruins of another former hacienda known as Kankirixché  — meaning yellow fruit. 

Kankirixché was built during the henequen boom and evidence suggests that it sits on the location of an ancient Maya plaza, given the large amount of carved limestone in the area. 

Despite being designated a protected municipal archaeological park, Hacienda Kankirixché has seen better days, and one should be cautious when climbing its structures. Loose stones make it feel like collapse is imminent. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

In the interior of the main structure, there is an arched ceiling, likely built in the late 19th century. To say that it does not look particularly inviting is a real understatement. 

The interior of the former Kankirixché hacienda is spooky, spray painted with several pentagrams and verses, which would seem right at home inside Dante’s divine comedy. Photo: Carlos Roasdo van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Back on the other side of Periférico, the remains of several Prehispanic structures are still visible, though their purpose is still unknown. 

Drone shot of the remains of a temple dating to roughly the third century in San Pedro Cholul. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Some structures are remarkably similar to those found at sites like Oxmul, where many burials have been found. 

The seat of power of what is now the northeast of Mérida is possibly another three miles or so further into the brush in Oxtun. Photo: Courtesy 

It is unknown what purpose the remaining temples in Cholul served, though at least a few may have been used as elite burials. 

Surviving stucco on the facade of a temple in Cholul. Photo, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Through countless structures that can be found in the surrounding bush, getting to them can be pretty tricky, as they are more often than not fenced off within private property.

The remains of what was likely a residential structure in Cholul on the outskirts of Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine.

Fortunately, city planners have managed to rescue a handful of ancient structures and created roundabouts around them to allow traffic to flow without disturbing these ancient sites. 

Aerial photo of a roundabout in Cholul showing evidence of Maya habitation. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gacht / Yucatán Magazine.

If you go

Getting to Cholul is extremely easy by car, as well as public transit, though ride-sharing apps are always also an option. 

Map showing the location of various archaeological sites in Cholul. Map: Google

The village of Cholul has itself become quite lovely, with a thriving market and even a handful of really nice restaurants. 

Despite all the change, life in the village of Cholul is still very easygoing but is seeing an influx of folks looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
- Advertisement -spot_img
Verified by ExactMetrics