Just outside of northern Mérida, Cholul is a municipality slowly taken into the urban zone of the city.
It borders Tixcuytun to the north, Mérida to the south, Santa Gertrudis Copo to the east, and Sitpach to the west. It is one of the 12 commissariats in the municipality of Mérida, and the second comisaria in size and importance after Caucel.
Although it has largely grown in popularity for newcomers, it still retains its town designation as well as most of its traditions and customs.
Cholul (pronounced ”Chuluul”) is also the name of a tree that proliferated in this region (Apoplanesia paniculata), generally used in the construction of houses. There is no literal translation of the word and the definition officially used is “Water Wood,” referring to the resistance this wood presents to humidity.
Since pre-Hispanic times there were human settlements in Cholul and Umán. The municipality belonged to the province of Motul. For more than two centuries it remained a very small town, functioning mainly as the settlement for servants working in the haciendas. At the beginning of the 18th century, it had a population of 126 people, growing by 1900 to 154.
There was no main or secondary road through Cholul, which limited the entry of outsiders.
In 1937, President Lázaro Cárdenas expropriated land from the large landowners and institutionalized the ejido. This meant that the servants of Cholul, like those in other parts of the state, obtained collective land titles and formed assemblies. This placed them to in the category of ejidatarios.
Working conditions improved and work diversified. Ejidatarios worked on their land and could earn extra income by going to the farms of former hacienda owners. However, even after this change in social composition, there were no notable population movements. Until the late 1990s, the town remained mostly sheltered from Mérida.
With the real estate boom in recent years, many developments and housing areas have been created in the region. Most of the constructions have been placed outside the municipal Centro, which has helped maintain the original feel of the Plaza Principal.
The current building of the Municipal Palace was restored after its collapse by Hurricane Gilberto. The facade has been preserved since its inauguration in 1942.
Today, it houses the Municipal Police Station, the Civil Registry, the INE Module, and the Local Education center.
Annexed to the Municipal Palace is the Municipal Market, and the Library and Cultural Center Jacinto Canek, where handicrafts, painting, embroidery, guitar, and counseling classes are offered.
The Catholic temple dates from the middle of the 17th century and is dedicated to San Pedro Apóstol. Among the traditions still celebrated are the Guadalupan guilds, which are celebrated in December and date back to 1948.
Outside of the temple, vaquerías are celebrated twice a year during the months of April and August. The events feature traditional dances, bullfights, and other religious practices. The Carnival, Hanal Pixan, and the posadas are other traditions still practiced by the villagers.
Many legends and stories remain about the town, its origins, and customs. Yet when visiting the square there’s an undeniably welcoming feel to the plaza. Even with the fast development of its urban growth, the slow-living feel, and the warm breeze of Yucatán have not been lost in Cholul.
In Yucatán Magazine: Melipona Beecheii: Caring for the sacred Mayan bee in Cholul, Mérida