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Cholul is a promising land for real estate, but villagers and traditions of the town remain

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Just outside of northern Mérida, Cholul is a municipality slowly taken into the urban zone of the city. 

Plaque in Cholul’s municipal office building. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

Cholul’s Church seen from one end of the park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

The main square is made up of different parks and green areas, with old ceiba trees providing great shade. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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. 

A well on the west side of the park. The plaque commemorates its discovery, from the past century. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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. 

The sign reads “We’re not asking you to clean the town, we’re asking you to not make it dirty.” The efforts of maintaining the areas are carried out by authorities and the help of local volunteers. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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. 

Businesses have started popping up around the main square. Almodar is a new coffee shop known for its minimalist, modern architecture. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

Although commercial movement is increasing in the town, many of the buildings surrounding the park are still small businesses and homes. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

Municipal palace in Cholul. The building houses many government offices, as well as a school, a market, and a library. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Today, it houses the Municipal Police Station, the Civil Registry, the INE Module, and the Local Education center.

A mural wall was created by the children of the community, with the help of CUAM, Habla, Edúcate, and Sherwin Williams. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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. 

Facade of the Cholul library. It is operated at large thanks to volunteers. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

The entrance to the church is south of the park. In its surroundings sits a community garden. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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.

Sideview of the Church, the focal point of the Cholul community. Photo: Verónica Garibay

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

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