Kanasín Is Booming and, Despite Its Reputation, Deserves Another Look

Let’s get this out of the way first — Kanasín does not have the best reputation, and it never has. There is some truth to the claim that Kanasín is not as safe as other cities in Yucatán, but then again, in the safest state in the country, it’s all relative. 

Despite being Yucatán’s fast-growing municipality, sometimes Kanasín feels like a real blast from the past. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yuatán Magazine

But it is also true that during the past few years, Kanasín has begun to experience somewhat of a revival as the city´s infrastructure continues to improve. 

Kanasín translates from Yucatec-Maya as “strong-willed,” something that locals of the city are quite proud of. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Travel between Kanasín and Mérida has never been particularly difficult, but the introduction of the IE-tram has been a game changer, allowing for much faster commutes. 

The IE-Tram from Kanasín makes several stops, including on the Periférico, Parque de la Mejorada on Calle 57, and Parque La Plancha. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

These days, Kanasín residents are also especially proud that they will be hosting Yucatán’s pro baseball team, likely for a season or two in their revamped stadium. At the same time, Mérida’s Kukulcán Álamo is undergoing some major-league renovations. 

While the Victor Cervera field in Kanasín is still under construction, city and state authorities have assured fans that it will be ready by the beginning of the baseball season in April. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Despite the improvements, the reinvented stadium in Kanasín will be much smaller than the Kukulcán Álamo, but once the Léones move back to their main field, the city will be left with a much improved sporting complex, which also includes high-end facilities for sports, such as football and basketball. 

An aerial view of the new baseball field construction in Kanasín, which the government says will have a capacity for roughly 5,000 people. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Also new to the city is the entirely rebuilt market, with space for 109 merchants.

Kanasín’s new city market looks quite modern, which in a way clashes with the look of the rest of the city, but will offer much better ventilation and a more sanitary environment. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But the market aside, downtown Kanasín feels like one enormous market with stalls selling just about everything.

A couple of women inspect a shop selling traditional clothing in downtown Kanasín. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Several mobile stands also sell fruits and vegetables grown in backyards at very affordable prices. These shops are especially good for buying produce. Customers often extract their seeds and grow more fruit in their backyards.

Tomatoes in Kanasín’s mobile stalls tend to be local varieties, which are much easier to grow in Yucatán’s extremely hot and humid environment. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though some still think of Kanasín as a pueblo (village), it is actually the fastest-growing municipality in Yucatán and currently has a population of just under 150,000. 

In the Yucatecan imagination, Kanasín is most famous for a couple of things, the first of these being that is the birthplace of one of the Peninsula’s favorite fried snacks, the panucho.

A panucho is a Yucatecan specialty made with a refried tortilla that is stuffed with refried black beans and topped with chopped cabbage, pulled chicken or turkey, tomato, pickled red onion, and avocado. It is occasionally topped with eggs. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The other thing that Kanasín is most famous for is being the birthplace of the beloved children’s character “el Chel de Kanasín.” El Chel, which in Yucatec-Maya means güero or blond. El Chel is a puppet and sidekick of Yucatán’s most revered children’s entertainer, the clown Pepillin, who, along with his other famous creations like “Jorgito,” delighted children in the region for decades until his passing in 2000.

A monument to Pepillin, whose real name was Gilberto Omar Suárez Argáez, accompanied by his two most famous sidekicks, el Chel (on the left) and Jorgito (on the right). Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

In addition to the city itself, the municipality of Kanasín is large. It is home to the Mérida-Teya Tren Maya station, and several points of interest, including the archaeological site of Xiol.

Xiol is a recently restored Puuc-style archaeological site on the side of the highway to Chetumal. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though reliable statistics are hard to come by, Kanasín has also begun attracting an ever larger number of people from other states, as well as foreigners, due to its traditional feel and relatively low cost of housing. Two-bedroom homes in Kanasín can still be purchased for under half a million pesos (roughly US$30,000), though higher-end casonas and even haciendas are also on the market. 

The Aguada in Kanasín keeps the area’s animals, especially birds, well hydrated even during the dry season. However, swimming is prohibited because it is on private property and has no lifeguards. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Kanasín may or may not be for you, but it is worth a visit with an open mind. Just be careful if driving, as the moto-taxis seem to be everywhere. They are especially aggressive and will cut in front of you with no notice at all.

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.
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