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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Locals of Granada Maxcanú seek the return of ancient Maya relic

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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. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The road to Maxcanú from Granada as seen from a drone. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you have never heard of the small town of Granada in the municipality of Maxcanú, you are not alone. 

The abandoned Hacienda Granada’s main structure, stable and workers quarters. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

This tiny community of fewer than 500 people is only a few miles from the city of Maxcanú and is dominated by an impressive hacienda built in 1866. 

Though the Hacienda Maxcanú is quite interesting in itself, its most intriguing feature well predates the 19th century. 

The once-thriving Hacienda Granada is now home only to birds and its grounds host the occasional soccer match. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Near the main stairway up to the hacienda’s main structure stands the visage of a Maya noble carved into a single stone.

A lone surviving stone figure representing a Maya lord stands proud in Hacienda Granada, Maxcanú. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But as one inspects the opposite side of the stairway, it becomes clear that a similar stone figure had once occupied the now empty spot. 

A wide shot shows the main staircase up to Hacienda Maxcanú’s main principal structure, the Maya figure in question, and the empty space just across it. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The initial suspicion that at least two ancient figures once adorned the stairway was confirmed by a friend of Yucatán Magazine, Guadalupe Us García.

Detail of the bottom half of the surviving stone carving in Hacienda Granada Maxcanú. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“Until not too long ago there were two such figures, one on each side of the main stairway. It is unclear exactly what happened but people in the community say it was taken away by the INAH,” says García.

The surviving figure is carved into a cylindrical stone and stands at nearly six feet. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

During a recent visit to Granada, Yucatán Magazine was able to speak with two members of the community willing to speak about the case of the missing idol. Both individuals requested anonymity as they work for the government and are concerned about repercussions for speaking out. 

The walls of the old hacienda in Granda Maxcanú have been taken over by vegetation. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“Almost two years ago men came to the community in a pickup truck and removed one of the figures from the hacienda. They said they worked for INAH and would take it in for restoration and then return it,” said one source.

According to both sources, the people who removed the artifact did not show any proof that they worked for INAH, and weren’t wearing uniforms.

“We are quite upset as you can imagine. These two idols are very important to the identity of our small community. Since the first was taken and not returned, rumors have circulated in the community that these so-called INAH workers were actually looters,” said the second source.

Both members of the community expressed concern that someone would return to take away the remaining figure but said that they would not allow that to happen.

“Regardless of the identity of these men, we should have not allowed anyone to take the figure away without legal assurances and proper documentation. We will not make that mistake again,” said the first source. 

Remains of what are likely prehispanic architectural features sit on the grounds of the abandoned hacienda. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Yucatán Magazine has made repeated attempts to get a response from INAH offices in both Mérida and Mexico City.

The practice of using carved stones and other colonial-era construction materials is well documented across Mesoamerica. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Members of the community in Granada say that they are losing patience and are planning to file a police report in an effort to recover their stolen idol.

“We are very frustrated by the situation, but it’s not like there is that much we can do. Perhaps we could pool some money together and get a lawyer, but that sort of thing gets expensive quickly and we have so few resources.” said the first source, adding, “Besides, it’s probably already been sold off and left the country by now.”

The surviving stone figure found at Granada is in many ways quite similar to similar artifacts found in the nearby community of Paraiso.

Maya stelae on the western end of the Church in Paraiso, Maxcanú, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine 

Granada Maxcanú is located a little over one hour southwest of Yucatán’s capital, Mérida. 

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