On the way to Sisal, Hunucmá is more than a ‘drive-through town’

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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.
Aerial view of Hunucmá’s downtown and main square. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Hunucmá is one of those places just about everyone in Yucatán has been, even if they don’t know it. 

Hunucmá is not on many tourists’ bucket lists, so many of them end up zooming through it on the way to Yucatán’s beaches. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

For most, the town of roughly 30,000 people is not much more than a pit stop on the way to Sisal and Celestún. But anyone who decides to pull over and have a look around will discover that Hunucmá has quite a bit to offer in its own right.

Despite a preference for modern homes, several traditional Maya huts can still be seen in Hunucmá. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Given its proximity to Mérida and an abundance of nearby jobs at large industrial facilities such as the gigantic Corona/Heineken brewery, the town feels quite modern. But at the same time, you don’t have to look very far to find traditions and cultural practices dating back thousands of years.

The mercado

Hunucmá’s market may not look that big from the outside, but it goes back deep and is packed with stalls. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Painted yellow and topped with a clock tower, Hunucmá’s market is one of the town’s most emblematic structures. But architecture aside, the market is a fantastic spot for a bite to eat — especially early in the morning. The market is also full of several stands selling everything from fresh produce to meat, spices, traditional candies, and ornamental flowers.

Local produce is always better at city markets than at grocery stores, and considerably cheaper. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Though archaeological sites like Sihunchen lay within the municipality of Hunucmá, little evidence has been found in the town itself, leading to the assumption that the town’s church is the oldest large-scale construction in the immediate area. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Built in the late 16th century, Hunucmá’s Catholic church, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, is one of the community’s most important centers of activity. Aside from daily services, the church serves as an important meeting place and often hosts festivals — religious and otherwise.

A gazebo in Hunucmá’s main square, just across from the church. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht /  Yucatán Magazine

As the main parochial center of worship for Hunucmá and its surrounding communities, including Sisal and Tetiz, St. Francis of Assisi church attracts several pilgrims from the region, especially during high holidays. 

A procession of Our Lady of Tetiz on the way to Hunucmá’s main church. Photo: Courtesy

Play ball

Aerial view of Hunucmá’s softball field near the town square. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though in Mexico the most popular sport by far is soccer, in Yucatán baseball is king. So unsurprisingly, baseball and softball are Hunucmá’s favorite pastimes. But because the town has such a pristine field, it has become the region’s de facto capital for these sports. 

Like in much of rural Yucatán, it is not just the men who enjoy their time on the field. Women’s teams and leagues are just as prominent in Hunucmá as those of their male counterparts.

“We are very proud of our field and our teams and love that so many people travel here to play. We love the sport and take lots of care to ensure that the facilities are as good as they can possibly be,” says Silmar Cob, of Humucmá’s Diamantes softball team.

To see a game, the best time to go is on Sundays around 11 a.m. 

Drinking in the stands is not only tolerated, it’s darn right expected. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Sisal, Hunucmá’s beach (just don’t tell them that)

Hunucmá and Sisal have a complicated relationship, to say the least. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Many people don’t realize it, but the coastal town of Sisal is actually a part of the municipality of Hunucmá. Though historically this political arrangement has worked out just fine, in recent years conflicts over policing, taxation, and tourism revenue have propelled folks in Sisal to “break free” and become their own municipality — though politically this is easier said than done.

But one of the advantages of having Hunucmá and Sisal belong to the same municipality is that the two are connected by a very nice bike path, which is ideal for leisurely early morning bike rides.

3 tips for visitors 

Tip 1

Because the only road to Sisal runs through Hunucmá, local police are known for setting up very strict alcohol breathalyzer stops right at the entrance of town — much to the annoyance of Sisaleños. So you better keep that in mind when it’s time to order another beer to help you wash down your fried fish on the beach.

Tip 2

If you are looking to explore Hunucmá on foot, avoid parking in the main square if you intend to be away for a prolonged period of time, as it is likely to get towed. Instead, park along one of the many little side streets. Just make sure you are not blocking anyone’s entrance.

Like in much of Yucatán, people in Hunucmá are very friendly and always up for a good laugh. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Tip 3

If you are headed to Sisal with kids and forgot to bring along a pail, float, or any other beach essentials, there are several spots passing through Hunucmá with much better prices than on the beach in Sisal. The same applies to crafts and things like sunblock. 

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