Department or Program



This thesis will examine the massive impact of henequen on the state of Yucatán, Mexico, specifically focusing on the time period from the mid-nineteenth century until the year 1930. Henequen is a fibrous plant that is native to the Yucatán peninsula and was a useful tool in pre-Columbian Maya civilization. The Spanish arrival in Mexico brought elites who eventually began to see the plant’s potential for profit. Henequen became a major export crop of Mexico and revenue flowed into Yucatán. In less than a half-century, from the late 1800s to early 1900s, Yucatán became one of the richest states in Mexico. This thesis will discuss the original uses of the henequen plant in Mayan society and show how the industry evolved as a result of a great demand for henequen fiber in the United States, especially during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will then show how the henequen industry revolutionized Yucatecan society. Social classes became more defined between the millionaire elites of Mérida and the impoverished hacienda laborers who were treated like slaves. In addition, society was “modernized” with new railroads, ports, and amenities. Finally, this thesis will examine the downfall of the henequen industry and show how the policies of the Mexican Revolution and the dependence on an individual crop eventually led to disaster for the state.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Adair, Jennifer

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2014

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.