Henequen-fiber processing declined as an industry between the 1920s and the 1950s, as did the haciendas and communities it supported. A few survived for a time and there are haciendas that continue processing agave for a vastly reduced market. In most cases, however, the shells of what once were prolific sources of wealth ended up in ruins, their surrounding communities left unemployed and otherwise unable to sustain themselves owing to the region’s arid soils and isolation from employment sources.
Efforts to restore a number of these architectural treasures and return them to their former splendor emerged from a desire to revitalize the surrounding communities, in the form of the work involved in repurposing the properties themselves and later employment as hacienda employees. Some of the haciendas are hotels operated by the Starwood Luxury Collection; other properties belong to the Private Villas and Haciendas group. To the same end, productive projects have also been created—whether related to the haciendas or not—such as the development of Spa therapeutic teams that include traditional Maya masseurs; artisanal workshops and botanical gardens that rescue and preserve traditional herb remedies; the cultivation of habanero chilies; Izamal’s Centro Cultural y Artisanal culture and handicrafts museum; and numerous other educational, healthcare and sustainable-industry projects.
Thus we see the splendid resurgence of the manor houses that formed the “backbone” of the haciendas and that today reflect the aesthetic caprices of their original owners—the protagonists of one of Mexico’s most important historical periods. In turn, Maya communities, the inheritors of centuries-old traditions, are revitalized.