The War of the Castes

The Rebellion

In 1847 Yucatán is a society on the brink of chaos. The development of the sugar plantations and their expansion towards the east at the expense of Indian communal lands, causes the impoverishment and the displacement of the Mayan population, which nevertheless is still forced to pay tithes and taxes, and to carry out harsh work on the lands belonging to the whites. The situation reaches such a degree that the Mayans believe that rebellion is the only way of saving their traditional means of subsistance and autonomy.

Following the arrest and execution of the indigenous leader Manuel Antonio Ay, the Mayans rise up against the government of Yucatán. On 30 July 1847 the rebel forces, led by Cecilio Chi, take and destroy the village of Tepich, starting the so-called War of the Castes. Neither negotiations nor military repressions succeed in curbing the relentless rebel advance. Soon, two thirds of the peninsula, including the whole of the east and Bacalar, are in the hands of the insurgents. By May 1848, the Mayan forces are positioned in the ports of Mérida, creating panic amongst the inhabitants, but the dreaded final attack never materializes. With the coming of the rains, many Indians abandon the offensive to return to their communities to cultivate the land. The governmental forces do not hesitate to counter-attack, retaking the main cities and forcing the Mayans to withdraw towards the jungle.

The internal divisions and the death of the main leaders culminate in fragmenting the Mayan power in three groups: those from the east, independent and rebellious; those from the south, independent and peaceable; and the rest, the majority, peaceable and submissive.

Printed from chetumal.com (The War of the Castes - Chetumal.com - Gateway to the Costa Maya, México)