The Caste War of Yucatán, 1847-49

Photos by Adam Jones

From my essay, Genocide: A Personal Journey

For more, see

"Between 1847 and 1849, taking advantage of a civil war that divided the white elite, Mayan rebels launched a millenarian uprising that bore strong similarities to the massive rebellion in Upper Peru (today's Bolivia) in the late eighteenth century. Like that earlier revolt, the Mayan campaign displayed genocidal tendencies from the outset. It aimed explicitly at killing any whites, combatant or non-combatant, who came within range of rifle or dagger. By this means, the hated colonizer and his brood would be banished forever.

"The Mayan uprising had the predictable consequence of uniting the whites, and encouraging mestizos (mixed-bloods) to close ranks with them. The Yucatecan authorities responded with exterminatory race war of their own. Tens of thousands died on both sides. The end result was the exhaustion of the warring parties, and the establishment of a semi-independent Mayan kingdom in the eastern third of the pensinsula, roughly following the contours of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, that survived into the twentieth century. In the small town of Tihosuco, astride the highway south to Chetumal on the Belize border, I was astonished to discover that numerous structures still lay in ruins from the Caste War. Others had been only partially rebuilt; the two categories combined might constitute half of the town's present-day architecture. Here is an urban landscape still ravaged, 150 years later, by genocidal warfare."

Tihosuco (1)

The cathedral destroyed by Mayan rebels during the Caste War.

Church destroyed by Mayan rebels

Tihosuco (2)

A house gutted in the war, still inhabited.

Gutted house in Tihosuco

Chan Santa Cruz (1)

Today known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto, this is the town founded in 1850 as the
capital of the semi-independent Mayan kingdom. In the church at the right of the photo,
the Maya worshipped a Talking Cross found at a nearby cenote (natural well).

Main street of Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Chan Santa Cruz (2)

The cenote where the Talking Cross was found.

Cenote of the Talking cross

The Last Redoubt

Inside the fort near Chetumal on the Belizean border that was the final holdout
of Mayan rebel forces, conquered by the central Mexican government in 1901.

Fort near Chetumal

"A People on the March"

A mural in a museum in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, located in the former Mayan
military barracks, proclaims: "The Mayan zone is not an ethnographic museum,
it is a people on the march."

A people on the march

Photos are copyright 2005-06 by Adam Jones. They may be freely used for educational
and other non-commercial purposes, if the author is credited and informed.
High-resolution digital versions are available on request.

Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Adam Jones

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