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The Yucatán Peninsula Yucatán is a peninsula which separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico. The peninsula is divided among part of Mexico (the Mexican states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan), the nation of Belize and Guatemala's northern territory of El Peten.

The State of Yucatán Yucatán is also the name of one of the 31 states of Mexico, located on the north of the Yucatán Peninsula. It borders the Mexican states of Campeche to the south west, Quintana Roo to the east and southeast, and the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west. The state occupies approximately 43,257 km˛ square kilometers and has a population of 1,700,400 people in 2003. The capital is Mérida. ISO 3166-2 is MX-YUC.

The state of Yucatán also contains the cities of Izamal, Motul, Muná, Progresso[?], Tecax, Tizimín, Umán, and Valladolid[?]; numerous towns including Celestun, Chemax, Kanasín, Mani, Oxcutzcab, Peto, Sisal, Tecoh, and Telchaquillo, and many important Maya ruins including Acanceh, Ake, Chacmultun, Chichen Itza, Dzibilichaltun, Kabah[?], Labna[?], Mayapan, Sayil, Uxmal and Yaxuna.

The region of Yucatán The term The Yucatán is also used to refer to the region of three Mexican states on the Peninsula where Maya culture was dominant.

Usage In common usage The Yucatán Peninsula is used when referring to the geographic area; Yucatán when referring to the Mexican state; and The Yucatán when referring to the region of Mexico consisting of the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo.

Pre-History It is thought that the asteroid impact event which rendered the dinosaurs extinct occurred at the location where the Yucatán peninsula is today, centered on the current-day city of Chicxulub[?].

The Pre-Columbian era Before the arrival of the Spanish in the area, the Yucatán was the home of the Maya civilisation. Archaelogical remains show ceremonial architecture dating back some 3000 years; some heiroglyphic texts date back to the Maya Pre-Classic era. Maya cities of the Yucatan continued to flourish after the Central Lowland Classic Maya cities collapsed; some continued to be occupied through the arrival of the Spanish. Many ruins of their cities can still be found on the peninsula, such as Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. Other important ancient cities were built over and continue to be occupied today, such as Izamal and Merida (formerly T'ho). Many inhabitants of the Yucatán today are of Maya ancestry and speak Maya languages.

The lords of Chichen Itza ruled the Yucatan for centuries until 1221 when revolt and civil war broke out. Not long after lords of the region set up a new capital at the walled city of Mayapan. Mayapan was capital of Yucatán until a revolt against the dominant Cocom family in 1441 resulted in the burning of the city; the Yucatan then broke apart into smaller states, which remained the situation until the Spanish conquest.

The arrival of the Spanish It is claimed that the name Yucatán derived from a Native American language, and means "What did you say?" The (possibly apocryphal) story goes that when the Spaniards first waded ashore on the Yucatán Peninsula, they asked the Indians watching, "What is this place?" The local indígenas, not understanding Spanish, asked "What did you say?" The Spanish, in their arrogance, assumed that anyone would understand their meaning, and took it to be the name.

The conquest of the Mayan city states took decades of long fighting. Three expeditions explored the coastal areas from 1517 to 1519, but no major effort was made to conquer the country until 1527 when the first expedition under Francisco de Montejo[?] landed with Spanish crown authority to conquer and colonize Yucatan. While the chiefs of some states quickly pledged allegiance to the Spanish crown, others waged war against the Spanish. Montejo was forced to retreat from Yucatán in 1528. He came back with a large force in 1531, briefly established a capital at Chichen Itza, but was again driven from the land in 1535. Montejo turned over his rights to his son, also named Francisco, who invaded Yucatán with a large force in 1540. In 1542 the younger Montejo set up his capital in the Maya city of T'ho, which he renamed Merida. The lord of the Tutal Xiu of Mani converted to Christianity and became allies, which greatly assisted in the conquest of the rest of the peninsula. When the Spanish and Xiu defeated an army of the combined forces of the states of Eastern Yucatan in 1546, the conquest was officially complete.

a more detailed account: Spanish Conquest of Yucatan

Republic of Yucatán The area now consisting of the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo was an independent Republic of Yucatán with its capital in Merida, from 1838 through 1843 and again 1845 through 1848.

The War of the Castes The 1840s saw a major revolt of the Maya people against the Hispanic population in political and economic control. At one point in 1848 this revolt was successful to the point of driving all Hispanic Yucatecans out of almost the entire Peninsula other than the walled cities of Merida and Campeche. The Ladino government appealed to Mexico for help in suppressing the revolt, and this resulted in Yucatán again becoming part of Mexico. Some Maya communities in the Quintana Roo area continued to refuse to acknowledge Ladino or Mexican sovernty as late as the 1910s.

The Yucatán, Mexico In 1857 Campeche broke off from Yucatán to become a separate state.

Sisal for making rope was the major export crop of Yucatán. The region prospered from this lucrative crop until alternative rope materials came into wider use after World War I. The decades of the Sisal boom was a fairly progressive era for Yucatan; the city of Merida had electric streetlights and trolley cars before Mexico City.

Until the mid 20th century most of Yucatán's contact with the outside world was by sea; trade with the USA and Cuba was sometimes more significant than that with the rest of Mexico. In the 1950s the Yucatán was linked to the rest of Mexico by railway, followed by highway in the 1960s, ending the region's comparative isolation.

Commercial jet airplanes began arriving in Merida in the 1960s, and additional international airports were built first in Cozumel and then in the new planned resort community of Cancun[?] in the 1980s, making tourism a major force in the area's economy.

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