There is a little village outside the colonial city of Valladolid worth a quick visit. On a recent lunch date in Valldolid we did just this and finally had the chance to step inside the extraordinary church that is at the center of this small town.
This destination is not in the guide books but it is an important destination if you love architecture, history and the Maya. It is one of those off the beaten track destinations that makes you want to go deeper into local cultures.
Uayma is pronounced Whyma in case you need to ask for directions. We found the city easy to get to once we left Valladolid and well worth the trip.
The Church was built by the Spanish using stones from the surrounding Mayan cities of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. If you have been following our day trips through the Yucatan Peninsula, you will know that this was common practice when the Spanish settled in the area.
Uayma was an important Mayan city so the Spanish felt they needed to make their mark to influence and convert the local villagers. The church, part of the convent in Valladolid, was built for this very reason and is officially called the church of Santo Domingo.
Uayma was a critical player in the Caste War and the church was at the center of the conflict. The structure received some heavy damage as the Maya wanted to rid their villages and cities of any Spanish influence. In 2005 this church was renovated and brought back to it natural glory as part of a private restoration effort called “Adopt a Work of Art’ funded by private citizens and INAH. We are sorry that we did not see the before and after photos of the church, but what you see today is more than impressive. This truly is a work of art.
In all our travels through the Yucatan, we have not seen a church like this. It is decorative, both on the exterior and interior, using color to accentuate the decorated facade. The symbolism is not like anything we have seen. Located in the town center, the church is located at the center of local activity today.
Tucked away in the residential section of the city are various pottery artists. They use a traditional clay and firing method passed through generations of Mayan pottery makers. The only way to see and purchase the pottery is in the artist’s homes. We have yet to catch an artists at home when visiting the area but will be sure to share this information as soon as we get to take a peek at their studios. If you find yourself in Uayma ask around for Jose Emilio Espadas Dzul, who is known by everyone in town. He is the master artist along with his son.
This is an easy day trip from the Riviera Maya and we encourage you to combine this trip with a stop in Valladolid. If you take the Playa del Carmen toll road the trip is 90 minutes from the coast to Uayma. If you decide to take the slower route through Tulum and Coba, a route we really enjoy, this will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
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Luckily there are signs to Uayma from the 180 highway. It is an historic town through not highly visited. The Santo Domingo church is located in the town center.
Check out more information about the Playa del Carmen toll road if you want less time driving and more time experiencing.