Road trip to Izamal and Dzilam de Bravo, Yucatan
Check out this Loco Adventure through the Yucatan with play by play information for the off the beaten track traveler.
Dzilam de Bravo – Fishing village where Jean Lafitte is said to be buried
Traveling north from Izamal are a couple of secondary roads, poorly marked but both eventually ending up at the top of the peninsula in Dzilam de Bravo, that is if you make the correct turns (always an adventure). If you were coming from Merida there is also an east/west coastal road from the Mexican port town of Progresso which has been broadened, at least to Telchac Puerto, and a fine two lane road continues as far as Dzilam de Bravo. From Izamal the towns you pass through are all small with the customary “zocalo” town square and 16th century Catholic church. Outside town is the typical Yucatecan rural Maya landscape of low jungle punctuated by henequen, corn and papaya fields. Along the way you will see the occasional high chimney of a henequen plantation, usually in ruin. Henequen was harvested in the late 19th to mid-20th centuries to make sisal rope, especially important during the 1st and 2nd world wars, and fortunes were made by the plantation owners. Labor consisted primarily of the rural Maya who lived in virtual slavery working the fields for the wealthy who owned all the land and everything that was produced from it. We came across one of these magnificent abandoned haciendas that has probably been in ruins for the last 70-80 years. Horses were foraging on the weeds inside and outside the main building.
Traveler tip and update in 2013:
There is no bank branch or ATM east of Progreso unless one dips down to Motul or to Dzidzantún (the latter has two ATMs in the Municipal Palace, Bancomer and HSBC). Nearest post office is in Motul. Very limited auto repair services. No true major foodstore. Telcel is the only cellphone service provider in Dzilam de Bravo. Only one rustic hotel in town. Bus service available from Mérida (company: Noreste) and Temax (company: Centro). Taxi service is by bicycle taxis (bicitaxi).
Henequen fields: this plant was processed by the old hacienda plantations. The fibers are stripped from the leaves to produce “sisal” used to make rope and durable utility textiles.Papaya fields are also along the road. A delicious fruit and important part of the local diet.
Arriving in Dzilam de Bravo in the Yucatan
Facing the Gulf of Mexico is the fishing village of Dzilam de Bravo, reputed to be the final resting place of the French “gentleman” pirate Jean Lafitte (1780-1827). Dzilam de Bravo is not considered a tourist destination but had interest to us because of Lafitte who supposedly arrived here around 1820 and married a beautiful mulatto lady, Lucia Allen, and had a daughter. Lafitte’s buccaneering days included free range Caribbean piracy, assisting Simon Bolivar in his struggle to liberate much of Latin America, and defending the United States in an 1815 battle against England and Governor Clayborne near New Orleans, which was at that time a notorious pirate hangout. In 1960 the Yucatan based exploration group of CEDAM donated a Jean Lafitte memorial plaque to the town. Today it faces the sea next to the fishing boats.
The gentleman pirate Jean Lafitte’s memorial plaque by the sea was donated to the town in 1960 by Akumalian & CEDAM founder/explorer, Pablo Bush Romero.
Traveling back to the Riviera Maya – our adventure continues
As we drove back towards Izamal from Dzilam de Bravo, we noticed an ornate smoke stack chimney in a field. We slowed down and saw a open gate and decided to take a look. Gary went first to check it out and he found the shell of an old hacienda we figured to be 80 to 100 years old. A small group of horses were grazing in what was once the main living rooms of the mansion. Although time had taken its toll on the structure, the villa stood majestically among the overgrowth of plants that surrounded it. It was like a movie set and quite a magical find.