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lunes, enero 23, 2006

Henequen Romances

Ai, ai! An error of remarkable proportions. The workers Felipe Carrillo Puerto assisted (see post below) were working on henequen. Not hennequin. And what, you ask, is that?

According to Wikipedia, it's like sisal:

Sisal or sisal hemp is an agave Agave sisalana that yields a stiff fiber used in making rope. (The term may refer either to the plant or the fiber, depending on context.) It is not really a variety of hemp, but named so because hemp was for centuries a major source for fiber, so other fibers were sometimes named after it.
Sisal plants consist of a rosettes of sword-shaped leaves about 1.5 to 2 meters tall. Young leaves may have a few minute teeth along their margins, but lose them as they mature. Sisals are sterile hybrids of uncertain origin; although shipped from the port of Sisal in Yucatán (thus the name), they do not actually grow in Yucatán, the plantations cultivating henequen (Agave fourcroydes) instead. Evidence of an indigenous cottage industry in Chiapas suggests it as the original location, possibly as a cross of Agave angustifolia and Agave kewensis.

In the 19th century, sisal cultivation (the plant being propagated via offsets), was spread worldwide, from Florida to the Caribbean islands and Brazil, as well as to countries in Africa (especially Tanzania) and Asia. Sisal constitutes the majority of natural fiber production worldwide

All of that might be a lot more than you wanted to know. And all because of a spelling error! One can only wonder in what kind of miserable conditions Maya laborers harvested the crop in Quintana Roo. But it was those conditions, and the treatment of the workers in the plantations, that inspired Felipe Carrillo Puerto.