I had saved a tour of the site museum at Dzibilchaltun to the last. Finding the actual entrance was a first challenge; in the first room I encountered an exhibit relating to henequen processing. Bundles of raw fibre are fed into a machine that shreds, then sorts the fibre. These are rolled into coils, dumped into a drum on a conveyor that carries them to other machines that reduce the fibre to even finer quality. Up the chain of fineness, the last thrasher sorts into strands that become twine or rope or burlap bags. After stranding, individual strands are fed to machines like this one that wind them around to the desired thickness. Henequen was used by the Maya to make string hammocks, crude clothing, or rugs. Its attraction is that the fibre combines both toughness and resilience. During the 1800s, factories were established in many parts of the Yucatan, and production exploded. One such instance is Aké, a Maya site 40 kilometres southeast of Dzibilchaltun with a factory surrounded by a small village and fields of the raw materials. As it was only 10:30 in the morning and I had planned nothing else for the day, I asked my driver, Valentin, to take me there.
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