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More about Cancun

Cancún, a beautiful resort community along the northern coast of Quintana Roo, has become one of Mexico’s most important tourist destinations. Few roads traverse the state, and the only major highway connects Cancún and Mérida, the capital of neighboring Yucatán. Cancún boasts one of Mexico’s most attractive international airports. Quintana Roo also attracts numerous tourists to its archaeological sites. One of these, Tulum National Park, features the ruins of the Maya city of Tulum at a spectacular cliff-side setting overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Skin divers and snorkelers are attracted to the waters in this region, which includes Cozumel Island and the extraordinary lagoons of Xel-Há, where dozens of colorful species of fish can be observed. Other than tourism, the state’s primary economic activity is the production of lumber and other forest products, especially mahogany.

Spanish explorers made their first landing in what would become Mexico in 1517 at Cape Catoche, at the northern end of modern-day Quintana Roo. During the mid-1800s, the Yucatán Peninsula was the site of a major Maya rebellion against Mexicans of Spanish heritage. This struggle, known as the Caste War of the Yucatán, began in 1847 and was an effort to end the exploitation of the Maya and stop nonnatives from taking over communal Maya lands. The rebellion was largely defeated by 1853 but many Maya fled across the Yucatán Peninsula into remote regions of what is now Quintana Roo, where they continued the rebellion and ran an independent Maya state until they were defeated by Mexican troops in 1901. Quintana Roo became a federal territory in 1902 but did not achieve statehood until 1974.

The rapid expansion of the tourist destination of Cancún, in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, also has stimulated the tourist industry in Yucatán, and visitors can fly direct to the international airport in Mérida. Until the early 1900s, the state’s economy had depended heavily on the cultivation of henequén, a plant whose fiber is used to make rope. Since then, the state has diversified its economy, which now revolves around tourism, light manufacturing, and agricultural products such as cattle, poultry, and honey. Fishing is also significant, and the state has a number of facilities for processing fish and shellfish.

Three of Mexico’s most renowned archaeological sites—Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and the ruins at Dzibilchaltún National Park—are located within the state’s boundaries. Maya culture continues to play a significant role in Yucatán and the state retains the highest percentage of residents who speak an indigenous language (44 percent in 1990), six times the national average.

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