— piste — past and present



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1900-1933


A number of families now living in Piste moved to the village between 1900 and 1933. 24 The general influx began about 1903. Of the people coming before then the May, Mex, and Tun families were still there in 1938. In 1910, when the laborers on the haciendas were declared free and could no longer be forced to work because of their debts to the landlords, many more families came to live in Piste. In this same year the whole neighboring settlement from Choch, which consisted chiefly of branches of the Mex family, moved within its boundaries. Incidentally, these Mex families return each year to Choch to prepare and work their cornfields.

As early as 1900 solicitations had been made throughout Yucatan to obtain funds for rebuilding the Piste church, a task completed in 1909. The church, formerly built facing west with the altar at the opposite end, was remodeled from the former sacristy so that it faced north and was considerably smaller than the original edifice. 25

In 1918 a census of Piste was taken by the government. The names of the school children in 1918 are those of the men now occupying positions of authority in the town. Of the 472 persons, classified under 85 heads of families, who were listed in this 1918 census, 26 percent had Spanish names. All the rest had Maya names. (For their names, relationships, and present location, see Appendix II, “A List of the Inhabitants of Piste in 1937 Showing Family Relationships,” on file in the Division of Historical Research.)

The political unrest in Mexico between 1910 and 1915 made itself actively felt in Piste about 1916, when Felipe Carrillo Puerto became leader of the Socialist party. In 1918 the President of the Municipality of Tinum came to Piste to organize the Liberal party as opponents of the more radical Socialists. In the words of two of Piste’s natives; “Senors Juan Aguilar and Antonio Martin were elected, the former as propagandist of the party and the latter as president of the Revolutionary Committee. It was then that the two parties began to fight.” 26 The residents were almost equally divided between the two groups and the town officials were determined by which political party was the stronger.

Perhaps the most serious effect of this revolution on Piste was the abandonment of the town by so many of its older inhabitants. Of the 472 people listed in the 1918 census, 258 (or 55 percent of its population) moved away. These individuals represented 49 of the original 85 families, or 58 percent of the total number of families living there in 1918. (The number of families and individuals living in Piste in 1918 and the locality to which they later migrated are to be found in Appendix III.) 24

During this time six people were killed, not necessarily due to the revolution but because law and order were at low ebb and old feuds were pursued. In addition, several houses were burned and cattle and property were stolen.

In 1922 a new road between Dzitas and Chichen Itza was begun under the administration of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. For many years an unopened trail and later no better than a rocky cart road, the new highway gave Piste, for the first time, free access to the railway.

Two years later Carnegie Institution rented the hacienda at Chichen Itza as headquarters for its archaeological and other investigations. During the eight-year period between 1927 and 1934, when excavation and repair work were at their height, the Institution employed per season as many as 50 Indian and Yucatecan laborers, mostly from Piste. The Mexican Government also engaged many Piste men in its restorations at Chichen Itza. The large amounts of money paid in wages, most of which was probably spent in Piste, did not materially change the mores of the community. People continued to cultivate their cornfields and to eat the same kind of food as they had before. A few effects, however, were noticeable. The number of horses probably increased in that period, or rather, they conspicuously decreased after the Institution activity ceased. It is possible also that more Maya women wore gold chains, although no actual count was made. No automobiles or house luxuries were purchased, nor was extra food for the table observed, and I believe that by 1938 the temporary effects of the money influx were completely obliterated.






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