Posted on 7/2/2012 7:09 AM by Grace Jeffers

Stone dominates Spanish Colonial architecture; in the Mexican city of Merida, as well as in the surrounding towns, walls, floors and columns are most commonly made out of a distinctive type of stone, one that features small shells. The entire Yucatan Peninsula is famously made of limestone that has been eroded by rainwater over the centuries and created the cenotes for which the region is famous. There are three types of local limestone: Conchuela (also known as coquina), Macedonia and Ticul. Conchuela is the softest and most porous. It resembles white marble and is best used in architecture for sculptural details. Coquina is Spanish for “cockle shell” or “tiny shell”. Macedonia is also white but is quite a bit denser and harder. Ticul is orange or reddish, is quite dense and polishes nicely, which makes it more appropriate for kitchen and bathroom applications.

On the outskirts of Merida lies the little pueblo of Dzitya, which for generations has been home to some of the premiere stone carvers in Mexico.

 

Evidence of the stone carving trade can be found in the names of towns throughout the Merida province, such as Tunich and Xcanatun; in the Yucatanec Mayan language, tun means “stone”. In Dzitya, the largest stone carving company (and the small town’s largest employer) is Macedonia Maya Marmol, but there are also smaller independent carving operations. The streets of Dzitya are literally lined with piles of stone, and everything—buildings, bushes, animals, people-- is coated with fine white stone dust. 

The time to visit Dzitya is in July, when the pueblo hosts the annual Tunich Municipal Handicraft Fair and the town is inundated by tens of thousands of visitors who come to see not only the stonework, but also embroidery, saddle making and other crafts of local Merida artisans.

Mexican limestone is inexpensive and beautiful, but not always easy to find in the US—all the more reason to take a trip to the Yucatan and experience these amazing native stones for yourself!