Learn more about Sacalaca and Saban’s churches


sabanpOnly 50 km. away from the municipal seat of José Maria Morelos, you will find Sabán, founded in the eighteenth century as a colonial parcel. His first chief was Martin de Montalvo, who kept it until his death in 1764.

Sabán was a fair-sized settlement. Around 1795 had 300 families of Mayan Indians and seven Hispanic or Creole, for a total of 2.259 habitants. In the early nineteenth century, cultivation of sugar cane was introduced to the town. Before the Independence War, 3.628 people habited the place.

In 1848, the indigenous Maya joined the rebels who began the so-called Caste War (1847-1901). The defense of the village was led by Colonel Juan de la Cruz Salazar, who turned the church into a fortress, keeping inside a large arsenal. Eight months later, in 1853, Sabán was lost and abandoned.

Sabán resumed its population by 1933; with a few families from the neighboring state of Yucatan. Today is the head of the town of the same name. The main economic activity in the community is agricultural and forest.

In a matter of tradition, rituals are still practiced, like the kéx hanal pixan (celebration of the deaths),and ja’anlij ko’ol (celebration of the corn), among others. As for their food, still have varieties that characterize the communities of the Maya region, delicacies such as venison, boar, pheasant, chachalaca, just to mention mayors one.

As for dancing, the mayapax and la jarana are characteristic not only of this community but many others found in the region.

Colonial Churches.- The village church was first built in the eighteenth century, and is dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle. It has two towers with domes, which are topped by two small arches overlapping served as bell towers, accessing to them from the interior, by two spiral staircases, carved in wood.

The portico of the church is a round arch flanked by two carved stone pillars, linked by a cornice. In the gable above the window of the choir, and supported by a small ledge, there is a niche with a beautiful stone carved of St. Peter the Apostle sitting on a throne, as the Pantocrator (Almighty) and facing the cock, one of its traditional symbols. The keys of heaven complemented the iconography.

The facade is topped by a remarkable decorative element, which represents as allegory, the crown of the queen. At the center of it, there is a fine medallion with the Virgin of Candelaria. In the back of the church are the remains of what was an open chapel for Mayan Indians.

The roof of the temple had to be supported by arches, but only one was built. The space of the altar is covered by a single barrel vault.

The work was left unfinished due to the start of the Caste War however it is running until these days.


sacalacapSacalaca, whose Mayan name in Castilian means “place of white grass (sak: white stuff, ak: grass) was a prehispanic settlement belonging to the province Cochuah.

It kept always close social and economic relationship with neighboring towns in the province of Mani. It is located 10 kilometers away from Sabán and 36 kilometer from Tihosuco.

In the sixteenth century, after the Spanish conquest, became part of the parcel of Ichmul. Due to a separation of lineages among the Mayan population, it had two chiefs: Pedro Valencia and Juan de la Cruz. By 1570, Sacalaca had over a thousand habitants, divided between whites and Creoles, as well as the Mayan.

During the nineteenth century, the social division was marked by the economy due to the prosperous farms of the whites who grew sugar cane. Large European-style houses can be seen in the Village, similar to the ones in Tihosuco, Bacalar and Mérida. The Mayan group, rather depleted, served as a pawn to the landowners.

The Caste War began in 1847, caused the destruction and abandonment of the Village, used only as a staging area for both government and the Mayan troops.

Sacalaca is a community that is characterized by its vast natural wealth: cenotes (sinkholes), flora and fauna, as well as cultural, colonial churches and archaeological sites. Like the other communities, Sacalaca has a rich cuisine that is still preserved, which includes traditional dishes prepared from meat of various wild animals like deer, one of the finest, wild boar and pheasant, among others.

Churches. - Sacalaca retains two colonial churches; one of them is the oldest known in the state of Quintana Roo and is located in the center of town because it belonged to the white population. It was devoted to the Virgin Mary in her title of the Assumption of Our Lady.

It was initially an open chapel, with chorus of masonry, which had ornaments and collections for the mass and chalice for worship. Later on was embellished and decorated with three belfries. It has then gabled roof, built with perishable materials. It was provided with sculptures placed in niches painted with eight-pointed stars in red. It also had a stone carved cornices and pilasters of the same material with mermaids and flowers etched.

  Its walls, finely plastered with lime, had also built the figures of Adam and Eve as a representation of original sin.

The church of St. Francis of Assisi was located in the neighborhood of the Indians. It was built without major ornaments but the central niche on the access door. It had a depth and a steeple crown-shaped bell tower that served as its facade. Originally had five bells on the front and its apex had a cross as an ending.

It was flanked by a tower with narrow peepholes, which still remains almost intact. This is the one currently used by the community for their religious practices.

Sacalaca was resettled by 1930, with families from neighboring towns of Yucatan.

Religious holidays are celebrated with banda music and parades dedicated to the Virgin de la Candelaria, Saint Francis of Assisi and the Holy Baby Jesus.