The Caste War of Yucatán (1847–1915) began with the revolt of Native Maya people of the Yucatán Peninsula against Hispanic populations, called Yucatecos. The latter had long held political and economic control of the region. A lengthy war ensued between the Yucateco forces in the northwest of the Yucatán and the independent Maya in the southeast.

Quick facts: Caste War of Yucatán, Date, Location, Result,...
Caste War of Yucatán
Part of the Mexican Indian Wars

Mayan territory, circa 1870.
Date1847–1915 (skirmishes continued until 1933)
Location
Result

1847–1883: Mayan victory

  • State of Chan Santa Cruz established.

1884–1915: Mexican-Guatemalan-Belizean victory

  • Mexico, Guatemala and Belize recapture the Yucatan.
Belligerents

Mayan State of Chan Santa Cruz

Mexico
Republic of Yucatan (1847–1848)
 Guatemala
 United Kingdom

Casualties and losses
300,000 dead[1]
Close

The Caste War must be understood within the economic and political context of Late Colonial and post-Independence Yucatán.[2] By the end of the eighteenth century, Yucatán's population had expanded considerably, and white and mestizo Mexicans migrated to rural towns. Economic opportunities, primarily henequen and sugar cane production, attracted investment and the encroachment of indigenous customary lands in the south and east of the peninsula. Shortly after the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, the Yucatecan congress passed a series of laws that facilitated and encouraged this process. By the 1840s, land alienation had increased precipitously, forcing much of the Maya peasantry to work as indebted laborers on large estates (haciendas). This had a dramatic effect on the Maya and precipitated the war.[3]

In the 1850s, the United Kingdom recognized the Maya state because of the value of its trading with British Honduras (present-day Belize) and provided arms to the rebels at the beginning of the insurgency.[4] By 1867, the Maya occupied parts of the western part of the Yucatán, including the District of Petén, where the Xloschá and Macanché tribes, were allied with them. Growing investment in Mexico resulted in a change in United Kingdom policy, and in 1893 it signed a new treaty with the Mexican government, recognizing its control of all of the Yucatán, formalizing the border with British Honduras, and closing its colony to trade with Chan Santa Cruz, the capital of the Maya.

The war unofficially ended in 1901 when the Mexican army occupied Chan Santa Cruz and subdued neighboring areas. Another formal end was made in 1915 when Mexican forces led by Salvador Alvarado were sent to subdue the territory. Alvarado introduced reforms from the Mexican Revolution that ended some of the grievances. Skirmishes with small settlements that rejected Mexican control continued until 1933.

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