Sisal is a seaport town in the municipality of Hunucmá in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. It was the main port of Yucatán during the henequen boom, later overshadowed when the more modern port of Progreso was built to the east. It lent its name to the agave-derived sisal fiber (or hemp) which was shipped through it. In the old days when the hemp was shipped out of Sisal, the packs of the natural fiber were stamped with the word “Sisal” so that port authorities at the country of entry (mainly the US) knew that the merchandize was shipped for this port. However, the name Sisal was used instead to name hemp itself, thus it became Sisal in the US market. In Mexico the fiber is known as henequen, not hemp.
The town is about 53 km north north-west of Mérida, the state capital. By law when the Yucatán was part of New Spain, all commerce went through the port of Campeche. The residents of Mérida petitioned for a port closer to the capital, and this was granted by Spanish royal decree on 13 February 1810. The new port of Sisal was founded in 1811, and has a late colonial era fortress, the “Castle of Sisal”, and an old lighthouse. After Yucatán’s independence from Spain commerce in the port grew rapidly, and by 1845 was shipping cargos with twice the value that had previously gone through Campeche.
After the development of Progreso, Sisal’s importance declined and today is a small fishing village, visited by some for its beach.As of the Mexican census of 2010, Sisal had an official population of 1,837 inhabitants. Currently (Dec 2006) the state government is working to return this port to the splendor of centuries past through the development of projects focused on tourism. The port is planned to grow into a tourist destination as well as shelterport for fishermen.During your visit to Celestun include a stop at Sisal. It is definitely off the beaten path, offering very peaceful beaches, few tourists and the charm you can expect from a small and sleepy town along the Yucatecan coast.