Given the many famous stone structures Mayan people built in the Yucatán Peninsula, one might think that every modern-day city in the region would have some ruins of its own. But not every ancient Mayan structure was built with permanent materials; wooden constructions dating to the culture’s apogee have mostly disappeared. This was the case with Siyan Kan Bak’Jalal, the Uaymil chiefdom that the Spanish conquered and renamed Bacalar.
Recognizing the strategic importance of the Bacalar Lagoon and its “Pirates’ Channel,” colonial authorities had a major stone fort built on the shore. Still standing, this is the fort of San Felipe Bacalar, finished in 1733. Practically all other colonial buildings were demolished. Only one from the 19th century still stands today. Although it was rebuilt once by the state government, the historic building is now known as the Bacalar House of Culture of Bacalar.
The house is likely the only example of a colonial Spanish residence in Bacalar, with its arched hallways surrounding an interior patio and decorated windows on the outer walls. The rest of the city’s buildings follow more pragmatic 20th and 21st-century styles. This House of Culture isn’t just a “house” though, and its robust cultural offerings include a number of courses for people of all ages in subjects such as painting, writing, English, and dance.