Mexico's henequen industry may see second swell following

In southeastern Mexico, one plant stands out above the rest. Made from agave, 'henequen' was once a widespread industrial fabric, until plastics and other synthetic textiles took over.

But this renewable material might be about to make a comeback, thanks to international interest from Asia. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock got his hands dirty in bringing back this report.

Watch the original story on CGTN America

The Yucatan in southeastern Mexico was a region that grew rich on Henequen.

A versatile agave plant, it once accounted for 90 percent of all the rope and burlap sacks used in the world.

But after the introduction of plastic and synthetic fibers in the 1950s the bottom fell out of the market.

Raul Espinoza is the latest in a long line of ‘hacendado’ henequen producers, and still produces the fabric for a hobby.

“This plant is very noble, and reflects the attitude of the inhabitants of these lands,” he told CGTN. “It grows in very tough conditions, is beautiful, but is very hard work to produce. It is very spiky and one can do a great deal of damage without the proper experience.”

Despite the fall in the market’s value, help may be at hand, in the form of overseas markets.

China in particular has expressed interest in importing and investing in the state’s dormant industry, according to the state’s Rural Development Ministry.

“China has certainly expressed an interest, and we have received a number of visits from businessmen looking to import and invest in our state’s product,” Luis Novelo, the ministry’s director, said.

“Our government has worked to subsidize henequen production, and thirteen thousand hectares are given over to it. Yucatan is ready to provide for any demand.”

Henequen is a versatile, strong and eco-friendly product, and as foreign demand grows, many here are hoping that a second golden era for Yucatan is just around the corner.