There are many species which belong to the same genus as the well-known, decorative century plant. Many of these species are found in Mexico. Enrique Manero writes of one of them, the Mexican henequen, botanically known as Agave fourcroydes (Family: Amaryllidaceae). Henequen is a wild plant uniquely adapted to the Yucatan Peninsula. Manero examines the question of its origin and traces its use from the time of Columbus to the present. For at least four and a half centuries the plant, more commonly called sisal in the United States, has been grown and harvested in Yucatan for use in the manufacture of rope, twine, and coarse bagging materials.
Manero presents facts to explain the decline in the production of henequen in Yucatan: low wages, commercial monopoly, poor management, lack of government support, synthetic fibres, and competition from other countries. The author insists that simultaneous attention and development in five areas (agricultural, industrial, commercial, labor, and economic) are required if production of henequen is to have a future in the economy of Yucatan. The final chapter discusses equipment which has been used through the centuries to extract the fibre from the henequen leaves.
Although this is an interesting compilation of information about the production and use of henequen in Yucatan, each of the five chapters essentially stands alone, leaving this reader with the impression of a disjointed treatise.