Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Sisal or sisal hemp, also known as henequin, is a Mexican or West Indian plant with large fleshy leaves yielding a stiff fiber used in rope (see agave) or the plant fibers themselves.

This plant has two species, Agave fourcroyoides and Agave sisalana. It is a relative of the century plant.

The majority of the rope made in the 19th century and the start of the 20th century was made from this plant. During this time period the majority of the world's sisal crop was grown in the Yucatán region of Mexico.

Sisal, Yucatán

The name of the plant and material come from the seaport town of Sisal, Yucatán which was the principle port of Yucatán during the henequin boom until the more modern port of Progreso, Yucatán was built to the east.

The town of Sisal is about 53 km north north-west of Mérida, Yucatán. By law when the Yucatán was part of New Spain, all commerce went through the port of Campeche. The residents of Mérida, petititioned 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 of the peninsula's earlier chief port, Campeche. After the development of Progreso, Sisal's importance declined and today is a small fishing village, visited by some for its beach.

Do not confuse with SISAL, which is the "Streams and Iteration in a Single Assignment Language" and is not useful in making rope.