At the turn of the 20th century, Progreso’s two-kilometer-long (1.25 mile) pier was the longest stone wharf in the world. It had to be—the Yucatán Peninsula sits on a long limestone shelf that drops ever so gradually into the Gulf, making this and most of its bays extremely shallow. In fact, some scientists conjecture that at one time Yucatán, Cuba, and Florida were all one long extension of land.
Despite the length of Progreso’s pier, it sat in only six meters (19.7 feet) of water, which proved insufficient for larger container ships. The activity on the pier declined greatly after an alternative one was built in 1968 in the Yucalpetén harbor, six kilometers (3.7 miles) west of town.
Progreso’s pier continued to receive ships—mostly cruise ships and those that came to pick up exports such as honey, cement, fish, salt, and steel. In an effort to accommodate them and to attract more, the pier was extended and now stretches 4.3 kilometers (2.6 miles) into the Gulf.
There’s a fleet of trucks and buses to ferry cruise-shippers and cargo back-and-forth. Tourists used to be able to walk or take a ride to the end of the pier, but that has been halted for security reasons.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition