Colonial jewel Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

After having found out, one day before we were due to leave, that our flight from Mexico City to Merida had been cancelled, we decided to reroute ourselves through the Puerto Escondido airport rather than drive all the way back down to Huatulco. Twelve hours and two flights later, we rolled up to the Casa de Cielo Grande in the Merida Centro neighbourhood of Santiago. Here we have a one bedroom casita (small house) at the back of a compound owned by two Canadians originally from Kelowna who enjoy their cervesas and make a mean bean dip.

The compound has a very nice kidney shaped pool and a lovely garden area, as well as five Chihuahua dogs, all of whom came racing and barking out to greet us (and do so every morning when we sit outside for our coffee). The little guy in the picture below next to my feet is very cute and very friendly; he loves his pats.

Who knew that May was the hottest month of the very hot year in Merida? May is just before the rainy season begins, when the temperature can soar upwards to 45 most days.

Afternoons here are blazing hot; about the only sensible thing to do is swim in the pool and lie inside under the air conditioner.

Since arriving Thursday night, we’ve walked down to the Main Plaza a couple of times, visited the Governor’s Palace there to see the wonderful Pacheco murals depicting the results of the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish, the Main Cathedral, and today, the Lucas de Galvez market, the so-called “old market”.

Lo Zocalo, the main plaza, is surrounded on all four sides by beautifully painted colonial buildings and arched arcades. Inside the square locals and the few tourists still about compete for shaded iron benches beneath the Indian Laurel trees, the ones in full sun being way too hot to serve as seats. Shoe shine guys ply their trade and tourist touts driven from Cancun by the lack of tourists try to get people to visit the many shops selling Mayan crafts and souvenirs.

One guy took us to the Mundo Maya, one of the more elaborate set-ups, where upstairs the gallery was illuminated especially for us so that we could see all the jewellery, carvings, and sculptures at their best.

One of the saleswomen showed us “live brooches”, small wood bugs with fake jewels attached to their backs; these are collected as pets.

We managed to escape without buying any of their pricey stock, beautiful though it was. Walking back to the ranch, we stopped in at the small gallery/studio of Juan Pablo Bavio and purchased a signed reproduction of one of his Mayan-motif paintings. I felt a bit bad for him sitting in a screaming hot space with the sound of busy traffic constantly rumbling past his door. Unfortunately, his location is just a bit too far off the square to attract more than a few visitors a day.

The old market is enormous, with many acres of stalls and a dizzying array of stuff for sale,

from thousands of cheap shoes, to baby animals in tiny cages, to fresh fruits and vegetables, to fish, to meat, to you-name-it … We wandered around there for a couple of hours while I looked for some plastic flowers and paper products.

Compared with Puerto Escondido, Merida is an enormous city with the crowded busyness to match. The plaza has changed in feel since we were last here seven years ago; it’s been cleaned up and the buses and combis are no longer allowed in its vicinity, with the result that fewer people are patronising its businesses. But a few blocks away from the zocalo, Mexican life hustles and bustles. Pounding music emanates from every second shop, competing with the jack hammers of construction projects, the traffic, and the shouting of merchants. After a few hours the noise was just too much for me, and, having decided to take the bus back, Ty and I made the mistake of jumping on one heading in the wrong direction, ending up paying our fare to go just three blocks before running to catch one headed the right way.

See more pics here.

 

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