Merida Weekend

On the weekends in Merida there is quite a bit to do. First, though, we had to walk for a few kilometers in the heat to see a doctor about my swollen hand, received when some malicious insect stung me at the Labna ruin site; it had hurt like hell on that day, and, when we got home and I put on my glasses, I realised that a stinger had been left behind in my palm. Then my palm started to swell and, as the next day progressed, the swelling started to extend down my arm – time to get a remedy! The doctor, a kindly pediatrician who drove down to the clinic to see me, gave me a prescription for some topical and oral steroids and assured me that nothing in the Yucatan is poisonous … good to know. Today, three days later, my hand is back to normal.

Since we were near the Centennial Park, and its zoo, we decided to visit the animals. Although neither Ty nor I like zoos, this one had received some good reviews on the net.

Unfortunately, these reviews weren’t really justified, since most of the animals are in small pens or tiny metal cages that are, in the case of the large cats and hippos certainly, way too small for them.

I was surprised to see so many big cats here; the zoo has lions (with two new small cubs), leopards, tigers, panthers, and some other small cat species, as well as a couple of hippos, and lots of varieties of deer.

Two of the younger cats, a black panther and a leopard, were playing with one another, while many of the other big cats were pacing neurotically up and down in their tiny spaces, or lying listlessly on the ground in the heat.

The zoo also has a snake display, a couple of crocodiles, quite a lot of turtles, monkeys, baboons, two chimps, and a fairly large aviary, with several peacocks.

All the food stands are designed in the shape of architectural structures from around the world – tee-pees, igloos, a castle, a Greek temple, and a mosque, among them.

We were the only tourists there; the place was busy with local families and their kids, all out enjoying the park.

From Thursday to Sunday downtown Merida is closed to cars,

and hosts music and dancing in the squares and on the streets.

At night, the colonial buildings gracing the downtown main square are lit up beautifully.

This past weekend we saw three descendants of the ancient Maya protesting Mayan treatment by the Catholic church in front of the Cathedral of San Idelfonso. While I was busy photographing the buildings, a hard looking working girl sidled up to Ty and tried to get his attention without any success.

On Sunday, from some local antique dealers whose wares were set up in the Santa Lucia Park, I purchased a tin ex-voto painting from 1951 illustrating a promise to St. Teresa to quit smoking from a selection of several such works on sale. Although there are lots of souvenirs and “mayan” handicrafts for sale here, it’s not that easy to get something authentic. My painting is the middle one in the picture below.

We’ve got two more days in Merida and then we’re off on the big bus to Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya; both of us are looking forward to being back on the beach!

See more pics here and here.

Merida en Domingo

It is often hard to tell what’s behind the old walls here in the colonial town of Merida – could be a fabulous mansion, a car garage, a building supplies store, or a parking lot. And many of the houses in Centro are abandoned, decrepit, and falling down, perhaps waiting to be reclaimed.

Wanting to experience Merida en Domingo, the pedestrian friendly market and manifestation day in the historical centre of Merida, Ty and I jumped on one of the local buses down 61st.

After being dropped downtown, we waited while all the vendors set up their booths in the park.

Below is the Casa de Montejo, the house of the first governor of Merida, built in the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors.

Merida en Domingo sees all the local women out in their Yucatecan garb, illustrated in the photo below – very colourful, with floral patterns and lace.

Since the day was a bit overcast, it wasn’t as blazing hot as it otherwise might have been – only 40 rather than 45 degrees …

After having indulged ourselves in a couple of somewhat mediocre tortas, drawn by the outdoor sculpture display, we decided to check out the Macay Gallery, Merida’s modern and contemporary art gallery, featuring work by contemporary Yucatecan artists, none of whom I was familiar with.

The gallery is housed in a beautiful colonial building, with a sculpture courtyard in its centre.

We saw some interesting acrylic on paper works by a German artist depicting his vists to North Africa.

Some of the art pieces on permanent display were vaguely reminiscent of West Coast First Nations artists,

while others could have illustrated a science fiction novel.

I quite liked the work of the artist below, especially this mobile of tiny ceramic figures.

For Merida en Domingo, the streets downtown are blocked to traffic and people are encouraged to cycle; the family below took advantage of the opportunity to pile all five of them on a single stretch bike.

All that art viewing in the heat makes for a very thirsty couple of Canadians; naturally we had to stop for a cervesa or two.

After watching locals dance to Yucatecan trova music performed by an excellent one man band in the Santa Ana park, we finished off our Sunday enjoying the spectacle of Merida’s well-known troupe perform folkloric dances in the Zocalo.

Amazingly, even in the 40 degree heat, these folks looked cool and dry … unlike us.

See more pics here.