Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting in the Yucatecan groove

I don’t think I’ve ever wrote this on my blog but it is one of my traveler truisms: The more I see the world, the more I realize that the world is normal and the US is not. While we in the US speed up with advanced gadgets and technology, we seem to have forgotten the simple things in life. The rest of the world moves at a more normal human pace, yet we speed along and expect everyone else to follow along with us. And when they don’t, we yell and scream, beating our chests with superiority, looking down our noses in contempt. This is not the way to go about the world, no we need to let go of our Americaness and embrace wherever we are. Such is the case with Mexico. I feel sorry that such a warm, vibrant culture is getting so misaligned in the US press causing fear and trepidation about travel to our neighbor to the south.
Well all of that was far from my mind as I explored the sites of Merida and beyond. The sun’s heat begins early this time of year in Merida so people are up early getting as much done before the full intensity of the sun hits mid-day. The bustling pace quiets a bit until about 3 then picks up again until late into the evening. Merida is a cultural gem and there’s so much to see. I didn’t rush to see everything for I wanted to save some things for future visits. Brooks and I spent our first morning shopping at the market, a huge complex of stalls seeling everything you need: fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, shoes,
meat, seafood, chickens, backpacks, souvenirs and so on. This is where the everyday bustle of life goes on and where to see the locals in action. Afterwards I went to the city museum to get some “kul-chah” while Brooks went home to work. I meandered through the museum and then on through the small calles to the Zocalo, snapping pictures along the way, stopping in to see the main cathedral (built by the Spanish on the spot of an ancient Mayan pyramid, built with the stones from this pyramid—talk about recycling) and giant murals in the municipal building. The intense heat kept us inside after lunch, so I siestaed in my cool room in Brooks’ beautiful colonial casa. Brooks has a great little house in the center of town designed around a central courtyard, streaming in light yet keeping out most of the heat. Its best feature is the old floor tiles, done in an Art Nouveau/Deco style. Geometric patterns framed by a repeat of a poppy, a floral design in browns and blues. Tiled versions of oriental rugs. Many of the older places still have these floors—probably a selling point to the many Americans looking at property down here.
Brooks, being the food lover like me, had a list of Yucatecan dishes to try and where to sample them. As the intense sun made its way into sunset, we made our way out into town to try some of the local fare. I grew up on Mexican food and here on the peninsula the food has a different flavor. Habaneros are used a lot but also sour oranges and limes to flavor the food. Being close to the water, seafood is eaten a lot. Turkey is too. Poc Chuc, Relleno Negro, Panuchos and Sabultes, Pibil, Sopa de Lima, Papadzules—so many new things to try, and so many good restaurants to try them in. What I like about Merida is that you can try these dishes in little cafes or fancy restaurants and either way they’re both great. Washed down with a local beer and you’re good to go. Even the street food is good—Elotes (corn with cheese, cream and a spicy lime sauce) and Marquesitas-crepes with cheese or Nutella. It’s all good and safe to eat.
After our dinner we headed to Santa Lucia square for the Serenade, a Thursday night free concert. Instead of being couped up at home watching TV, the locals come out to hear music from local musicians and singers and see dancing groups as well. It’s a wonderful night of culture that’s been going on for over 30 years. The square was full of both young and old, foreigner and local, everyone there to enjoy a night of music and dance. I was most impressed by the women’s costumes of the Yucatecan Ballet Folklorico. White wipas embroidered with colorful flowers and their hair all in a bun and abloom with more flowers and bows. An inspiration for collage, I went back stage after the show to snap a few of the girls dresses and heads. Fortunately they didn’t seem to mind and posed happily.
As the streets quieted, we walked home, stopping at the Café Impala for a late night mango frappe. A perfect end to a perfect first day. Tomorrow is an early day for me as I decided to rent a car for a few days and tool around looking at the ancient Mayan cities. Next stop-Chichen Itza!

No comments: