Merida has been lovely in all ways. We came, we wandered, we browsed, we bartered. The people are friendly and the Yucateca food is tasty. When we weren’t working, we explored, mostly. Up and down the old, stone streets, on the narrow sidewalks, barely enough room at times for both of us to walk side by side!
It is an easy city to get lost in. Not in the directional sense (all the streets being numbered numerically) but certainly the mind drifts as the sun rises high above the brightly-painted walls, the muffled sounds of people within their courtyards barely drifting over the edges. Sometimes we simply sat in the zocalo, (the square), the city’s heart, to watch the shoe shine men and the marquesita vendors, the boys and girls flirting and playing, and the Mayan mothers walking with their babies strapped to their backs with glittering cloth, their arms raised up to tempt tourists with fluttering scarves and shirts.
Many mornings and evenings we simply walked until we were hungry or tired. We chose a balcony table atMr. Banderas one night, overlooking the zocalo so we could see the cathedral rising behind us, a beautiful palace of lights. The clatter of hooves echoed up from the streets as horse-driven carriages rolled past, festooned with lights and bright flowers.
We went twice to see Laura in her shop near the Governor’s Palace, to look through her bright collection of camisas, the shirts she sells in a variety of fabrics. Her family is from San Cristobal de las Casas, (where we will go in few weeks) and she has lived in Merida for several years, now. I met Laura in October, when we first came to Merida, and have craved her shirts since.
At the Mayan Collectivo on Calle 59 we bought aguayabera, a traditional Mexican dress shirt, for Tor in navy blue. They are very similar to the Filipino barong, the button-down shirts for men with the elegant panels of fabric down each side. Jose assisted us with easy charm, chatting about everything from the best guayabera fabric to the glories of Mayan history and their belief in the “fertility” of the world as a whole entity, not just in regards to human reproduction. We discussed for some time the true meaning of the ancient Mayan prophecies of 2012, which are often grossly misinterpreted by the world’s population, at large. “It’s not the end,” he kept saying, shaking his head as he gestured towards the indigenous murals running along the top of the collectivo’s walls, “That’s not at all what the ancients meant. It’s a new beginning.”
At the collectivo’s cash register we puzzled over a small collection of “bejeweled bugs” housed in a glass tank. Jose encouraged us to take them out and let them walk on our hands and shoulders, which we did. To be clear, they werealive and were beetle-like insects embedded with gemstones and tiny gold chains. Apparently a high-fashion novelty.
On Christmas day, we ate a delicious complimentary buffet brunch at the hotel – coffee, scrambled eggs, enchiladas suizas and salsa fresca paired with fresh melon, papaya, mango and sweetbreads. By 11 AM, the vendors at the plaza were fanning themselves in their booths around the perimeter, selling everything from clothes and jewelry to miniature instruments. We snacked on a paper bag of fried plantains as we ambled down the side streets running parallel to Calle 60 (the “main” drag) and marveled at a man carrying a gigantic metal pan of emapanadas on his head as he walked briskly down the street, not one single pastry slipping or sliding.
Yesterday, we stopped in for a late lunch at a cafe near the cathedral and had baguettes in the shade of the arches, with a good view of the plaza across the way. The increasing heat of midday was hovering like an invisible bubble, so we ate quickly and headed home to relax in the cool shade of our room, angling the slatted windows so that we could look out at the tangled green of the trees, but not be seen by passersby. A good way to nap!
Tomorrow, we leave for Campeche, to celebrate the new year in a city by the sea. Campeche is said to have beautiful architecture and is also surrounded by walls, including seven baluartes, or fortresses that date back to the 1680’s, built to protect the city from pirate attacks (argh!), which we are of course,extremely keen to see.
Happy Holiday wishes to all! And may you also, be surrounded by true peace, love and joy.
For more glimpses of Merida, see: Vida la Vida, Bailar & A Morning in Merida.