We have been here in Merida for a week and are both being reminded daily of yet another of Mark Twain’s witisisms: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts”.
Merida is the gem of Mexico and celebrates both it’s Mayan and Spanish pasts. Nightly in the zocalo (City Plaza) or nearby parks we have seen events put on by the City, music, Mayan dance, even a multimedia theatrical production featuring a conversation between an Indian leader and Francisco Montejo – founder of Merida. Montejo is named after his father who came ashore with Cortez, conquered the Yucatán, but wearied of the place, returned to Spain and left his son to finish the job and found the City. This conversation was held in front of Montejo’s original house, now a museum and approaches 400 years old.
This conversation was a very Yucatecan one and has set a tone for what we are experiencing. The Indian defends the honor of his people and reminds Montejo that everything he is taking was once theirs. Montejo counters that there’s was only a near Stone Age culture and that he is bringing progress and modernization to the place. While each had an ingrained position of righteousness, they both recognized and conceded that together they were creating a new race, a new people who would live in this place. Today many Mayan descendants go to mass on Sunday and still practice ancient rituals at home. The culture over all is a mix of Spanish and Mayan influence and the people here appear to be equally proud of both. This is a peaceful place that conflict built.
So, with that backdrop – let’s talk tourism!
We took a tour of Progresso, on the Gulf of Mexico and directly below New Orleans. To the east is a place called Rio Lagartos (River of Alligators) and while we didn’t get to the river we toured the area. This area is famous for its crystal clear Cenotes, production of pink salt, and FLAMINGOS!
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We swam in clear swimming holes, dipped our feel into a small pool with little fish who help you with your dry skin, waded into pink lakes used in local salt production, and saw out first Coatis.
We’ve also treated ourselves to a night at the Symphony. The Yucatán State Symphony plays regularly at the historic Jose Peon Contreras Teatro. We sat in a second floor box seat that had us hoping our show went better than Abe Lincoln’s. An amazing building of Italian design we enjoyed the local symphony with two visiting trombone soloists, one Canadian, one Bulgarian. Merida is a true international and cosmopolitan experience.