Izamal, Mexico

The Holy, Yellow and Beautiful Mexican City

gold on blue
Carriages in Itzamna Park with dusk taking over Izamal.
Gold on blue II
Carriage drivers converse in the Itzamná Park, with the twilight taking hold of Izamal.
the park life
Cyclist walks around Parque Itzamna, one of the city's many green squares.
May there be Sun II
Workers carry out a Sol beer distribution on the corner of Calle 31 and 28A.
may there be sun
Francisco displays a bottle of Sol, the Mexican beer he used to stock his grocery store on the corner of Calle 31 and 28A.
equine fashion
One of the horses that pull the streets in which they lead visitors through Izamal.
yellowish Catholicism
The entrance to the church of the Purísima Concepción stands out among the arcades of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua.
Pedestrians cross the threshold of the atrium of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua
Statue of Pope John Paul II
a shortcut
Pedestrians cross the threshold of the atrium of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua, the great Catholic temple in Izamal.
high pontiff
Statue of Pope John Paul II, next to the entrance to the church of Nª Purísima Concepción. John Paul II visited and blessed Izamal in August 1993.
what's left of the past
Group of visitors on the ruin of the old pyramid of Kinich Kakmo, God of the Mayan Sun.
under the arcade
Visitor at the entrance of the church of Purísima Concepción,
a solitary walk
Resident pedals along a street race to arcades, over the sunset.
on the way II
Residents of Izamal descend the ascent ramp to the former convent of San Antonio de Padua.
Mexican flag flutters in the wind, sunset orangeing the sky to the west of the Yucatan.
Until the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, Izamal was a center of worship for the supreme Mayan god Itzamná and Kinich Kakmó, the one of the sun. Gradually, the invaders razed the various pyramids of the natives. In its place, they built a large Franciscan convent and a prolific colonial houses, with the same solar tone in which the now Catholic city shines.

After a day and a half in the north of Yucatan, the cold front that had been chasing and tormenting us breaks down over the peninsula.

We had spent her exploring the surroundings of Mérida, with incursions to several cenotes, the abundant underground lakes in this eastern region of the Mexico.

On the second attempt, the meteorology recomposes itself. Izamal enchants us at once.

When we got there, in the middle of the afternoon, the sun that was blazing the green landscape had softened.

Izamal in Seafood

A street fair full of marquestes (small deals on push carts), more ambitious snack stalls and a picturesque ballet liven up the central square.

Hungry from so long handed over to the pyramids Mayas and stuck on the route that linked them to the city, we began by settling in a dining room under the arcades of the Izamal Yucateca Municipal Market.

Without expecting it, it winds and unfolds there, to the sound of trumpets, guitars, accordions, violins and the shrill voice of the singers on duty.

Calesa pulling horse in Izamal, Mexico

One of the horses that pull the streets in which they lead visitors through Izamal.

A troupe of dancers, dressed in white suits, pants and panamas, they in white flowered dresses, necklaces hanging around their necks and flowers holding their hair, twirl with their arms raised to the sky, to the accelerated and strident rhythm of the music.

From time to time, these protagonists interrupt their exhibition. So, the people of Izamal take over the party. Makes her drag without mercy.

We followed the ballet for a while longer.

Until we realized that the sun had fallen too far from its tropical zenith and we dedicated ourselves to the mission that had taken us there:

Izamal, the village, city of three cultures - Mayan, colonial and the current mestizo -, one of the first to be declared by the Mexican authorities "magic pueblo" of the nation.

The Catholic stronghold above the city

Only the corner of Calle 31A and Calle 30 separated us from the cobbled ramp that led to the former Convent of San Antonio de Padua, sheltered on a green platform above the colonial heart of the city.

We pass by marquesite "The Blessing of Dios” and we inaugurated the ascension. We came across visitors who, oblivious to the popular pandemonium below, completed their religious tours of the temple.

Access ramp to the former convent of San Antonio de Padua, Izamal, Mexico

Residents of Izamal descend the ascent ramp to the former convent of San Antonio de Padua.

The top of the slope reveals the intricate entrance portico, highlighted above the arcades around the complex. We noticed for the first time the predominant yellow that cheered Izamal.

Even if stained by a chaos of products and people walking through it, the Mercado Municipal Izamal Yucateca market was yellow. The ground floor buildings around Parque 5 de Maio, idem.

The entire exterior of the convent was revealed as yellow.

We enter the shadow play created by the impending sunset and cross the portico. On the other side, a lush lawn as wide as some football fields filled the rectangular atrium.

We were in front of one of the oldest convents in the western hemisphere, built in 1561 on the ruins of Pap-hol-chac.

In fact, it was built with the same stones that made up this one of the biggest pyramids in the Yucatan. Soon after the arrival and imposition of the Hispanic conquerors on the Mexican peoples, the destruction of the Mayan temples was systematized.

Arcades of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua in Izamal, Mexico

The entrance to the church of Puríssima Concepción stands out among the arcades of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua.

Diego de Landa and Colonial Destiny

One of the main responsible was the friar Diego de Landa. De Landa landed in Yucatan lands in the same year of 1561, entrusted by the Hispanic Crown to convert the natives.

He conducted the mission almost always by force, with methods, sometimes brutal. It is believed that, among other atrocities, he had 27 codices burned and thousands of idols scattered throughout the Mayan villages destroyed.

Thanks to his intolerance, only three Mayan manuscripts survive, and against the will of the friar, he could not bear the idea of ​​many of the new converts continuing to practice rites of their old religion, fused with the belief and rituals of Catholicism.

The story goes that Landa's proselytism was so cruel that, when it reached the ears of the masters of the Spanish Inquisition, they were shocked and called Landa back to the metropolis. There are still doubts as to the friar's reaction to the abuse he received.

Some historians claim that he regretted it and that he remembered to compensate for his behavior by creating “Yucatan before and after the Conquest”. Others believe that the Inquisition will have forced him to write the book.

In any case, however contradictory it may seem, Landa's written work is, even today, a crucial source of knowledge of the Mayas and its culture.

Much due to its pioneering action, Izamal became an important Catholic pilgrimage pole, instead of Maia.

A Celebrated Papal Visit

A few meters from the entrance to the nave of the church of Purísima Conception, a bronze Pope John Paul II contemplates the horizon from the top of a pedestal that reads: “From Yucatan, Bendigo to Indigenous Hermanos and All Inhabitants of the American Continent."

The crowd that welcomed and praised the supreme pontiff in August 1993 pays him a moving chromatic tribute.

Statue of Pope John Paul II, entrance to the church of Nª Purísima Concepción in Izamal, Mexico

Statue of Pope John Paul II, next to the entrance to the church of Nª Purísima Concepción. John Paul II visited and blessed Izamal in August 1993

Until that time, as is characteristic of Mexican colonial settlements, the houses in the city were painted in pastel tones. Several were already yellow.

But, for more than a millennium that Izamal functioned as a pilgrimage center where the Mayas they worshiped Kinich Kakmo, their sun god.

Well, most of the inhabitants share the same Mayan ancestry and speak, even today, both Mayan and Castilian.

When, in 1993, they were informed that John Paul II would visit Izamal and give Mass there, they immediately agreed on the need to beautify the city.

One of them suggested that they should paint all the buildings, including the convent, in the same color.

The Yellow Expression of Faith

The yellow seemed, to everyone, obvious. Izamal already had the ancient Mayan relationship with the Sun.

The corn that feeds the city and the region is yellow, as is the left half of the flag of the Vatican, the Catholic nation from which the Pope would come to bless them and secure them with a statue of the Virgin Mary with a silver crown.

We go around the atrium by the extension of its arcades. Until we come to a new ramp and the northwest exit from the complex.

This too led to a park, the Itzamná, like the city, named in honor of the supreme god Maya, the ruler of the skies, day and night.

Arcades of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua, Izamal, Mexico

Pedestrians cross the threshold of the atrium of the former convent of San Antonio de Padua, the great Catholic temple of Izamal

We went down the ramp. Back in the lower and mundane plane of the city, we are faced with a square of carriages parked there to provide walks through the city's alleys.

We deny the insistent proposals of the owners and continue in a pedestrian exploration mode.

On the other side of the Convento de Santo António

With the party still concentrating the attention and entertainment in Parque 5 de Mayo, this face of Izamal remained in a sedating peace.

The chariot drivers conformed to the interregnum and talked calmed by the thalassotherapy of the fountain and the lake in the center of the plaza.

Carts at Itzamna Park in Izamal, Mexico

Cyclist skirts the Itzamna Park, one of the city's many green squares

One or another rare cyclist or motorcyclist skirted the park in front of him.

And a Coca-Cola distribution van, defied the prevailing yellow with the arrogance of its capitalist red.

Without expecting them, despite the almost bloodthirsty chromatic appeal of the truck and the “Enjoy it” highlighted in white on the back, is another drink, 100% Mexican, which ends up attracting us.

SOL beer distribution in Izamal, Mexico

Workers carry out a Sol beer distribution on the corner of Calle 31 and 28A

We crossed the park. Its northwest edge confronts Calles 31A and 28.

There, the owner of the café and grocery store that occupied the middle of the fork would restock the establishment for the days ahead served by a pick-up truck loaded with crates of Sol beer.

A lacy sign announced "The Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages on the Via Publica is prohibited”. Accordingly, little by little, Francisco and some assistants unloaded them into the business where, safe from the capricious agents of the law, they would bring him good profit.

In that peculiar yellow post-colonial setting, the flush displayed a strong advertising photogenic.

With no way of resisting him, we got into a conversation with the group of men and got ready to photograph the scene until the actors were saturated with the intrusion.

Worker displays SOL beer bottle, Izamal, Mexico

Francisco displays a bottle of Sol, the Mexican beer he used to stock his grocery store on the corner of Calle 31 and 28A.

And in Seafood To be continued

The lights of the old lamps come on and announce the entry into the twilight stage. The lighting on the walls and under the arches gave the old convent a holographic look, as if it were, at any moment, levitating to the celestial vault.

Dusk in Itzamna Park, Izamal, Mexico

Carriages in Itzamna Park with dusk taking over Izamal.

We return to the Parque de 5 Mayo.

In those parts, the cowgirl it was over. The ballet was reinforced by dozens of newcomers who were hungry for fun.

We went up the convent ramp one last time to contemplate the surrounding panorama.

In the distance, we saw a small crowd on the 34 meters of what was left of the pyramid Kinich Kakmo, of the Sun god.

Kinich Kakmo's Pyramid in Izamal, Mexico

Group of visitors on the ruin of the old pyramid of Kinich Kakmo, god of the Mayan Sun

The great star was preparing to dive into the depths of mythology and the Earth. It was time for us to retire to the southern nocturnal refuge that had been ours.

Mexican flag at sunset, Izamal, Mexico

Mexican flag flutters in the wind, sunset orangeing the sky to the west of the Yucatan

More information about Izamal on the respective page of UNESCO.

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UNESCO World Heritage
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Correspondence verification
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