Coming from the Caribbean Sea, the cold front that had visited that strange Mexican bulge was beginning to give way.
The owner of a souvenirs shop located in the Plaza Grande knew well that, when the sun began to peek through patches of azure blue, it would soon claim its tropical domain.
In agreement, not satisfied with some signs of premature aging of the mariachi doll at the door of his business, he armed himself with small paint cans and brushes and retouched it back to perfection.
Generated and rooted in the Midwest of the country, the tradition of the mariachi doll has little or nothing to do with Mérida or the isolated Yucatan Peninsula in general, apart from, in official terms, we are also in Mexico.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya it is a mere four hours by road.
Most of the gringos who land at their airports and on the lounge chairs of countless resorts do not know enough about Mexico to detect the incongruity.
Few people leave the plastic bathing refinement of Yucatecan Caribbean hotels and resorts determined to reach as far as Merida.
As a rule, the limit of their exploration of the interior of the Yucatan lies in the famous archaeological complex of Chichén Itzá, former political and economic center of the Mayan civilization, one of the various indigenous ethnic groups that make up the Mexican nation.
Like Chichén Itzá, the place where Mérida sprawls today was already an important Mayan city centuries before the arrival of the Spanish conqueror Francisco de Montejo y León (El Mozo) and his men.
The Overlap of the Spanish Conquistadors on the Indigenous People
It was in 1542 that they conquered T'Hó, a village full of pyramids from which the settlers removed the stones carefully carved by the natives and built their own buildings with them.
Some historians consider Mexican Mérida to be the city in the Americas that has been occupied the longest continuously, for many more years than the namesake town in neighboring Venezuela, and there are many more than the Philippines.
Concerned about the frequent revolts of the Mayan Indians, peninsular and mestizo residents kept the walled Mérida of the Yucatan peninsula.
Limestone walls, defenders, and epidemics of smallpox and others brought in from the Old World annihilated the natives' pretensions of reconquest.
Many of the colonial buildings erected until the XNUMXth century remain intact in the historic centre, around the leafy and rectangular park of Plaza Grande.
In rush hour, too infernal for the charm of this cientros deserved it, a traffic full of noisy old Volkswagen Beetles, skirts it.
At the peak of the heat, only a few vehicles travel through it.
The Mayan Presence and Life in the Colonial City of Merida
"Lords, by chance hammocks? “asks a Mayan woman, of very short stature – like almost all of them – who wears a white dress with embroidered borders, in the shade of a centuries-old tree and in the company of some mestizo residents.
We scanned its multicolored pile of tangled hammocks. The product does not seduce us. The seller bets on delaying the sale: "Maybe later?"
Like its Spanish counterparts, Venezuelan and Filipino, this Mérida has a strong Hispanic origins, but after the historic clashes, no other large Mexican city today hosts so many Mayan inhabitants as the capital of the state of Yucatan (about 60% of its population).
It is clear that, as a result of the long supremacy of the colonists, the businesses established in the main buildings of the city are handed over to the criollos (inhabitants already born in Mexico but with Hispanic descent).
Most of the Mayan women are left with a few stalls in the huge local market or patrol the tourist spots of the city with an eye on the authorities who do not always forgive them the fines owed for the illegality of street sales.
The Monumental Town Hall of Mérida and the Unobscured View from its Balconies
These and other laws emanate from the council, installed in another elegant secular building supported by vaulted arcades and from which a supreme clock tower projects.
We step out of the shade of the garden, cross a yellow walkway and climb an interior staircase that reveals several rooms with sumptuous antique decorations.
No one questions our incursion, which is why we only stopped on the parapet of the building's long balcony.
From there, we enjoyed the Plaza de la Independencia (official name of Plaza Grande).
We see it above the roof formed by the crowns of large laurel trees, pierced by the Mexican flag at its centre, by the pediment and towers of the Cathedral and the tops of other buildings almost as lofty.
As we do so, a troupe in artistic robes crosses the same walkway we had crossed and climbs up to the cabildo.
The Meridian Pride of Police Officer J. Mian
Before returning to the earthly reality of the city, police officer J. Mian appears from inside the building with the mission of controlling the legitimacy of the unexpected gathering.
Talk, talk, we ended up including him in our own photo shoot.
The cameras not only don't intimidate or worry him – something rare when it comes to an arm of the law – they also make him visibly proud, posing with his arms behind his back and his features set.
“To see, to see….” he begs us to be able to peek at the small monitor with the avidity of a narcissus in uniform and beside himself. ”Very goodbye, goodbye, i'm the agent Mian. "
Merida's Commercial Bustle and a Providential Gastronomic Center
At a certain point, the sun was at its peak, the heat and humidity intensified and aggravated the resident pollution in the streets clogged by sellers of everything.
We went through a succession of shoe stores and clothing stores, legacies far from the economic bonanza of the 80s and 90s, when countless maquiladoras (textile factories) in the area produced and sold, with huge profits, a panoply of garments.
We walk around several stores full of Chinese trinkets and the façade of Lucas de Galvez Municipal Market.
Afterwards, we went up a staircase and, at the back, we came across an intermediate terrace occupied by the unavoidable eaters (small restaurants) that almost always complement the markets. That's what we were looking for.
In a flash, nine or ten small restaurant owners started a frantic scramble for our attention and Mexican pesos, and forced us to pick the eight or nine we would reject. We didn't have the patience or even the energy to compare menus.
On one of the walls, a panel with a pyramid and other Mayan motifs painted in time-stained kitsch advertised Carmita La Mesticita's business!
That's where we sit, instigated by the softness of the owner's appeal: “Welcome seños. What can they serve?” and savor an invigorating traditional mestizo lunch, while we wait for the heat to kick in.
A taxi driver who makes conversation with us is interested in food and health. He testifies without any fear that traditional Yucatecan meals are halfway to a long life: “as long as you don't eat the crap that the gringos brought here, you have everything to live long and well.
My father is already 90 years old. My mother is 80. And two of my grandparents are alive at over 100.”
You will be quite right.
The Great Cathedral of Mérida and the Mestizo Life of Mérida around
At dusk, we walked towards Praça de Santa Lucia, a stage for musical and dance shows that we didn't want to miss.
On the way, we took a closer look at the Cathedral of Mérida.
To the right of its south door, there is a painting by Tutul Xiú, a Mayan chief allied with Francisco de Montejo. Together, Montejo and Xiú defeated the Cocomes Maya.
Then Xiú converted to Christianity.
His descendants still live in Merida.
On the opposite side of the street, we see another scene worthy of the times of the lords and their vassals, albeit set in our days.
The owner of a small fleet of calluses tourist talks on a cell phone lying on the bench of one of them.
Five drivers and assistants, all alike under cowboy hats, make him an obvious subordinate company sitting in the rest of the seats and around.
They wait for instructions or for passengers who are late in arriving and smile with delight when we are obsessed with the picturesque scene.
We continue to move away from Plaza Grande towards Santa Lucia, among more and more facades of large stately homes adapted to museums, state or private institutions or elegant businesses.
When we arrived, we noticed the laxity of Mexican punctuality.
We see no sign of the show that was supposed to be about to start. A street vendor even installs a snack stand.
Two young brothers hand us handcraft bracelets and spoons. Shortly after, the technicians in charge of tuning the sound and the first fans of the dairy farm Yucateca – that's what the regular exhibition is called – determined to get a front row seat.
After an hour, the audience is composed.
An octogenarian presenter but in great shape appears in typical costume, in a guayabera, white Yucatecan pants and espadrilles.
Inaugurates the show and a series of jokes between each performance that, popularuchas and truly sexist, provoke hysterical laughter among the female audience. "The women are like the yerbabuena. Arriba tienen la yerba and lower la cosa good”…
The Argentine artists with whom we had met in the cabildo and in the streets of the city stand out with great prominence. In between, there is poetry declamation.
Before the closing, there are events that the spectators are more than fed up with watching but that they still prefer.
We get to know the fast-paced and diversified regional folklore of the state of Yucatan, which has come to be called dairy farm yucateca.
Fashion that originated in the popular parties that the great cattle raisers of those parts of the Americas organized, especially before the ironworks of the animals.
A task that involved an enormous effort. He deserved a worthy reward.