This is our modest rental home in Merida, Mexico.
Our huge Roman Bath on the rooftop deck. You could fit 15 people into it.
The house has everything we really need, accept for the uninvited guests – mosquitoes! The little buggers get in everywhere and they are so tiny you can barely see them. (There is no need to seal doors and windows in tropical countries to keep out the cold.) You don’t feel the sting of these mosquitoes until some time later when you start scratching and look down to see a big red welt. They seem to itch more and longer (days) than our mosquitoes in Canada. And what the heck type of mosquitoes bite the bottom of your foot?! We brought along a bottle of Citronella but the mozzies snuffed their noses and laughed at that. It is worst of all at night, while sleeping. They somehow get under the covers and bite you here and there. Someone told us that the smell of an agave cactus would repel them; that’s the cactus they make tequila from. Hmmm… I wonder…
Yesterday morning we went to the Centro Park Mercado (Merida food market). It’s a huge market covering 2 square blocks downtown and spilling into the neighboring streets. Packed with people, it was sweaty, noisy and dirty, an assault on all the senses. Others might think it was lively and fun, but we couldn’t leave fast enough. With a large selection of local fresh fruits and vegetables, some street food, and pots and pans, we didn’t see a lot more. We did buy a bunch of excellent radishes and delicate butter lettuce, all with roots still on. There were no local artisan crafts. Everyone was pushing and shoving to get by on the filthy crowded streets and inside in aisles as well. No one there was happy; no one was smiling.
A strange fruit at the market…
Fresh cabbage, shredded and out in the open air on the grimy street….
We did enjoy the little band outside… at least they were smiling… mostly…
But we would not be going back to the Merida Centro Food Market again.
We wandered away from the clammer and chaos till we came to some quieter streets.
T was desperate for a Cerbeza (beer), but there was not a bar or restaurant in sight. I was starving and looking for food. Some of the street food looked extremely tempting but my bout of Traveller’s Tummy after eating the traditional Cochinita shortly after we arrived had taught me caution. Finally, desperate, I bought a bag of pumpkin seeds from a lady on the street. She doused them with hot chili powder and lime juice. Delicioso. Then I was thirsty and when I saw mangoes on a stick, peeled and scored, juicy pink fruit calling my name, out in the open, un-covered, I couldn’t resist. Best mango I have ever eaten!
By accident, we found the beautiful Grande Plaza Park, a large park in the centre of the historic district and surrounded by the Governer’s Palace, a museum, City Hall, Casa Montejo, the MACAY museum, and the Olimpo (gallery, movie theatre and Planetarium) and the 450-year-old Church of Alfonso (Catedral San Idelfonso), circa 1560.
A well-dressed gentleman approached us as we looked up admiring the ancient church. He told us about the history of the church and said he worked at the University Anthropology Dept. We wondered if he was going to try to sell us something. It seems that the art of the Meridian sale is a little different. Someone will make a friendly remark or ask if you need help finding something, then after chatting you up, they start to try to sell you something. He explained that he is only at the Plaza for 3 days during Fiesta to promote tourism and education, and that we should stay for the band and traditional dancing at 8:30 pm. Since it was only 3 pm, and we had been wandering around for 5 hours already, we were ready to go home.
We sat on a park bench and admired the beautiful big trees and relaxing atmosphere, about to take a $2 taxi home.
Another day when we went back to the Plaza Grande for a Festival, there was a big protest march down the street. People were protesting against the police after 20 university students disappeared. They believe the police killed them. After the march, there was a rally and call to arms, so to speak, with a guy on a loudspeaker, trying to drown out the music and dancing for Festival.
As we sat on the park bench, a Mayan man walked by, paused, looked at me, and said,
“You shouldn’t wear that kind of hat (fedora) – you look like a tourist! Here we wear Panama Hats.” And of course, we started to chat about hats and travel and family. He said I looked Mexican, but the gringo with me – no.
He teased T, and wanted a photo with him. After about 15 minutes of cheerful chat, the sales pitch began. That’s the Yucatan Sales Dance. They chat you up for a long time first. Alfonso could get T a discount on the amazing Guayabera Shirts, the white shirts that every Mexican wears, and that are hand-made here of the highest quality cotton. He insists we go to the store across the street with him where he will get us a 35% discount. You should have one, he says to T. I am too tired to move and say so. Ernesto continues to implore us to come just across the street. Finally, I say to T, “You go.” And he gives me “the look” that says, “Thanks for selling me out and sending me to the wolves.”
Once inside, T said there was pandemonium in the store. It was packed with tourists, and people were standing in slow line-ups, but T was treated like a VIP going to the front of the line, given a little tour and history of the shirts, and finally straight to a dressing room to try on shirts, while the touristos in the line-ups either glared at him or looked confused. T thinks he isn’t very good at bargaining but he did well, bringing them down from $80 to $50. The problem is that he doesn’t like that style of shirt or that colour.
Another 500 pesos ($50)… down the tube.