When the big jet lands in Cancun, Mexico you can take a direct air-conditioned bus to Merida and discover for yourself: “The Real Mexico.” Heavily steeped in history, the all White City is both majestic and magical and is laid out as a Colonial city. It is called the White City because so much of the early construction used limestone and they sweep the streets twice daily— making everything shine bright white in the brilliant sunshine. Merida is the capital of the Yucatan state and has a population of nearly a million people.
History of Merida
The Spaniard Francisco de Montejo founded Merida on January 6, 1542. When the Spaniards arrived, Merida was a large Mayan city known as T’ho, situated on what is now the Main Plaza. It was conquered by the Spaniards, who dismantled all the pyramids and used the huge stones as the foundation for the Cathedral of San Idelfonso (1556-1599), the oldest cathedral on the American continent.
A good place to get oriented is at the central square. Pick up some freshly baked bread at the local bakery and head for a park bench in the square. It’s a great way to learn about a city from just people watching in the park.
Over in one corner of the central park are some older men playing a variety of instruments. Cutting through the park are uniformed school children singing and chatting as they hurry about their business. A few x-pats are seated on the park benches taking in the sights. A nun dressed in white finery asked me for a donation. It’s the least you could do is reach in your pocket and give something toward helping the needy. In the distant you could see some elder folks dressed in colorful costumes and just then to remind yourself that you were in a park, a flock of pigeons descended right next to your bench. Maybe it was a sign!
Merida became a very important trading center because of the plant called sisal (for the port city of Sisal). This plant became known as “green gold” or verde oro for the wealth it lavished upon the haciendados or hacienda owners in this area. In the early 20th Century, as a result of the henequenor sisal trade, Merida was the home for numerous millionaires who built their lavish homes on Paseo Montejo, and their impressive haciendas throughout the jungle surrounding Merida.
Steeped in history with the influence of the Conquistadors a walking tour will allow you to witness first hand some of the mansion showplaces along the treed promenade. As you walk down Paseo Montejo you place yourself back in history and have a wonderful experience of viewing some of these magnificent edifices—many of which are completely restored.
Sorrounding the central square you have a choice of many craft shops, restaurants, and different priced lodging for evey price range. No tour of Merida would be complete without visiting the oldest Cathedral in the Americas (The Cathederal of San Delfonso) situated on the East side of the plaza. It demonstrates what excellent craftsmanship, humanity, and devine intervention can do to raise the level of consciousness of an entire community. As a kid might say: “It’s awsome”!
I stayed in a colonial hotel a few blocks from the central square and had a terrific experience as I ate outdoors in a cafe setting and watched a kaleidoscope of people stroll through the streets in a carnival like setting. The restaurant choices were expansive including: fine Mexican food, Italian food and local cusine.
The wealth of Merida was built on the production of sisal-hemp which was used to manufacture all types of ropes and handicrafts and shipped all over the world. At one point Merida had more millionaires than any city in the Americas.
From Merida you can chose to fly to Cuba or bus to almost any destination in the Yucatan Peninsula. Merida is such a wonderful mix of Mexican culture— you could spend a lifetime in a city heavily steeped in culture and history and would still be learning about a warm and friendly city that opens it doors enthusiastically to tourists.
Merida lends itself as a jumping off point for many sidetrips. Within a few hours you can be eating fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, head into one of the many caves or spend the day re-inventing yourself into an Indiana Jones character and explore the many ruins in the nearby area. No trip would be complete without visiting Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins where you can hire a walking native tour guide or explore on your own.
While in Merida I wittnesed a coming out ceremony for a young Mexican girl celebrated at the local church several bocks from the central square. It was explained to me that this very ceremony was one of the most important days in the life of a Mexican Family. You could see the prideofthe hosting family as the beautiful Mexican Girl dressed in a white, handmade intricately woven lace gown, poured into the street and was greeted enthusiastically by the local neighborhood.
Merida has a wonderful climate is very safe and would make a great city for retirement. The cost of living is relatively low and you can still find a fix me upper restoration house for the price of a car. So there you have it! If you want to escape some of the tourist traps and learn about the Real Mexico why not book a trip to the White City of Merida?
QUOTE: “Moderate effort over along time is important, no matter what you are trying to do. One brings failure on oneself by working extremely hard at the beginning, attempting to do too much, and then giving it all up after a short time.”
_____The Dali Lami
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: The Buddha died after eating spoiled meat given to him by a well wisher. The Buddha didn’t say anything to the well wisher so his Karma would’t be effected.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE:The madness of the world! At least the new reincarnates might have a more level playing field.
ZENTRAVLER SAYS: If I am nothing—who am I? “EVERYTHING”!
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone and on and on and on.
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