Two designers creating a roadmap to a simpler more fulfilling lifestyle
Saturday, March 7, 2015
MERIDA - POST #6
THE PEOPLE, THE MARKET AND THE FOOD
The masks of the Mayan culture still persist on the faces of Merida today. The soft amber skin tones with deep dark eyes and hair the color and sheen of crude oil is present on almost every native manning the booths and shops throughout Merida. Their stature is diminutive making it easy to pick out and divide the tourists from the locals. The isolated nature of Merida set in the center of the jungle has kept the native population from intermingling with the broader world and altering their appearance much from their ancestors.
With what appears to be a meager median income the joys of a conventional western life don't seem to hold much importance yet there seems to be a real sense of joy and a strong sense of spirituality.
As you walk the streets any time after the midday sun beginnings its downward arc you can hear music, mostly traditional music and quite frequently the songs and strumming of live musicians pour out from behind the swinging doors of saloons or the cracked shutters of local eateries. There seems to be singing everywhere and singing tends to lead to dancing.
As we drove into the city on our arrival we passed the zoo and there at about four in the afternoon were couples old and young dancing to a company of wind and brass under the shade of Cuban Laurel trees.
Much of the dancing is ceremonial and follows age-old traditional steps called the Jarana performed at special events.
On Sunday afternoons the main square fills with the after church bunch. Around noon the orchestra tunes up and the kids come out to dance and chase local cartoon characters.
Once the dance area is cleared of the children the professionals come out and the folk dancing begins. A troupe of sixteen Mayan men and women preformed the intricate dances of the Jarana. It's a very rhythmic staccato repertoire of dances with almost a tap like quality.
The Movements seem slow and deliberate if you concentrate on the strict postures above the waist but if you let your eye drift to their feet the movements and footwork are incredibly intricate.
The streets of the historic central city are littered with both poverty and color. Vendors under sheltered awnings sell the traditional embroidered cotton dresses, bangles made from collected shells,
and toys and souvenirs for children.
You can get your shoes shined
or just lay down on a bench and take a siesta under the shade trees of the central square.
Not far from the main square is Merida's city market. Outside the streets are bustling with a teaming mix of vendors perched on sidewalks their produce or trinkets spread out before them.
Inside you could get a city's worth of services. There was one entire alley devoted to hair. You could get a cut, a perm or even a dye job. Since everyone has such luxuriously sleek black hair both sexes could be seen covered with plastic aprons their heads swathed in dye.
And if designer nails was your thing that was there too.
The market functions all week long selling everything from ceramic religious figures
to whole turkeys their plucked pink carcasses hung from grappling hooks exposing their nakedness to the pollution of the street. Tasty huh?
Now as I mentioned before, two days into our little getaway Rick met Montezuma and the culinary part of our adventure went even further south than we already were. In the market there's a section of little food stands. They only reinforced my already skeptical appraisal of the local food. In New York all restaurants are required to display a sign notifying customers of the quality of their hygiene inspection. This clearly doesn't exist in the Yucatan.
Fast food consists of tamales wrapped in some local leaves with plastic bag of fire.
Before Montezuma decided to tag along on our vacation we did make it to one restaurant. It came highly recommended. We ordered a pizza made with avocado, mushrooms and beef. This may have been Montezuma's calling card. I expected something very California and green - avocado green. We figured when in Merida do as the Meridians do and if avocado pizza is on the menu then why not? About half a slice each was here we stopped. We didn't ask for a take-home container.
We did meet some amazing Meridians: the woman who so graciously opened her home and took such pride in her home even though it was crumbling down around her,
our hysterically funny tour guide at Uxmal,
the children everywhere hanging out of classroom windows hollering for the attention of the odd looking tourists,
and the people at La Casa Italia, our hotel. Danielle and Daniel, the owners, were there to arrange everything for us including a doctor.
Our hostesses were a sister team with perfect English and beautiful smiles served a worry-free breakfast every morning. I doubt we'll be going back to Merida but for anyone who might staying at the Casa Italia can make even a cramping stomachache seem bearable.