This is not Mexico, you are in the Yucatán…

Walking off the plane in Merida from Mexico City was a contrast of pace. The intense hustle and madness of Mexico City was met by calming Caribbean style music and a warm Yucatan breeze.

Our hotel is simple, spacious and clean. The Luz de Yucatan https://www.luzenyucatan.com/en/home-2/ is right in Centro Historico so we walk out to the Merida night. Music echoes through the streets as restaurants wake up for post comida and what we call dinner is La Cena. La Cena starts about 7pm and builds into the evening. 

We walk the streets taking it all in and feeling the warmth of the Yucatan. Warmth in the weather and the people. One man we met asked us; de donde eres?Where are you from? We answered: “vivimos en San Miguel de Allede aqui en Mexico.”  He answered quickly in English.  “This is not Mexico, you are in the Yucatan.”  The people of the Yucatan hold on to their Mayan heritage like no other. They continue to hold on to the Mayan language and customs. He is angry about Mexico, the gangs, the crime, the extreme violence. “We do not rape women and kill people.”

To the people of New York, Paris, or London, “death” is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love. Of course, in his attitude perhaps there is as much fear as there is in one of the others; at least he does not hide it; he confronts it face to face with patience, disdain, or irony.

The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)

He said. “Do not be afraid, you are in Yucatan. We did feel the difference. We stick out as tall big headed Americans but they did not hawk us, only sincere questions about where are we from and gentle smiles.

We have seen the capital city of the Yucatan by night. The next day we awake to walk the city and learn. We walk to Casa Azul. A beautiful hotel we researched. http://www.casaazulhotel.com/ We arrive at the entrance and it is locked. We ring the bell and a young man greets us. Santiago tells us the hotel is private and always locked. We ask in Spanish, “es possible ver bonita hotel?” Si! Santiago answers and we walk into a beautiful French colonial mansion with only eight rooms. The courtyard is lush and green with tropical plants. He points us to the front desk to show us the 4 star diamond ratings. Santiago walks us out and directs us two blocks south to the most famous boulevard in the Yucatan. Paseon de Montejo. A wide boulevard with more French colonial mansions bright white as well as pink and blue. Giant sidewalks with monstrous trees creating a shaded tunnel to protect us from the sun. 

On Sundays streets close, Mercados open. Street food stalls on one side as the smell of meat and fish on the grill fills the air. Beautiful craft stalls on the other side and music frames it all. We stop on one corner to soak in the music, color and love as people of all ages dance together, swaying, laughing and caressing. Just another Sunday in Merida.

Merida is also a city of day trips. You can explore Mayan and Aztec pyramids, cenotes and a biosphere reserve to protect birds and the cleansing mangrove forests.

Day three we jump the local bus to Celestun, a small village on the Gulf of Mexico. The bus ride is wonderful as we pass through small villages picking up and dropping off kids going to school and mothers headed to market. A man jumped on for two stops selling peanuts. The peanuts were fresh roasted and still warm. Twenty pesos for three small bags. Yum!! The bus ride took two hours and costs 60 pesos each or three dollars. 

Celestun is still trying to hold on to its fishing heritage. As you walk about town you see nets strung and rolled being repaired and prepared. How long will the fish last? Overfishing is a problem and rules and catch limits are ignored here. The only thing this village has to hold on to, whether they know it or not, is ecotourism. People are coming here by the bus loads to see the Pink Flamingo. Thousands of them migrate here and live here in the estuaries digging shrimp in the mud from the almost pink water. It is said that the pink color of the Flamingo comes from the shrimp. We planned our trip to be an overnight trip. We always love seeing small villages and learning about how people live. We booked the Santa Julia hotel. The reviews were off the charts for this 2 star hotel. I know that sounds strange but the truth is this is a poor village with few options. Santa Julia was simple, clean and our host was kind and helpful. 

We take a funky tricycle cart pushed by a motorcycle to the lagoon to meet the boatmen for our trip out to see the Pink Flamingos. Our boatman Filipe and his son of the same name welcome us to the 18 foot skiff with a 60 horse Yamaha outboard. We ease out of the marina and soon Filipe presses the throttle forward and skips us over the estuary out past thick Mangrove forests  and flocks of Pelicanos.

Soon we see the pink hue on the horizon and within minutes we slowly approach a flock of Pink Flamingos, many standing a meter tall in about 8 inches of water.

There are hundreds standing, cuddling and posing mostly for each other. More Flamingos join the gaggle flying in stretched out looking like F18’s coming in for a landing.

We see a few babies, which are white, and the sound the birds make is a low warble as they flirt, talk and dig shrimp from the mud. We sit quietly floating amid these beautiful creatures with our boat mates Sophia and Etiene both from Mexico City. We all look at each other in amazement. As we slowly edge the boat back away from the birds Filipe turns over the outboard and we are now flying down the other side of the estuary. Without backing off the throttle he banks us into the mangroves through a small tunnel. Felipe pulls back the throttle and we glide into another world.

The mangrove trees reach for the sky as the roots dig into the water. The small river like waterway takes us inside the forest.

Birds small and large find life here and you can see fish down into the clear water. These forests and estuaries clean the waters of the Gulf of Mexico as well as provide shelter and life for so many species. 

The only place we had ever seen Pink Flamingos had been the plastic yard art outside the beautiful American Mid Century modern homes. We will now appreciate these beauties even more.

We have so much more to explore here and look forward to all the warmth the Yucatan has to offer!!

Living and learning in Mexico

We have now lived in Mexico for 2 years!  We are learning Spanish and so much about Mexican culture. This little bit of knowledge and language skill gives us confidence to now travel inside Mexico. 

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

This recent trip to Mexico City from our home in San Miguel de Allende starts at the bus station in SMA. The bus system in Mexico is top notch. Premiere buses are luxury buses with Wifi and TVs at your seat. The reclining seats are comfortable with lots of leg room. The buses travel fast and safely over the Mexican highways. A rash of car jackings have plagued our beautiful area around San Miguel de Allende. Seventy (70) over the past three months. Banditos somehow get cars pulled over and at gunpoint get you out of the car, leave you beside the road without shoes and take the car and everything inside. Everything! Passports, laptops, wallets, suitcases and jewelry. While this has not happened to us we are aware and take all the precaution we can to avoid this nightmare. Yes, gun barrels to the forehead is frightening. The best advice: Don’t resist! These buses move fast and strong and feels like the best way to travel on the highway. 

Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world with over 25 million people and the crime rate here is one third less than Washington DC. You arrive to chaos and energy and a lot of pollution this time of year because of inversion. Cold air up high trapping hot air below. A lot of hot air from a lot of carbon powered gas cars. 

Ángel de la Independencia

We like the neighborhood of Polanco. The streets are clean and parks are woven between busy streets and sidewalk cafes reminding us of Paris. The people are dressed sharp and greet you with a smile when you greet them with the traditional Mexican courtesy of buenos dais, buenos tardes, and buenos noches. These are important to know and understand. The culture here is strong and knowing just a little will get you through a lot of bad Spanish. 

We walk, talk and shop through the streets of Polanco, thinking in Spanish. What a feeling to cross over to this point. Our Spanish skills are by no means perfect but we are doing it and it is amazing. Our efforts have paid off and the smiles from the Mexican people warm our hearts. We are comfortable here!! We stop for a glass of wine and a beautiful frijoles soup at Dante and just around the corner is Cerveceria Polanquito. Beautiful food and people! There are many world class restaurants here in the city. James Beard award winners with months or more long waits for a reservation. We enjoy finding smaller places with fun bars and bumping music. We love to sit at the bar and find a way to eat plant based. “No comemos carne.” We laugh and speak Spanish with the bartenders while they practice English with us. So much fun!  

Cerveceria Polanquito

Remember, comida is the big meal of the day here and it starts at 2 or 3pm! Yes, 2 or 3pm and restaurants are packed with business people making deals. Saluts abound and wine glasses ching ching! The ”’Three Martini Lunch’ is alive and well here in Mexico City. Every company in the world wants to be part of Mexico and especially Mexico City. Here are just some of the brands with a footprint in Mexico City: The NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, Starbucks, Steelcase, Knoll, AT&T, HSBC Bank, yes Huawei (don’t plug in!), Toyota , GM, BMW, even Gino’s East Pizza from Chicago! 

On Sunday one of the biggest streets in Mexico City, Reforma, is blocked off to allow bikes to travel miles without traffic. It is a Sunday tradition as people on bikes travel freely from neighborhood to neighborhood.

We enjoyed our visit to the Anthropology museum but only had time to spend a few hours. You could spend three days!

Museo Nacional de Anthropologia

We will return to beautiful Mexico City and find more favorite places to explore, eat and drink!

Muchos Abrazos Mexico City!