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!!

8 thoughts on “This is not Mexico, you are in the Yucatán…

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