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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 8

    Thursday, October 5, 2017
    Merida, Mexico

    Sofia from Pink Cactus in Merida, Mexico.
    Sofia from Pink Cactus in Merida, Mexico.

    The Casa de Montejo in Merida, Mexico.
    The Casa de Montejo in Merida, Mexico.

    At 9:30 am, I proceeded across the street from the Hostel Catedral to the actual cathedral, the Catedral de San Idelfonso, where I waited for a guide to go on a free walking tour of the center of Merida. After waiting for a while and seeing no one around who looked like they might be a guide, I gave up and went back over to the hostel to ask the girl who works at the front desk if she knew what was going on. She immediately pointed out a girl with a pink umbrella standing in front of the church. I had seen her down there before with a couple of tourists, but thought she was one of them. Later, after meeting her, I told her she should hold up a sign with big, plain, easy-to-read block letters that spell out FREE WALKING TOUR. She said that was a good idea.

    The Rectoria El Jesus Tercera Orden in Merida, Mexico.
    The Rectoria El Jesus Tercera Orden in Merida, Mexico.

    The interior of the Rectoria El Jesus Tercera Orden in Merida, Mexico.
    The interior of the Rectoria El Jesus Tercera Orden in Merida, Mexico.

    Her name is Sofia, and she works for Pink Cactus, a fledgling company she founded just nine months ago with her fiancé, Emilio. Along with one other person, they give guided tours of downtown Merida that include a detailed rundown of the history of the city and a few of its major landmarks, plus the actual truth behind various myths and legends. Our first stop was right inside the Catedral de San Idelfonso, which was built in 1598 from the stones of a Mayan temple that was situated right underneath. This church is also well-known for containing one of the biggest wooden crucifixes in Mexico.

    The insect broach lady in Merida, Mexico. (Notice the two insect broaches on the center of her chest.)
    The insect broach lady in Merida, Mexico. (Notice the two insect broaches on the center of her chest.)

    Spanish colonial buildings in Merida, Mexico.
    Spanish colonial buildings in Merida, Mexico.

    Following that, we walked just around the corner of the main square, the Plaza Grande, to the Casa de Montejo. Dating from 1549, “it originally housed soldiers, but was soon converted into a mansion that served members of the Montejo family until 1970. Today, it contains a bank and a museum with a permanent exhibition of renovated Victorian, neo-Rococo and neo-Renaissance furnishings. Outside, take a close look at the facade, where triumphant Spanish conquistadors stand on the heads of generic barbarians. (Though they’re not Maya, the association is inescapable.) Typical of the symbolism in colonial statuary, the vanquished are rendered much smaller than the victors; works on various churches throughout the region feature big priests towering over or in front of small indigenous people.”–Lonely Planet

    A sculpture of a Mayan man in Merida, Mexico.
    A sculpture of a Mayan man in Merida, Mexico.

    A falafel sandwich at Pita in Merida, Mexico.
    A falafel sandwich at Pita in Merida, Mexico.

    The Palacio de Gobierno in Merida, Mexico.
    The Palacio de Gobierno in Merida, Mexico.

    Murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco in the Palacio de Gobierno in Merida, Mexico.
    Murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco in the Palacio de Gobierno in Merida, Mexico.

    Next up on our tour came the Plaza Grande itself, followed by the Palacio de Gobierno right across the street. The latter houses Yucatan’s government offices, along with a number of giant murals from Yucatan artist Fernando Castro Pacheco that portray the Mayan people’s battles defending themselves again the Spanish. Around the corner, we visited a lady who sells broaches that are fixed to the back of insects. Then we explored the interior of two churches. First, the Rectoria El Jesus Tercera Orden was built by Jesuits in 1618 from on-site Mayan temple stone. Lastly, the Iglesia de Santa Lucía was one of Mérida’s first churches. Built in 1565 for the use of slaves brought in from Africa, it also boasted the city’s first cemetery dedicated to common Spaniards.

    Unintentional minimalism in Merida, Mexico.
    Unintentional minimalism in Merida, Mexico.

    The golden light of sunset lingers on shop fronts in Merida, Mexico.
    The golden light of sunset lingers on shop fronts in Merida, Mexico.

    The tour ended at the office of Pink Cactus, where Sofia chatted with us and answered questions for another half hour. Sofia is a very talented and energetic orator and tour guide, and it’s really obvious she enjoys her job. If you’re ever in Merida, I highly recommend the Pink Cactus guided tour. Later in the afternoon, I went out to shoot some street photos, including the beautiful Arco de Dragones and the Arco Del Puente, in the gorgeous setting sunlight. Around 9:00 pm, I headed back over to the Iglesia de Santa Lucía, where a weekly performance of traditional Yucatan music called Serenatas Yucatecas was held in a park across the street. When I arrived just before showtime, several hundred people were already seated at tables in front of restaurants, as well as in folding chairs and on bleachers.

    A horse-drawn carriage in Merida, Mexico.
    A horse-drawn carriage in Merida, Mexico.

    The Arco de Dragones in Merida, Mexico.
    The Arco de Dragones in Merida, Mexico.

    The performance began with a suave old Mestizo guy dressed in the traditional all-white clothes and a hat who talked for way too long. The actual music started with a big brass band who played one short number, then were joined by a group of male and female Mestizo dancers for the second. Following that were three guys who sang and played acoustic guitars and an electric bass. After one of their songs, I got really annoyed by a bunch of people in the audience who had been talking through the whole performance, so I left and walked down the street to eat dinner and call it a night.

    Mestizo dancers perform during Serenatas Yucatecas at Parque de Santa Lucía in Merida, Mexico.
    Mestizo dancers perform during Serenatas Yucatecas at Parque de Santa Lucía in Merida, Mexico.

    Three guitarists perform during Serenatas Yucatecas at Parque de Santa Lucía in Merida, Mexico.
    Three guitarists perform during Serenatas Yucatecas at Parque de Santa Lucía in Merida, Mexico.

    A triple veggie burrito at Espacios Mayas y Algo Mas in Merida, Mexico.
    A triple veggie burrito at Espacios Mayas y Algo Mas in Merida, Mexico.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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