I am still in Merida. I had only planned to stay for 3 or 4 days, but now I have almost been here 3 weeks. I had planned to come to Merida, get my press card and id from The Yucatan Times, meet the staff here, and then return to Mahahual. But a big story came up, and I have been working with the staff here to get this story written and published. To read this story that came out yesterday, hit the The Yucatan Times link on this blog.
Also while I have been here, I have met with a large developer here in Merida, who is interested in building 136 condos in New Mahahual (Casitas for the locals), and I have had several meetings with them. If this comes to Mahahual it would provide a lot of jobs for the people of Mahahual, and also help with the growth of the area. Talks are in progress now, so we will see how this works out.
So, as you can see, I have been pretty busy, but not too busy to take in all the sights and sounds of Merida. Merida is a beautiful old colonial city, in fact the first city built-in the Americas in 1542. There are a lot of colleges and universities here also. I was told Merida has about 1.5 million people who live here.
There are a lot of old churches, buildings, and all kinds of colonial architecture everywhere. I take walking tours everyday after I finish my work, and I have covered most of the Centro and downtown area. I have taken a lot of photos, (but I have to admit, I am not the best photographer in the world), and I will include some of these today.
The first week I was here I stayed at the Trinidad Hotel on Calle 62 near Centro. The last 2 weeks I have been staying at a house on Calle 80 at Calle 43. It is in a nice barrio, neighborhood, and I can walk to the offices of the Yucatan Times and to the middle of town with no problem. Every day after I finish my work, I walk around and check out the sights and all the buildings and I even took a tour of some of the universities here.
There is a lot of culture here also,and I have been to several museums, art galleries, and old colonial mansions. There is so much to see and do here, I am impressed with this old city. I have seen several street shows, musicians, and I even tried to take in a ballet, I did not last long.
Besides all the culture I am taking in, I have also met a lot of nice and intelligent people. It seems that almost everybody here has a college degree, and a lot of people in Merida speak English. I have also noticed there is also a big expat community here.
During my walking around Merida, it seems it always rains here in the late afternoon, and I have been caught in the rain several times. Last week I was soaking wet, walking on my way home, and I looked up saw a bar, La Negrita, that several people had told me I should check out. I was wet, it was about 5:30pm, so I decided to stop in and get a beer dry off, and check out the place.
There was a Cuban band playing, so I got a seat at the bar, and sat down. I looked around and I noticed I was the only Gringo in the place, common for me. So I thought I would have a beer or two, and then maybe walk home after I had dried out. Several people at the bar started talking to me, and asked to move to a table with them. I said sure and we sat down for some drinks and conversation.
All of sudden I notice this little guy walking around the bar with a huge tray of food. He stopped at the table and asked me what I wanted, off of the tray. Come to find out, the La Negrita offers free appetizers while you drink there, like a lot of other bars in Mexico do. What I found interesting was, this guy came by about every 10 or 15 minutes with a new tray. It was like a smorgasboard of different appetizers. I had popcorn,some kind of sliced liver in hot sauce, hot peanuts, sliced oranges with chili, hicama, chicken, chips, and a lot of different choices. And of course, all of them were very spicy, Mexican style, but they kept coming. If you go to happy hour, you don’t need dinner.
So I end up at a table with a bunch of locals, and a guy that had worked at Costa Maya Port in Mahahual, and he recognized me from there. What I found interesting was here I was at happy hour, and I am sitting with a forensic physiologist, 2 college professors, and 2 or 3 graduate students. La Nergrita is located in the university district, and a lot of the university staff and students go there for happy hour. I mean when am I ever going to sit and be able to talk to a forensic physiologist and a bunch of highly educated people in my travels.
So after having a great time, meeting a bunch of people, eating some snacks, and listening to some live Cuban music, I looked up and is was closing time. So I exchanged phone numbers, WhatsApp info (that is big here), and email addresses and said good night and I walked home. It was about a 10 or 12 block walk home, but I made it home safely, and I was surprised how safe it is here in Merida late at night, just like Playa del Carmen.
I did not do much this past weekend for the July 4th Independence Day celebration, I mainly stayed in, and watched some old black and white war and western movies to celebrate, my way. So Sunday I decided to go see some sights and take some photos of Centro and all the activities there. On Sundays they close the streets in Centro, and have street acts, and all kinds of exhibits, along with food booths and other eateries.
So I walked around all Sunday afternoon, took some photos, and I even watched a Mexican Food Network presentation about how to use pasta instead of rice in Mexican dishes. All this was on the streets in Centro. As I am walking around taking it all in, I hear someone yell. “Hey Mahahual”. I turn around and look and I see a guy who I know from the port in Mahahual who lives in Merida, but goes to Costa Maya to work at the port when cruise ships are in town. I went over to talk to him, Alex is his name, and I have known him for a couple of years, and used to talk to him at the port. He has a booth in Merida, and works there on the weekends. We talked for a while and I told him I was in Merida working and I would return to Mahahual soon.
After that I started to return home, it was about 4:30pm, and it started pouring down rain. So as I was getting wet, I decided again to run over to La Negrita to get out of the rain and dry off. It was Sunday, so I figured it would not be crowded, wrong, it was packed. I snuggled in at the bar, and before I knew I had people around me talking to me, the little guy with his tray running up to me every 10 minutes, offering me free food, just like the previous night before.
I don’t know what it is about me, but I can walk into a Mexican bar and not know a soul in the place, and the next thing I know I have an entourage. I am exchanging phone numbers and WhatsApp information, and getting my photo taken. I just stopped in at La Negrita on my way home, and it was pouring rain, and next thing I know place is c!osing, and I am being invited out by a bunch of Mexican college professors and students. I am speaking Spanish and mixing right in, it happens every time I go out in Merida. I got all kinds of women’s names and WhatsApp names in my phone, and of course I am only person from the USA, much less South Carolina, in the whole joint.
Funny I tell Mexican women I am from South Carolina, and they get this far away look in their eyes, because they are have never heard of it. And I am always alone when these things happen, if someone else is along , nada, nothing, I am like the lone wolf, I guess.
This is a good stopping point, because I have some photos to add to this story. I will have some more stories and photos in Part 2 later this week. In Part 2 ,I will talk about some of the landmarks you might want to see in Merida if you make a visit.
Thanks for reading.
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina