Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Mérida - the city

Ok, so now it's time to talk about the city of Merida proper! And let me start by saying that, at first, I didn't like it. It was hot. And I abhor heat. The area where we were staying seemed... run down, empty, boring. And the very first walk around the historic centre left me very unimpressed. 

I tend to think my reaction to the heat affected all of my first-day impressions, to be honest. Because after that very first day? I began falling in love with the place! Like, see that house above? Our neighbourhood was full of those one floor, tall, colourful old houses! It felt so romantic! The place we stayed at was also an old house, with white walls, that also functioned as the home and gallery of an artist. It was delightful! 

Believe it or not, one of the things I probably miss the most is our walks back to our quiet, calm, old neighbourhood late at night.

We explored as much as we could, and this is but a small sample of the things we saw. Like the monument to the motherland (Monumento a la Patria). It's quite an unusual monument, and it's packed with native imagery (from different sources) as well as scenes from Mexico's history from its prehispanic past all the way to the early 20th century. It's quite impressive, and you need quite some time to look at the whole and begin making out (and understanding) the details.  

Now, this one I should leave out. But I won't. It's the Great Museum of the Mayan World (Gran Museo del Mundo Maya). Actually, I'll admit the building is nice, at least from the outside. And the exhibit areas are indeed somewhat modern. And it's a waste of money. Personally, I found the curatorship really lacking. No, I didn't study art nor am I an expert. But I visit tons of museums, everywhere I travel to, and if I start getting bored with a world as fascinating as that of the Mayas and of Yucatan... hell, if I end up exiting the museum by accident when I'm just 2/3 through the exhibitions? For all the money that was evidently thrown at this, it was completely uninspiring.

But don't worry, the habib took me to another museum on a different day. And that one was so good, so good, I'm writing a whole post just about it. Ha!

And yes, despite me feeling strangely underwhelmed in my very first walk, the more I visited the historic centre, the more I loved it. I started focusing on the details that made this place different. The colours of the buildings... the mascarons (human or chimeric ornaments)... the plants and type of crosses used to adorn entrances to churches... the big rich buildings signifying an economic early 20th century boom... Yep, definitely, the more I came back to these buildings, the more intriguing the looked and the more I enjoyed them. 

And the squares! What's a city without leafy squares to see time slowly pass by? And what about a church whose design reminds you of an ancient Mayan ruin in Uxmal (more on Uxmal in another post)? 

Frankly, it seems my favourite are the smaller squares, like Parque Hidalgo (where we had quite a few super delicious meals). They're so much more intimate, even cozy, inviting you to just sit down, read a book, watch the world, feel the calm... 

Being with the habib also meant noticing Art Déco everywhere, right? And quite a few buildings there were! The interiors of most have been completely destroyed to make way for another century's requirements. But the façades remain, contrasting beautifully with their older colonial counterparts. 

Last, but not least, was the Paseo Montejo, an avenue with huge villas and wealthy manors. It sort of reminded me of Petrópolis, in Brazil. At one point, henequen (a local agribusiness) was generating incredible wealth. And it shows. In fact, it was in one of these buildings that the museum I'll talk later is located.

Oh, by the way, Merida is know as the White City. There are a number of myths and stories about the why of this name. But one thing is certain - I found this city as colourful as one could imagine, and I much prefer it that way. Beautiful, romantic, intriguing, colourful Merida.

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