Another great day!

Trip Start Jan 16, 2006
Trip End Feb 28, 2006

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2006

On the way to Izamal this morning, we turned off the main highway 180 onto Hwy. 53 and drove through the small towns of Xanaba, Sudzal, and Cuauhtemon where everyone in the towns seemed to come out and wave. The children were so cute. They'd come running out from whatever they were doing and wave to all the RVs as they passed.
We entered the colonial city of Izamal as another spectacle, led by the "Green Angels," driving the wrong way on a one-way street and parking around the town square, which made quite a sight. There were RVs on 3 sides of the square. Most of the buildings in the central part of the city are painted a maize color to represent corn which was the staple of the Maya people. It is so colorful.
Izamal was settled by the Maya in the fifth century, who built four temples in a quadrangle. In 1549 the Franciscan missionaries came to the Yucatan and founded a monastery in Izamal, and the cathedral was built from 1553-1561 on top of the Pop-Hol-Chac temple, the residence of ancient Maya priests, forming the heart of the city. The colonial construction used pre-Hispanic materials. The monastery has a large grassy atrium, which is the largest walled atrium in America. A statue there commemorates Pope John Paul II's visit in 1993. A monastery occupies the north side of the church, which is the main center of devotion to the Virgin Mary in Yucatan. In a separate chapel on the third floor, used only by the monks, the Virgin Mary image that is on the wall of the main cathedral can be turned around and moved on a track to face the small chapel. It is quite unique. This chapel's altar is done completely in red and gold leaf.
After our tour of the church and monastery, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city, and then walked around the town and the market place, which had all kinds of fruits, vegetables and meats. The meat market had butchered meats hanging out in the open and chickens with their feet up in the air waiting to be cut up or purchased whole, and a pig's head sitting on one counter-very interesting.
The city also has many folk artisans of different specialties like papier-mache, cross-stitch, henequen fiber and jewelry made from the thorns of henequen, woodcarving, and tinwork, and their shops are featured on an interpretive map of the city. The Yucatan is famous for their hammocks and you can visit a workshop and see the techniques and weaves used to create the different types of hammocks.
We had lunch at El Toro and thought our food must be very fresh because it was right across the street from the market place. Then we went to the Hecho a Mano, which has Latin American Folk Art and Photography. Hector Garza, the owner, has lived in Austin, TX and we talked of some of the places around where we live. He was very nice, and showed us many items made of henequen fiber. They also used natural fibers, like peanut shells, indigo, and some fruits to dye the fiber. I bought a small purse with a kind-of pink hue that he said came from dye from a fruit called mame. I also bought a basket made of multicolored woven strands made of henequen fiber, and he gave us a baseball made of left-over hammock thread.
When we arrived in Merida at our RV Park, two other caravans had arrived before us and there wasn't much room left. But Jack managed to squeeze us all in. During social, we noticed a large Liverpool store on the other side of the wall of the RV Park, and some of us decided to go shopping. It is like a large department store in the states, however, the clerks are all dressed in gray-stripped suits. Everything is pretty expensive. It was quite a change from the small stalls and tiendas, where we've been shopping. I bought a pair of linen pants. The weather is also different here, not as tropical and the evening was quite cool.
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