Mama Mia in Merida

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Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Sunday, November 14, 2010

 Time for a few words about Merida, where Hostal Zocalo is situated. It is still in Mayan Yucatan, originally a Mayan town but conquered by the Spanish in the mid 1500's. It is busy with a constant movement of people, and traffic, but all runs quite smoothly despite the traffic police on most corners who have whistles and torches (for night use) and although there are traffic lights at each junction anyway, the traffic controller whistles and signals the traffic on at the same time. It certainly keeps it moving.

We were able to go downstairs from the Hostal straight into the main square, where we sat down at regular intervals to watch the world go by. Numerous Mayan vendors come into town each day with hammocks, colourful textiles, shawls, jewellery, wooden toys and, of course, Mexican hats (which are not traditional in Mayan area).

Although very busy, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly with the vendors stopping and offering their goods but not being pushy. Plus, there is usually something else happening in the square at night such as local dancing, or performers. None of these activities in the evening are aimed at tourists as they are all in Spanish and require lots of audience participation.

In the square is the state Government Palace, (Merida is the state capital of Yucatan) which visitors can walk around, an attractive colonial building with the usual internal patio, an open square in the centre of the building set out as a garden, and a grand staircase the walls of which are covered by huge dramatic murals painted by Fernando Castro Pancheco. They tell the history of the Mayan people, the Spanish conquest and colonialisation and bring the story up to the present by showing efforts to protect the Mayan culture and create equality for its people. Symbolism and stark colours are employed to overcome language barriers and their message certainly comes across.

On a lighter note, I went around the Museum of Modern Art which is a fantastic gallery, in a colonial building similar to the Government Palace. All the main rooms are upstairs around the internal patio (I am sure there is a correct word to describe these but I haven't found it yet!) and all the doors are closed to keep the temperature constant to protect the artworks but once inside the room it usually connects to a few others so gives the impression of being in another world, away from the formality of the central courtyard. Some of the work was ultra-modern which I have difficulty appreciating, but there was a small display of Frida Kahlo's portraits and a fascinating display of the life and works of female twins, who seemed to be celebrities in the sixties (and whose name I have forgotten) and ranked many other famous people amongst their friends. It was fascinating watching the newsreels and TV programmes of the time showing the fashions and hairstyles, especially the beehive which the sisters favoured.

Jim did not come in because we had already visited the Museum of Anthropology which provides information on the different periods of Mayan culture that morning, so he decided to sit out of the modern art session!

We have travelled around a few times now on buses, both local and long distance. It has been very easy, and the long distance particularly are very comfortable, clean, and well organised with pleasant, air-conditioned bus stations. Much more pleasant to sit in than those at home. Once the journey is underway, the film starts, usually dubbed in Spanish. Surprisingly, other music plays constantly at the same time. During one afternoon journey the film was titled something like “Terminator Survival” and was really violent, which seemed a strange choice with children aboard. We have also seen Mama Mia!
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