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Holy Thursday in Merida, Mexico

Merida at night.

Merida at night.

On Holy Thursday, I moved from a dump of a hostel to a delightful new one and the difference in cost was only $8 US a day. Worth every penny.

I ring the doorbell and an older man answers.  He is tall and slim and wears a huge metal “Wrangler” belt buckle.  His grey hair is slicked back and his eyes, even behind glasses are so beautiful – a shade of soft, pastel green.   He speaks to me in Spanish for a long while.  I understand most of it but at one point I say “no comprendo” and he asks if I speak English.  I nod and he continues in perfect English.  He tells me to come back in an hour when the room is ready.

So I go for a walk and sit on a park bench where I am approached by a hammock seller.  Manuel sits down next to me and starts a conversation in English asking me where I’m from.  It takes me five minutes before I realize that he is actually being friendly and not trying to hard sell me on a hammock or anything else (as was the case in the “Riviera Maya”).   Manuel is 72.  He tells me about his 12 children, laughing heartily at himself for being so crazy as to have 12, his 22 grandchildren and his 2 great-grandchildren.  He complains about his wife, who after 50 years and 12 children sleeps in her own hammock and not with him.  He asks if I would like to have a child – ” half Mayan” – and laughs some more.  Everyday, Manuel takes the collectivo from his Mayan town 45 minutes away to sell his hammocks In Merida.  And when he returns home, he makes hammocks.  He’s matter of fact about being poor but says he has no worries and his life is good.  He invites me to come to his house because his wife likes visitors.  He tells me to go to the he same park tomorrow at 1 PM if I want to go with him.   I ponder the safety of the idea.  And then I ponder how “safe” I really ever am.  And then I worry about being a sissy if I don’t go.

Returning to the hotel, the room still isn’t ready so Raul and I sit in the waiting room of this spectacular 18th-century colonial home.  We talk about his life (he’s 75)  and how he worked as a hotel manager for years, about his love of dogs, and his love of traveling.  He said he lives on a meager income now but never regrets all the money he spent traveling when he was younger. Yes. Nice. Affirmation.

I assumed he owned the place but no – Raul was friends with the now deceased parents of the current manager.  Raul works for free everyday just for fun, to help with guests.  He says he needs a place to go to.  Otherwise, he says, he would just watch TV all day and tend to his 18 year old blind greyhound.

Hammock hooks built into the wall!

Hammock hooks built into the wall!

My room is lovely with the pasta tile floors that Merida is so famous for and a nice breeze from my second story windows.  In the walls are hammock hooks that are found in Yucatanean homes.  Despite having beds, most people seem to prefer sleeping in a hammock and the hooks are a fixture built right into the walls.

That night, I walked the main plaza in Merida which is surrounded by impressive structures including the second oldest Cathedral in the New World, the Cathedral of San Ildefonso.   Merida puts on quite a show at night.  The major buildings are lit up and the streets gleam with the reflection as if they are wet.  It’s a very clean city, with organic and non-organic trash bins on every street.  I sit on a bench as all kinds of people walk by – young women in skin-tight jeans and impossibly high heels,  strolling couples, nuns, lots of families because this is a national holiday week, blind beggars, and many children.   This is the place to be on Holy Thursday.

A man sits beside me.   He talks my ear off while I stare at him, comprehending about 10% of what he is saying.  I figure out that he is only in Merida to work a temporary job because he became unemployed six months ago in Guadalajara, which is his home.  And he is wondering where my husband is.  And he wants to go have a drink.  Naturally, I tell him my husband is at the hotel and would not like me having a drink with another man.  I shake his hand, smile, and leave to walk some more.  For a minute, I feel pretty cute.

I stroll to the Governors Palace (of the Yucatan State) which is still in use and decorated with massive murals throughout. Nice that the attractions are open late.  It seems that Merida really comes alive when the sun goes down and it’s not so scorching hot.  The practice of a midday siesta definitely makes perfect sense in a place this hot.

All in all, a good day.


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