Melting in Mayan Merida

We have arrived in Merida.

It’s hot. I mean, it’s really hot. It’s the type of heat I have not experienced in many years and only once or twice in my life. Most days it reaches 44degrees here and it’s a dry, humid heat. In the evening it only drops to 30degrees which for this Scot is still very hot.

Merida is a fascinating city – a place where Mayan culture is still very much alive, something which my embarrassing ignorance didn’t know to be the case. Generally speaking the Mayan culture is much less war-obsessed than the Aztec, more mythical, more magical, generally more gentle. This translates to the people here – there is a gentility to Merida which I have not experienced in the other cities. It’s beautiful, quiet, tranquil. It’s also hot, did I mention the heat?

On our first day here met one of my Mexico’s most celebrated playwrights – Jośe Ramón Enríquez. This is a huge privilege and his intelligence, wit, sharpness shines from him like sunlight through a crystal. He explains he has been writing for over 50years and talks with respect and joy about moving to Merida even though it was due to illness. He invites us into his beautiful love – a labyrinth of books. This is certainly a personal highlight and a meeting I won’t forget quickly.

It seems to me this city is a clash of two things – Mayan culture and Spanish colonialism. These things sit side by side, on menus, in the architecture, in the people. A group of local writers explain there is a darker world to Merida – one of racism. Merida also holds the highest suicide rates of young men in the whole of Mexico, particularly young men with indigenous or Mayan roots. One person says it’s due to the racism, another because the unique relationship Mayan culture has with death / God of sucicide. I don’t know enough – yet – to write any more than these sentences but I will endeavour to find out more. How? I am not so sure.

Another interesting thing to note is how many abandoned homes there are in Merida. Beautiful huge buildings left to nature and the nature here is beautiful. Apparently when people leave the city they would rather leave these places to rot than sell them to white Americans or even just white people. I don’t think I can quite grasp the racial politics of this place. It’s complicated and people assure me it’s moving forward but I sense racism definitely haunts this tranquil city, these forgotten homes.

Ximena and I go the museum of Mayan culture and there is a doll there that was presented to a young princess who was born to be scarified. Born to die, I can’t imagine what this meant or how it felt but the idea stays in my head. Something to write about? Maybe.

Today, we are taking it easy – our first real day of rest. I attempt to catch up on my emails. Tonight we will go to the theatre.

Tomorrow, we will visit a Mayan pyramid which I am looking forward too. I certainly have fallen in love with Mayan architecture and then we go to the theatre again in the evening.

Saturday, we will visit and swim in Cenotes (swimming caves) which were sacred to the Mayan’s. Some are open aired, others covered in darkness by the caves. I can’t wait! Then, Ximena and me will have our final Mexican meal together before we part ways. Her – back to Mexico City, me – on my personal adventure to Tulum.

Final? Wait… I am not quite ready for that word. There is much more to write about Merida but right now I want to walk out from my air conditioning into the heat.

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