Mérida, capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. I love this place! I love its colors, its flavors, the cacophony of its streets, and its people. Yucatecos, inhabitants of Yucatán, are such kind people, and they are truly one of a… well… one of a kind.
With about 60% of its population of Maya descent (and most are not mestizos), a visitor is bound to experience this kindness. I did, years ago when I was traveling through the state back in 2005, with my 9-month old daughter in my backpack. And I mean, literally in my backpack. I remember a topping at little local restaurants and hotels, and the young ladies could not wait to play and entertain my daughter. A few years later, I bought 4 walls in the historic center of Mérida and turned them into Casa Metzli, my 1-bedroom with pool haven. I would bring my 3 children with me on month-long (or more) stays. I will never forget the afternoon when I reprimanded my son for I don't remember what, and Terecita my neighbor chastised me for doing so: Meridanos just adore kids and generally don't have the mean mommy streak I have, as per… my kids of course. LOL
Yesterday, I landed in Mérida after an absence of 2 years. After settling in, I walked across Santa Ana's park. And tears started to fill in my eyes: how I had missed this city and its people. I like how lonelyplanet.com describes yucatecos quite well: "Travelers often comment on the open, gentle and gregarious nature of the people of the Yucatán, especially the Maya. Here more than elsewhere in Mexico, it seems, you find a willingness to converse and a genuine interest in outsiders. This openness is all the more remarkable when you consider that the people of the Yucatán Peninsula have fended off domination by outsiders for so long… Yucatecans highly value family bonds, and are only truly themselves within the context of the family." This is very true. And thank God they are easy to chat with because I chat all the times and love speaking with people I encounter in my travels. Tonight, as I was seating down in the patio of the colonial, locally owned hotel I am staying at to write about street corners in Mérida (so look for this upcoming post), the night clerk brought me a tamale. A beautiful, chicken-filled tamale. A kind gesture from a stranger with whom "parting bread" is such an honor.
Thank you, Mérida, for your welcoming heart. Leaving you in a few weeks will break my heart. But it will mend on my next visit.