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The Mood Around Mérida

21 Oct 2001

MERIDA, MEXICO — Mèrida, so named because it reminded the Spaniards who came here in the 16th century of Mèrida, Spain with its Roman ruins. Mèrida, Mexico had Mayan ruins until the conquistadores had them torn down and built churches and haciendas with the stones.

I think the people of Mèrida are both proud and loathsome of their history. There seems to be a mixture of Mexican, Maya and European influences in Mèrida that still don't quite mesh. The years of oppression by first the Spanish settlers and then later wealthy land owners shows up in local art and culture. Much of the modern art in Mèrida contains violent imagery of the War of the Castes (short-lived uprising by the oppressed peoples) and the Mexican Revolution.

Mèrida's history also shows up in its architecture. Since all the Maya influences in architecture are gone most of the influence is now Colonial European. Since Mèrida was once a powerful city with stronger ties to Europe than to the rest of Mexico, you see a lot French, Spanish, and even Moorish influences in the older houses and buildings. Keith and I took a short bus-tour around the city and got to see a few of the older neighborhoods with very grand houses — many of which are now owned banks or insurance companies. You definitely get the sense that Mèrida lost its luster long ago.

Today Mèrida has a certain charm but that may soon be lost as more "modern" influences seep into the local fabric. I was a little disgusted to find that Wal-Mart just opened a store here — "but at least it's tasteful" according to Keith. I'm hoping that's the last Wal-Mart we'll see for quite awhile!

Mèrida also has its brighter side. Today was Sunday and it's quite a day around here. Of course, most everyone is Catholic so the main Cathedral was packed all day. In the main square, near the Cathedral and government headquarters was an all day festival and market. All of Mèrida seems to come out and enjoy the free music and dancing. Many of the little squares and parks around town have different activities each day of the week — culminating in a major bash on Sundays. Keith and I weren't quite brave enough to sample the local street food but we did walk around and enjoy the scene.

Well the itching from my bug bites is getting the better of me so I'll sign off for now....


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Last updated: 27 Oct 2001 19:18:18