Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12TH, 1999 – UXMAL

As we're driving to the ruins, I fire a barrage of questions at our guide, Jorge. I ask him what were the kids shouting last night. He says probably "Viva Maria" or "Long live Mexico". He uses the term "The Lady" to refer to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

He says that in Mexico, they have not really reached the 'fast life'. People have time for their families. A very low divorce rate. It's not stressful. Example: you go to some office to pay your water bill. You stand in line, and some guy says hello (a stranger) and you start chatting. The stranger starts telling you his problems (his grandfather is ill) and possibly you spend 5-6 hours.

He continues, The problem with Mexico is that you have to be a simple employee to get paid a pension after 72 years old. You have to work for the same company for a long time (although switching is OK). You pay social security directly to the government, but the laws can change. You might have to pay a special fee or your investment goes away.

It can take 3-4 hours to pay your electricity bill, standing in line. Every big company has messengers you can send to pay your bills for you. It's common to have bank accounts, but not everyone -- only those who have a very good income. People are slowly accepting car insurance in Mexico, but not everyone has it.

Travelling to the US is sticky, because they want to make sure you'll come back to Mexico after your vacation. They'll ask you: Do you have a large Mexican bank account? Have you got a car or property? Where do you work, please bring invoices as proof of salary? How long will you stay in the USA?

The rich have the highest rates of suicide in the city. People start to depend on material things. "Do you have the things or do the things have you?" Some Mexicans cannot handle the stress of the big city. Some Mexicans vacation in Yucatan to relax.

There isn't a mental pressure to get things done quickly in Mexico. Meeting in an office can be chatty. There's not so much competition in Mexico. They don't care what other people have, unlike the first world, where "they're like animals". They have socialized medicine, but they don't have the long lines like in Canada waiting for surgery. It's very very cheap compared to other countries.

We stop at a marketplace, "Ulman" or "Uman", about 25,000 people, some 20km from Merida. This marketplace is close enough to Merida that it's villagers are "in touch" with the city. Some people I see. "huipal" -- the white floral dress I've been seeing. The tan shirts are traffic policemen. Tall guys with big hat, jeans, white boots, belt, long sleeves.

There are little two-wheel carriages, 3 pesos a ride. There are young sharks ("cazon", a delicacy) & fish. We see the markets where they sell the seeds from the squash: peel the shell off, add lemon juice, chili, salt. We see "horchata", a frothy light brown drink sold in old soda bottles. It's a drink made from rice, very thick like syrup -- you mix it with cinammon and sugar (or honey).

We also see mandarin oranges, green & orange colors. You remove the skin and it divides up naturally. 25 pesos a sack of 100 oranges. There's a flower seller. Flowers are very important, especially for religious festivals. Local corn, too. Jorge's great grandmother had to eat the husks in a bad crop season when locusts came in.

Also apples & pears, which are not grown in tropical Yucatan, instead colder areas like north Mexico: Monterrey & Chihuahua. Also "hicama root", very sweet & juicy. You remove the skin & wash it. There are flies everywhere here. Ugh. All these people are bilingual in Spanish and the Mayan tongue. There's a market here every day from 6am-1pm.

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