These are the extensive notes I took on the Mexico trip. I figured
hey, I've got 'em, why not post 'em. Maybe some day a high school student
will need material for their school paper. Here it is, thanks to the Internet.
I took these notes intending to write a science fiction novel with a little
action. That's why they concentrate so heavily on (a) description of
what's around us and (b) crime and action. So it's not the usual tourist stuff.
Keep in mind as you read these notes that my trip took place in December of 1999. Well before travel laws changed in the wake of 9/11. Before some changes were made in Mexico. Everything in the notes is something I observed, experienced, or was told by a Mexican, and it was all accurate at that time. It might not be anymore, so please read this as historical fact, not necessarily present-day stuff.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10TH, 1999 -- MERIDA
Lunch, across from the hotel. Just crossing the street, the light is blinding. I definitely need sunglasses! It's a little warm, maybe 75 degrees & humid, but not too burning. The air smells muggy and humid. Burned upper lip from hot food. The waiter helped us learn a little Spanish, by giving us the Spanish & English phrases from the menu. The windows are tinted gray-green in differing shades.
We take a walk around Merida. The stucco theme is everywhere. On modern buildings, it's an even-colored white stucco. Otherwise, peach or tan colors often with uneven shading. Often brightly-colored stucco. The window tops are arched, not rectangular. There's artistic iron grillwork and gratings on the windows. Red blotchy marble tiles over stucco sometimes. We smell exhaust fumes from cars; I suspect Mexico lacks the USA's air quality regulations. The car motors rumble like they need tuning.
Christmas lights & Christmas trees. We hear "Rudolph the Reindeer" and "O Christmas Tree", and "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". Decorations, including huge blood red bows and green wreaths. A white police car with yellow marks: "Gubierno de Yucatan"
We go to a museum in Merida. Many Mexican artifacts at this point in time are in Britain and Germany, who came to Mexico early on and basically stole them. I ask the museum guide if he wants them returned. He says it's OK, because right now Mexico doesn't have the basic cultural interests to preserve these things properly. Mexico must build "museum skills" before getting the objects back. So it's kind of like Britain & Germany are caretakers. I'll get many such surprise answers on this trip. I know a lot less about Mexico than I'd thought.
Shop merchants call out to us, trying to drag us into their shops. "Where are you from?" they ask, and when we respond, they try to think of something clever to say that will indicate they're "special". Sometimes they say "Boston, oh, the Celtics!!" (our local basketball team)
As we enter the main square, hawkers are everywhere. Another hawker is on crutches with a leg missing. He says "I like practicing my English on tourists and helping people." Yeah, right. Then he says, "You want to do some shopping, just five minutes?" As we walk away he yells, "Good price!" Another line we get is "If I don't sell something, I don't eat today."
With one hawker, I pretend I don't speak English, giving him some of my tourist German. It doesn't work. In fact later, he recognizes us and yells out, "Hey, Germany!" Sometimes the vendors follow you and try to hand you things, like woven bracelets.
A procession comes through the town square. It's tightly packed and with many kids. They're holding palm fronds, with green choir robes and white puritan-style tops, and singing. In the main square, there are crowds milling. The tourists are easily noted by their light skin (or Asian appearance).
A small park is in the middle of the square. People are squatting all over the sidewalks, hawking stuff: mats, t-shirts, rugs, blankets. There's construction here too. Men have the area roped off with blue metal fences. There's dust everywhere and overpowering car fumes—really potent. The fumes are sooty, not like in the US where there's just a smell but no "texture". But there aren't as many smokers here as we'd thought—not at all like Ireland, which was stifling with cigarette smoke. Signs say "Gracias par no fumar" = "thanks for not smoking".
Men with backwards baseball caps, t-shirts, and jeans rolled up over boots are swabbing down the street. There's a stone church here with watermarks from decades (or centuries) of rain. A bride & groom are out front. A policeman with a flashlight & whistle directs traffic. He has brown pants with a white stipe, and a tan shirt with a reflective "X" crossed on the back. I later learn these are "tourist" police, to be found here but not in San Cristobal.
Dinner: The restaurant has stones enmeshed in cement with candles. There's the smell of bug spray.
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