The MEXICO Report
By Susie Albin-Najera
Mérida, the capital city of the state of Yucatán in the southeast region of Mexico, was founded in 1542 over the ruins of the ancient Mayan city Ichcaanziho and built from the sacred stones of its temples.
The city was built on a large plain that vanishes into the horizon, without ever rising more than 35 feet above sea level, which enabled it to grow into an almost perfect square that is now inhabited by over half a million people.
Recently I traveled to Mérida for the Mundo Maya Tourism Fair. Since I had never been to Mérida, it was the perfect opportunity to experience a new part of Mexico that was unfamiliar to me. And I’m glad to report the experience was spectacular!
After a visit to the Mundo Maya Tourism Fair which included fantastic and colorful displays representing different regions, hotels, arts, activities and more, we (the journalists/media) were transferred over to Mayapan Archaeological site to partake in a private ‘Mayan Blessings Ceremony’ and to see the ancient ruins.
We met Mayan priest Alfonso Ake Conte and priest Jorge Coronado Arceo who walked with us in the surreal and secluded surroundings to the designated ceremonial site. While preparing for the ritual, a native Mayan perched on a nearby ruin, lightly tapped on a hollowed-out wooden drum, which echoed magnificently in the surroundings.
After delivering a beautiful message in Mayan, priest Conte bestowed individual blessings, whisking our faces with siip-che leaves and pure water and concluded with all of us sharing a traditional Mayan honey-fermented drink.
With an English-speaking guide, we toured Mayapan, home to once an ancient Mayan civilization, now a well-preserved eco-tourism site. A highlight was standing at the base one of the tallest pyramids witnessing the mysterious acoustical properties. When we clapped our hands, instead of hearing the echo of our clap, we heard a chirping sound, which many say resembles the sound of the sacred quetzal bird.
Next we visited the nearby Na’ Lu’um boutique hotel and restaurant for lunch and a tour of the beautifully manicured grounds including the private cabanas and signature Temazcal.
After a quick refresh back at the hotel, we then visited the stunning and colorful Hotel Boutique Rosas & Xocolate Hotel & Spa for appetizers, refreshments and a tour.
On the second floor on the outside patio, we gathered for an intimate reception. Drinks and appetizers were passed as a slideshow on the Yucatán area was presented. Rich, decadent chocolate liquid cascaded from a fountain (chocolate stemming from the nearby indigenous cacao plantations) and received my full attention. To be quite honest, I fantasized about putting my face in the fountain; the chocolate was that good, the best I’d ever had.
On to the gorgeous Jose Peon Contreras Theatre, we attended the Opening Ceremony of the Mundo Maya Tourist Fair “Cultural Show” where talented performers danced, sang and entertained audience with their traditional styles of clothing representing different genres and regions.
‘Vamos Yucatan’, a sweet and memorable melody that concluded the performance stuck with me the rest of the night and in fact, until this day.
Day One was officially over according to the press agenda, but our night was far from over. With a new-found friend we met on the shuttle from Cancun to Mérida, we decided to explored the main part of Mérida so we strolled our way to the zocalo to see what the town was all about.
Since Mexico had recently celebrated its 200 years of independence, the town was adorned with red, white and green decorations, lights, bows, signs and the like. In my eyes, they didn’t even need to decorate for Christmas as it resembled the holiday perfect, minus a Christmas tree.
I definitely stood out as a tourist, snapping up pictures but how could I not? Mérida is full of colorful doorways, magnificent churches, mouth-watering food from vendors and beautiful surroundings. Most of all, the people were friendly and I felt such a sense of community.
Not more than 20 minutes of leaving the theatre, my husband and I were spontaneously remarried in a public (what I like to call ‘private’) impromptu ceremony. Spectators watched as we redeclared our love in Mexico.
So much love in Mexico, so little time. All of this activity above transpired in one day in Mérida and surrounding areas in the state of Yucatán, in beautiful Mexico.
To read the first article from the Feria Mundo Maya, Mérida trip, click here.