Published On: Fri, Jul 25th, 2014

A Letter to the City of Mérida

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Querida Mérida:

I like this town.  For real.  I might have to come back just because.  Now, despite the mosquitoes and intense heat, everything else is awesome.  Really.  There is a vitality of life here that is truly exceptional.  This city of about a million people shuts down major thoroughfares on a weekly basis for free street festivals, concerts, dancing, interactive shows, vendors, pedestrianism, and biking.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I walked into something exciting provided by the city, without even trying.  That’s how awesome it is.

I came to Mérida after two weeks in Playa del Carmen.  This month my travels focused on the Yucatán Peninsula, and I planned to spend two weeks in the state of Quintana Roo and two weeks in the state of Yucatán.  Playa was only *slightly* less hot than Mérida, but all of the peninsula is more hot and humid than New Orleans.  That’s right, I found the only place hotter and more humid than New Orleans in July to pass my time.  Awesome.  But I digress.


I wanted to spend time in the Yucatán to explore ancient Mayan sites.  My time in Playa was spent divided between sojourns on the beach (I deserved it) and sitting in super air conditioned space to do work.  I passed many a day in the Starbucks in Quinta Alegria, the mall in Playa.  I became a regular of sorts.  I was engaged in work related to my fellowship, such as photo-editing, uploading images to SAHARA, and editing my first SAH blog entry.  I was also engaged in the revision of a chapter that will be included in an edited volume entitled Walking in Cities.  Needless to say, I saw a lot of my computer during that time.  I did also meet some lovely people, including my Airbnb hosts José y Rob, and their friend Anabella, who showed me such a fantastic time in Playa, celebrating the World Cup and birthdays.

I did get out to explore Tulum and Coba, and visit a cenote on an all-day tour.  I enjoyed the opportunity to visit both sites, although Coba captured my imagination the most.  It is a lesser visited site than Tulum, but its situation in the midst of a dense jungle gives a feeling of greater integration into the landscape.  There were moments when I didn’t see another human being in the complex, thanks to the thick curtain of trees. Additionally, the combination of partially restored and unrestored sites in Coba illustrates the amount of work and research involved in the reconstruction process.


I was immediately enamored of Mérida upon arrival.  Not so much with original my Airbnb spot in the suburbs, so I switched to Casa Carmita in the centro, a much, much, much, much better situation.  Patricia the hostess was fantastic and super accommodating.  Her breakfasts were yummy!  I was EXTREMELY blessed to get to spend one lovely day with an old friend, Tran Kim-Senior, her husband Norman, and their adorable children.  Tran and I worked together at Exploration Summer Programs (Explo) fully over a decade ago.  Norman was teaching Spanish in Mérida, and they were at the end of their month-long stay in the city (that is small enough that I was surprised to know anyone at all!).

Merida Archeticture

Merida Architecture

I walked and walked and walked in el centro in Mérida, just like how I oriented myself to Mexico City.  The architectural mix – Spanish colonial, Italianate, Art Deco – was colorful and vibrant.  The focal point of the centro, Catedral Mérida (San Ildefonso), took my breath away.  I decided then and there that I preferred this austere Franciscan style over the excess of the baroque cathedral in Mexico City.  The interior space of Catedral Mérida embodied the type of gravitas that the ancient Romans would have appreciated.  This cathedral, like its counterpart in Mexico City, was built on the site of one of the most important pre-Hispanic edifices in the city, using the stones of former Mayan temples to build the foundation and walls.

I skirted off to an all-day tour of Izamal, Chichén Itzá, and Cenote Ik Kil the next day.  Believe the hype.

I walked Paseo del Montejo two days in a row, Sunday and Monday, rested Tuesday (by rested I mean sat and drew for a couple of hours), and went to Uxmal on Wednesday.  To say my plate was full would be an understatement.

That’s not all, folks!  In the super small town of Mérida I met three lovely people thanks to my friend Leila Ayachi (hmmm, this is the second shout out she gets in my blog, go girl!).  Her good friend Tug and his girlfriend Pauline were in town for an extended stay while Pauline conducted public health research.  Her colleague, Danielle and I also connected and instantly I had three new Mérida / international travel contacts.  This big exciting world is so connected in so many countless ways, that I am constantly amazed at it all.

By  Amber N. Wiley, Ph.D.

From her blog “The Monumental, Mundane, and Moments in Between”


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