TYT Original Reporting
By Stewart Mandy
OXKUTZCAB, YUCATÁN – We headed out of Mérida, taking the highway to Chetumal, and were delighted to find that it is in the process of being enlarged to a four lane highway the entire way. Currently the improvements only stretch about 25km from Mérida, however when it is complete, it will dramatically cut the driving time between the capitals of Yucatán and Quintana Roo. Even though the road is still mainly two lanes, it only took us a little over an hour from the edge of Mérida to arrive in Oxkutzcab.
Oxkutzcab is a small city of around 30,000 people with an appearance of some prosperity; thanks to the fruit industry, and to the large number of locals who emigrated to the USA (primarily to the San Francisco Bay area) and who have subsequently returned with dollars in their pockets, or who remain there while sending regular remittances to their families. The “20 de Noviembre” market in the center of town serves as a wholesale venue for fruit and vegetables which are then retailed at smaller markets throughout the southern part of Yucatán and as far away as Mérida and the gulf coast beach towns.
The center contains the main square, markets, and a magnificent Franciscan church, noted mainly for its ornamental façade, featuring a stone statue of St. Francis, the patron of the mission. The ‘Ruta Puuc’ passes through Oxkutzcab, making it a convenient stopover point mid-way along the route; the Grutas de Loltún are nearby, as are several Mayan ruins. Slightly outside the center of town the Ermita sits perched on the top of a nearby hill.
The city is not without its problems; and in some neighborhoods, graffiti strewn walls stand testament to the street gangs which plague the town; an unwelcome legacy of the returning migrants, who became involved in the ‘gang lifestyle’ while in the USA. Fortunately the gangs are not like the violent criminal gangs elsewhere in Mexico, and although they fight amongst themselves, visitors to the town are unlikely to be affected by them, or even aware of their presence.
Each year at the end of November, the city hosts the “Festival of Oranges”, but Oxkutzcab is well worth a visit at any time of the year.
By Stewart Mandy
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Born in Europe, raised in the Middle East, and a long-time resident in the Americas, Stewart has been based in Mérida, Yucatan since 2010, and has lived and worked worldwide in the media, travel, tourism and transportation industries for well over 20 years. His local contacts and global knowledge provide him with unmatched access to the stories ‘behind the stories’ and he likes to take you to the places that others don’t or won’t go. From the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, from Moscow to Melbourne, from Bergen to Buenos Aires, Stewart has been there. Chances are, wherever you are heading, he knows the score.
In addition to The Yucatan Times, Stewart contributes (or has contributed) to “The Examiner” (www.examiner.com), “Business Briefings”, “Cruise & Ferry Magazine” and “The Apollo Magazine”. He is a former editor of “rolling pin CRUISE” magazine.
He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can join him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meridawriter, follow him on Twitter @stewartmandy or visit his website at www.stewartmandy.com or his blog at http://tolocsandaluxes.blogspot.mx/
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