Merida and misc.

May 28, 2007


Uxmal temple complex is home to literally dozens of iguanas, many of them a good half metre in length. Fran was perturbed.

Tamarind sorbet

Is very nice indeed, as is aqua de tamarind, a nice cool drink (alongside agua de jamaica, which is made of hibiscus flowers). We had sorbets on the Merida zocalo the other night, watched the world go by. And sweated.


Yep, it’s very hot here. Our room has no air movement whatsoever, which may in part explain my crouchiness. I’ve been sleeping, after a fashion, but it’s not exactly been refreshing. I’m so looking forward to a cold winter night and a duvet, perversely. Won’t get that for a while though.


Merida is famous for its hammocks. The town used to be the centre of a trade in ropes and whatnot, before the advent of synthetic materials. That doesn’t mean, however, that I want a hammock. Walk the streets here and dozens of blokes leap out shouting “Hammock?!” at you. My “No, gracias” is very well practised.


The other key touristy local souvenir item here is a hat. They casually call them Panamas, but they’re not Panamas as they’re from here, they’re actually ‘jipi japis’ or something like that. Touts insist they’re the local Mayan hat of choice, but I only ever see tourists wearing them. A tout got me into a “Artesans market” yesterday as I need a new hat. My dear old cap has bitten the dust. The chap explained about the sisal / agave hats, better than the coconut fibre tat sold on many stalls. They can be rolled. They are indeed quite nice. I finally said “How much?” and he said “1200 pesos” (60 quid ish). Ouch. Even the nice fairly flash cowboy hats I’d seen in shops seemed to cost only around $500 (confusingly, they use the dollar sign for pesos). I said, “No, sorry, find yourself a rich American.” He chased us down the street waving his calculator, finally getting down to $200, saying it’d be enough to at least cover his Coca-Cola. It was a bit emotional, it felt morally odd to even consider paying that much if it was worth $1200. But then, him being willing to drop the price so much called into question the very quality he’d been so emphatic about. Haggling is fun, but it’s a minefield.

What Britain could learn from Mexico

Mexicans go for family strolls. Sure our climate is very different, but our summers are getting hotter and drier thanks to climate change, so we could do this a bit more. Turn off the TV on an evening and go for a stroll in the park with your family.

Of course, our parks are a bit skanky too. So fix them up. Fix up the band stands and use them for music. People like music. Brits might not be as mad for musak as Mexicans, but we still like music. Sure the council would have to employ someone full time to keep painting over the grafitti, but it’d be worth it. Could for community cohesion and all that. (Talking of grafitti, Merida has hardly any compared to Oaxaca and San Cristobal. Less local political ferment presumably.)

Oh, and their long-distance coach services are excellent (despite the hammering you may receive from dubbed Hollywood movies). They put ‘British Rail’ and National Express to shame.

Armish  Mennonites

Saw a bunch of folks on one coach the other day who looked like Armish, or some other religion-based rustic society. All very Scandinavian looking, but sunned, with big working hands, hats, dungarees and wotnot. Are they Armish living in Mexico?

EDIT: Dr Russell has just informed me they are Mennonites. I thought they didn’t look quite like Armish, but I couldn’t remember the name of the other similar groups. Mennonites. Armish are a bit more dapper I think. And Hutterites, like in the Powell & Pressburger film 49th Parallel are something else again. Not really my specialist area.

A not quite so appealing aspect of Mexico

Most toilets have a sign saying, “Don’t throw paper in the toilet, put it in the bin”. Meaning toilet paper. Meaning used toilet paper. Uch. Come on, I realise that maybe the plumbing and sewerage systems maybe don’t handle the paper so well, but there must be a better way. Uch.

“Mi corazon”

Do any Mexican pop songs not include the words “Mi corazon” (My heart)? Doubtful.


Are Brits gringos? Or is it just Americans? Our emotionally manipulative hat vendor suggested it was just Yanks, but begs to differ. It also denies that the word arose from the song “Green Grow the Lilacs,” popular during US-Mexican War.

Instead it has this to say: Word History: In Latin America the word gringo is an offensive term for a foreigner, particularly an American or English person. But the word existed in Spanish before this particular sense came into being. In fact, gringo may be an alteration of the word griego, the Spanish development of Latin Graecus, “Greek.” Griego first meant “Greek, Grecian,” as an adjective and “Greek, Greek language,” as a noun. The saying “It’s Greek to me” exists in Spanish, as it does in English, and helps us understand why griego came to mean “unintelligible language” and perhaps, by further extension of this idea, “stranger, that is, one who speaks a foreign language.” The altered form gringo lost touch with Greek but has the senses “unintelligible language,” “foreigner, especially an English person,” and in Latin America, “North American or Britisher.” Its first recorded English use (1849) is in John Woodhouse Audubon’s Western Journal: “We were hooted and shouted at as we passed through, and called ‘Gringoes.'”


Got to love the Mexican word for a welder – vulcanizadora.


2 Responses to “Merida and misc.”

  1. Dom Says:


    I rather like this snippet type format, it suits my attention span. Informative, but easy enought to remember. I feel nourished.


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