Fun Merida Activities – The 9 PM Houston Flight Arrival Event

For those of you constantly whining about how this or that is not the ‘real’ Merida as if all Yucatecans had to wear starched white clothing, clunky sandals and balance a tray with bottle and glasses on their heads for your amusement, here is another unreal Yucatecan activity that you too can participate in!

There are tried and true Merida traditions, like frijol con puerco on Mondays, visiting the family home en masse on Sundays, and spending the summer months at the beach, that you are probably quite aware of. But there are also newer, more modern traditions that you may not be aware of or that are being crafted in our lifetime, right now! One of these is the cultural event that occurs almost nightly at Merida’s airport.

Each night at the Manuel Cresencio Rejon airport (who the hell was that guy anyway) here in the formerly white city, around 9 PM, a crowd gathers at the arrivals gate to welcome the passengers arriving on the almost-daily Continental Airlines flight from Houston, USA.

It’s always a fine cross-section of Merida’s population with all the socioeconomic groups represented.Look carefully!

There are the well-off Meridanos from the clase acomodada, awaiting the arrival of a tia or tio or perhaps a student – mi primo – returning from a semester in the US where they went to study English with all the chicanos and instead learned to appreciate the value of their muchacha as well as the recreational qualities of marijuana. These folks gather in small groups, often based on age groups, because they know each other and ask ‘a quien vienes a buscar‘ which is then followed by a lengthy conversation on the life of the person they are waiting for. This is also a good time to catch up on local gossip once the initial conversation has reached a saturation point and/or flight 1842 is late landing on the tarmac.

Also present is some sort of gringo element in the form of a single man or perhaps a couple, who have come to pick up one of their kind who is coming to visit or stay for an extended period of time in their newly renovated house. These people, wearing garb that ranges from monied and downright elegant to scraggly shorts and a wrinkled guayabera topped off with Felix the Cat facial hair and a bedhead do, are often standing alone and will keep to themselves, even in the presence of other gringos unless of course they are on speaking terms in which case they will make light superficial conversation about life in “Centro”.

There is almost always a family or two of people who fit into neither category, gringo or clase acomodada, and who probably live in one of Merida’s “popular” neighborhoods, “popular” being the local term for the poor and low income people that make up the vast majority of the Yucatans population. These people do not mingle with the aforementioned clusters and arrive in large familial units complete with a gaggle of children accustomed to unusual bedtimes and often with an hipil-clad abuelita in tow.

A fun activity is to try matching the passengers escaping the baggage claim and semaforo area with the people waiting. One can get the occasional surprise when, for example, the low income family with the hipil-clad grandmother is the group that welcomes open-armedly the solitary gringo with one carry-on piece of luggage. Hugs and backslaps from the males, polite handshakes from the women and shy smiles from the many children accompany the lucky gringo (you should consider yourself lucky to get such an enthusiastic reception) to whatever form of transporation is waiting outside.

While enjoying this entertainment, I recommend getting a pretty awful cup of coffee which costs about half a minimum daily wage 😉 at the place next to Burger King, or perhaps ordering some hot french fries at BK itself so you can munch or sip while watching the goings-on.

Look around folks, and welcome to the real Merida.

10 thoughts on “Fun Merida Activities – The 9 PM Houston Flight Arrival Event

  1. Pingback: Felix The Cat
  2. There is another option….for THREE daily minimum wages you can have a cocktail. Last time we were told “2 for 1” so we bought in! What we learned after the bartender poured our two cocktails was that we EACH had to order 2×1..There went six days of work for two stinkin rum and cokes.

    The rum does make the waiting more interesting and tolerable. Even if it does make me less tolerable at least I have more fun.

    And one last thing, you forgot to mention the flight is always oversold, full, and an hour late. Greeters get panicky if their loved one(s) straggle….they fear the passenger is still at the Houston departure gate.

    Great post.

  3. Yes its fun at the airport I love it Im a people watcher too and love trying to figure out from where they come and to where they go. I was invited with a family from St Elena going to meet their son ,who had spent three years working and saving his money to come back to a brand new house.It was all very interesting watchin the interactions and especially his soon to be bride that he had never met only by internet and phone calls.
    Samuel now works for me and hes a treasure………………….

  4. And keep in mind who’s also waiting – the property manager at the rental house! Guests cheerfully inform me that they are arriving at 9:15 pm in Merida, will pick up their rental car, and should be at the beach home about 10:30. Ha! They’re lucky if they get out of the airport by 11 pm.
    (Also, guests arriving at 4:15 in Cancun believe they’ll be here about about 7 pm, or so. sigh).

  5. William, you got the laser beam dialed in on this one. Funny! I’ve been the gringo waiting for wife or guest a few times now. The last time I had to get there in a rainstorm and all the cabs were taken, so I slogged downtown and caught the camion, then stood soaked through only to find that the same storm had kept my wife in Houston, and I’d have to come back tomorrow.

    There is pretty much nothing else to do but people watch while you wait. I have been there a couple of times and seen groups of students coming for a Spanish immersion course, or on one occasion, an evangelical group wearing matching red T shirts. Always some interesting people.

  6. So true! And when you greet your loved one, if they are a Merida resident, chances are they will tell you they saw someone they knew from Merida onboard, and maybe even saw each other at Pappadeaux Restaurant in Houston airport.

    In the 8 years I have lived here, in the zillion times I have either arrived on that flight or waited for someone else who was on it, it was never late! It does take awhile to get through the Migración lineup but the agents are always polite and efficient. Baggage appears quickly and there are porters to help you. The only stressful moment is when you push the button for Aduana (Customs)…will it be green or red? But in my experience, even when it’s red, the agents are also polite and efficient.

    I also love the smell when I arrive, sort of a musty tropics smell that welcomes me home.

    ¡Bienvenido a Mérida!

  7. There is another modern tradition that all the different “classes” of Yucatecans enjoy. That would be meet me in front of the escalator at Grand Plaza and let’s have a nice long chat.

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