Tag Archives: el maloso

The Uman Police Stop

On the outskirts of that large small town called Uman, to the south of Merida, there is a small retén, a police roadblock manned un-imposingly by one or two members of the Uman municipal police force, a formidable foe feared by organized crime, I’m sure.

On this occasion I was driving through Uman to Muna and the single skinny police official manning this post, who could not have been more than 18, made the up and down motions with his hands indicating that I should slow down and stop at his 4 poles and a piece of plywood shelter, complete with the economical and improvised flattened-tire-across-the-road speed bump.

I rolled down my window. It was a first for me to be stopped here in the many times I have driven this route, and I gave him a look that I hoped was inquisitive and at the same time supremely bored.

¿A donde se dirige?” was the official-sounding query that came out of his barely teen mouth. This is a common phrase from the Official State Police Handbook used by police officials and literally translates as “where are you headed?” They could just say “a donde vas” but that just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of official verbosity.

“Muna” I answer evenly.

EagerCop closes in to peek inside the vehicle and sees that I have two 12-packs of cervezas on the floor of the truck. His face lights up noticeably.

Muéstrame sus papeles” is his next salvo. I hand him my foreign driver’s license, setting down a couple of $100 peso bills on the seat beside me, and fish around for the vehicle’s tarjeta de circulacion and hand him that as well.

Debe tener una licencia de aqui” he says. “Si no, le pueden dar una infraccion.” I know I should have a Yucatan license but did not know I could get a fine for not having one. In fact I do have one, but I like to mess with the traffic cops, especially prepotente little pricks like this one, who see a gringo face and figure they’ll try a little shakedown (cars, SUV’s and trucks were and are continuing to drive past and around us as he does his thing).

Aha – lo dudo” I answer looking at him.

He looked thirstily down at the beer. I swear he licked his lips, but my memory might be playing tricks on me. The thought occurred to me that he might enjoy a cold beer.

“¿Cuantás ya se tomó?

How many did I drink? Presuming guilt is is straight from the pages of Canadian customs officials and any hope he might have had of me giving him a few cold ones just went out the window.

He’s already giving up on the driver’s license end and now wants to work the alcohol angle or so it seems so as his next question, when I answer that I haven’t had a drink and that I don’t drink and drive is “No se puede transportar alcohol, le pueden dar una infracción.”

Right. So now, in his little world where he is the almighty authority lording it over a supuesto dumb gringo, transporting alcohol is now illegal. I explain to him that this is beer for an event I am attending in Muna, that I haven’t had any and that it most certainly is legal to put your shopping in your car and move it from one place to another even if said shopping includes alcoholic beverages.

He half-hardheartedly looks at the license, the registration, the 100 peso bills, the beer.

Debe tener cuidado,” he says and hands me back the papers. I place the license along with the $100 peso bills in my shirt pocket and nod at him, biting my tongue to not tell him what a dick he is, and drive on to Muna.





The Funky Exhibits at the Manuel Crescencio Rejon Airport in Merida

Every once in a while, yet another friend shows up in Merida and I have to make the trek out to the airport to pick them up when they arrive on the flight from Continental which is now called United. In spite of the tone of the last sentence, I actually enjoy these little outings, what with the people watching opportunities, passenger and family member bingo (the gringo, 50 points, a mestiza, for 100 points etc.) and the expensive and consistently horrendous coffee at that little place next to Burger King which is always closing as we all wait for the flight to arrive.

On this last occasion, just about a month ago now, there was a new exhibit in the airport called Tesoros de Mexico (Treasures of Mexico) and so I had to check it out. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t figure out what in the hell this exhibit was about. There was a fancy chair, some coats of arms, a series of mini-pyramid sculptures but for the life of me I could not find a theme or even a reason for all this junk to be here. If you can figure this out and wish to enlighten me, please do. In my humble and always correct opinion, the exhibit should have been called “Shit I had lying around the back of the Museum” which would have been much more self-explanatory and then the items on display would have made some sense.

Look at the pyramids for example. In the absence of a sign or something, what are we looking at? Are the models to scale and the idea is to show how they stand up to each other in the great scheme of things archeological? Is it someone’s Lego set? There’s Mayan and Aztec stuff there. Why?

The fancy chair with the coat of arms of the state of Yucatan is there. Why? Did it belong to someone famous? Who? Does it belong to the governor? So why is it here at the airport then?

Here are most of the items you can enjoy while sipping that 700 peso coffee:

Things to look forward to as I age (can’t wait)

While this particular blog entry has absolutely nothing to do with Life in Merida from the Neurotic Foregners POV, the aging process is, nevertheless, a universal topic among members of my social circle and one with which I becoming increasingly familiar.

I look forward to becoming technologically impaired; that decisive moment when I decide that whatever technology is ‘new’ and therefore incomprehensible to me and just dismiss it as ‘stupid’ is a moment that will inevitably come, especially given the grade of neurosis I already posess. The new ‘FaceBook’ of the future will seem to me to be an invasion of privacy and just ridiculous and I won’t be able to figure out what the hell it’s good for, if anything. I will refuse to engage in conversation with my offspring, who will attempt to convince me of the benefits of adopting the new technology, that I have nothing to fear, that it is a good way to see what the grandchildren are up to. My derision will be accompanied by much shaking of my grey-haired head and moving my right hand from an over the shoulder and near my right ear position to a below the waist position (with an open palm, facing downward). These two actions will be taken while walking away from the person I am supposedly having a conversation with.

I look forward to not comprehending the significance of the future version of the CC button on the future equivalent of emails. I will complain therefore, in my self-pitying way, that it is craaaazy that people cannot communicate with each other normally and that I don’t understand if I just sent an email to one person that all the others didn’t get the message. I will not see that adding another email address in the future equivalent of the “TO” field on an email is not really that difficult and that I don’t have to go out in the winter cold, chop down a tree, put up a satellite dish and install another computer to send several emails at once.

I also look forward to forgetting how to spell my offsprings or their significant others names. To me, it’s all the same and I won’t understand the fuss and how could that tiny triviality possibly be any indicator of the depth of my feelings for that person or the significant other in question. Why are they all so grumpy, I will ask myself.

I anticipate (and this is already happening) abhorring (is it one R or two?) social engagements where loud music and loud conversation at too-large tables result in me staring abjectly at the people across the table, with whom I am unable to communicate beyond the occasional raised eyebrow and shoulder movements resembling dejected shrugs. The volume will put me in a foul mood that only a hasty exit to a more quiet environment can remedy, thereby forfeiting my right, should I be in Merida, to the lukewarm catered meal served at midnight as a strategy to keep us old folks hostage beyond the time we would normally tolerate the assault on our nervous system.

I will cope with and accept the increasing limits that aging puts on my body, from the newly discovered impossibility of climbing on the roof to enter my home when I have forgotten the house key, to the pain in my finger joints when I try writing as a method of communication as opposed to a keyboard (which funnily enough produces no such irritation).

There are many more things I look forward to as I reach the ripe old age of a half-century, and many of those will be positive I am sure. But this morning, I felt compelled to write about some of the less-than-stellar moments that I can look forward to (and I haven’t even touched on the GI tract).

Happy 2011!

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.

Coach Anita’s iPhone@TelCel Trials and Tribulations

Every once in a while, we here at lawsonsyucatan.com feature a guest griper who has a fresh and illuminating take on everyday life in the city we all love and find so, well, interesting.

Today’s contribution is from Coach Anita P. Beale; you may already know her! She hangs out in the mercado grande early mornings and is visited by many a local after a weekend night of partying. About 5 AM, when everyone is drunk or coming down from a drunk, they will announce “Vamos por Coach Anita!


The following is my account of my day at TelCel on Saturday…

I ordered my iPhone today… how exciting! It was a tedious affair of driving to one of only four authorized Telmex iPhone outlets at Alta Brisa Mall, checking in at the check in desk, standing in a long and very pedestrian line, and then finally getting permission to go to one of the 40 desk/booths to interface with some kid. Here are some of the highlights of the exchange, let’s see how it went, shall we?:

*Good afternoon, I’d like to discuss the purchase of an iPhone.

*well, we have a lot of different plans, do you know which one you want?

*yes, a friend told me all about her plan, and I would like what she has so I am prepared.

*do you want this in your personal name or the name of your corporation?

*name of the corporation please. (maybe we could get a tax credit or something)

*well it takes 5 days working to get it as a regular citizen and por lo menos twice that for the corporation, and we will need your acta constructiva, original and copies, bills for the last 2 years, originals and copies, taxes paid, names and signatures of each officer, signed form from the accountant of the corporation.

*never mind, just as a real live person.

*we need three character witnesses and their addresses and land-line phones, no cel phones, even though that’s what you are buying.

*didn’t have their addresses so made them up, Juanita had told me that they needed land lines so had those numbers with me, however they asked her for two, and now need three! Good thing I added an extra one to be safe (I guess I’ve lived here long enough to anticipate). They need land line numbers because of course one can’t trust cel phones at TelCel celular phone company.

*”representative” fidgeted constantly, rocking back and forth and up and down like he was comin’ offa crack or something. Cleaned glasses a minimum of 9 times. I do believe he farted twice as well.

*will I be able to keep my old phone number? Yes! But not if you want to keep your old phone.

*all names/numbers will be wiped out of your old phone before we activate your new phone, best to write everything down on a piece of paper. (Now wait just a minute… I can’t see that happening in San Francisco or London or Tokyo… do they ask them to do that there too?)

*May I see phone? See how it works?

*there’s one on display, but I’ll have to help someone else in line while you look, and you’ll have to wait until they are done before I can help you again…

*plus that one in display is out of battery and is a black screen anyway so there is nothing for you to see

*may I see the white one?

*no, all phones are sealed in boxes and only opened if you buy it.

*do you have any white ones in stock

*I don’t know, I would have to go in the stockroom and check.

*it doesn’t show that on your screen?


*would you check please?

*yes, but it will be around 5 minutes or so while I rummage through the stock room

*I want white, I think, please check and I will twiddle my thumbs while you check

*5 minutes*

*yes! we have white, but you can’t see it… do you want it?

*I guess.

*is all info correct on this sheet?

*well, it is Juanita, not Judith

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*OK, is everything correct?

*well, Heitke is my apellido, not my nombre

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct?

*street is between 65 and 67, not 65 and 77

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct?

*my birthday is in July, not June

*rips up page and throws in trash dramatically

*is everything correct now?

*yes, it is!

*it will take 5 days to process your request, where should we call you?

*my home phone or cel phone number

*but your cel number will be disconnected by us, so we can’t call that and rules clearly state that we have to have two numbers. I cannot go forward without this information

*but you won’t disconnect it UNLESS my dossier comes through Interpol as a go, right?

*we will call your cel number

*would you like to pay by cash or credit card each month?

*credit card

*oh, your credit card isn’t a national one, is it?

*no, it is from the usa, but I use it every single day here in Merida

*I have to go check, this may take a while

*a while*

*computer says no.

*so would you like to pay by cash or credit card each month, but with a Mexican credit card?

*I don’t have a Mexican credit card, so cash, I will physically go to your office every single stinkin’ month to pay.

*OK, I think I have everything, that is all. You will be contacted if you are eligible.

*will I be contacted if I am NOT eligible?


The “Real Merida”

If there’s one thing that bothers me about idealistic folks coming to retire and/or live here semi-permanently, it’s those individuals that don’t visit northern Merida or go to a mall or eat at Carls Junior because it’s not, in their constrained and limited perception of what a modern Mexican city can be, the ‘real Merida’.

Maybe it’s because I have lived here for over 20 years and consider myself more local than foreign or maybe it’s because I am just a neurotic bastard, but this comment always manages to piss me off. It’s right up there with the ‘the children are so beautiful’ comment, which I have also had the pleasure of hearing on more than a dozen occasions and which also provokes from me the same, negative reaction. I feel like saying “of COURSE the children are beautiful – ALL children are beautiful, not just the brown ones that smile hopefully up at you, wealthy foreigner in shorts and sandals and flowery shirt.” It just seems so condescending, somehow.

Like the idea of a “real Merida.”

What is the real Merida? Are we (and I am speaking as a Yucatecan now) all supposed to run around in guayaberas and alpargatas and dance jaranas with trays of glasses on our adorable heads? Are we to eat only salbutes and panuchos and ‘typical’ food all week? The mistakenly romantic idea that in Merida time stands still and sushi, malls and Office Max are somehow contaminating someone’s vision of what the city should be is, again, condescending and frankly offensive.

I am motivated to write this little rant thanks to Beryl over at gorbman.com who just had a brush with the ‘real’ Merida; the Merida that most gringos don’t have to deal with and that, for the most part, lies just under the surface of the charming mess that is modern Mexico. You can read all about her brush with the ‘justice’ system in her fun account of what happened when she ran into Big Caesar (check out her photo to get a glimpse of Big Caesar)

Put your feet up, serve yourself a glass of typical cebada and enjoy a tale of one womans immersion into the ‘real’ Merida.

Remixto Brunch – Again

Apparently the Casual Restaurant Critic and his Better Half behaved themselves well enough to garner another invitation, this time to the second Remixto Brunch, once again graciously hosted by MexiChica and Casa Mexilio.

There is little to say that the Critic didn’t mention on the previous occasion, except that the heat/humidity was mercifully much more tolerable on this occasion, and the company that joined the Critic and Better Half was truly enjoyable. Oh, and the menu featured the terrific Lechon Benedict as well as a Henwich and Green Eggs and Ham.

In fact, one member of the group, who we shall call the YT Girl, took photos, a la the Critic, which are posted below!

If you have a chance, come to the next one!

That Seafood Palapita across from Bancarios

The readers (well, some of them) of the Casual Restaurant Critic have asked him to include addresses so that they can find the restaurants he trashes and praises. This review, from the title alone, will probably irritate one or two of those people, but the truth is, that the Critic doesn’t want his column to look like everyone elses, what with B/L/D, AX, VI, MC, 9:00AM -5:00PM and all that other junk that the Critic can’t be expected to remember or jot down when he is enjoying a fantastic or terrible restaurant experience.

That said, the Critic will ALWAYS give directions to anyone who asks.

Today’s stomach-bursting seafood extravaganza lunch was had at that little palapita across from Bancarios, on the Correa Racho avenue. Bancarios is a club, with a huge swimming pool and all kinds of fun activities in the back; the Correa Racho avenue is named after a deceased local politician of PAN extraction, father of a local politician who still is in the business of politics. But this has nothing to do whatsoever with the restaurant, located on that avenue which, by the way, turns into the street in front of the Star Medica and Altabrisa mall that will eventually take you to the periferico and on to Cholul. This should be enough information to give even the most navigationally-challenged among you an idea of where to go. To find this restaurant, of course.

It is a locals favorite, and you won’t see too many tourists in there at all. The restaurant is small, maybe 20 tables at most; there is a palapa roof but air conditioning as well to keep things cool. It’s dark and homey inside and there is of course a television that you can watch when you realize that the person you are with is too boring to have a conversation with or if you are having a spat.

The service is fast, friendly and the waiters are knowledgeable and will recommend dishes rather than saying “todo esta bueno” which is the Critics least favorite answer to the question “What’s good?” Upon taking a seat, you are brought a basket of crispy corn chips and a few moments later, a small plate with a sample of whole-shrimp ceviche. Nothing better than getting something to nibble on when you are hungry and still have before you the weighty task of perusing the menu!

The Critic and his lovely Better Half ordered what amounted to too much food, but it was so good that it all managed to get finished. Two medium cocktails to start, one shrimp only, the other shrimp, octopus and squid; an order of xcatic chiles stuffed with cazon (shark) and bathed in tomato sauce; an order of queso relleno (stuffed cheese) with seafood instead of pork and beef and an order of the Critics favorite local fish, boquinete, pan fried with crunchy garlic bits.

All the food was delicious! The queso relleno was a little heavy on the bell peppers, in the CHO (Critics Humble Opinion), their sweet flavor overpowered the subtler taste of the almonds, capers and raisins. The presentation was interesting, on a banana leaf, which actually imparted some flavor to the dish. The boquinete filets were cooked just enough to not dry them out and the crispy garlic concoction that was sprinkled on top in tasty chunks complemented the understated fish nicely. Was that a pretentious sentence or what. But the most interesting item to pass over the Critics palate was the complex flavors of shredded shark meat stuffed into a mildly (if that) picante xcatic chile and bathed generously with a cooked tomato sauce.

No alcoholic drinks were had; only two limonadas con soda and of course, desserts were skipped entirely. The cost for this feast? $440 pesos, before tips. Highly worth your while to find this little gem of a place, which the Critic believes is only open for lunch.

Make sure you save a few coins for the bowing, scraping, toothy-smiled individual who works the parking lot and may open the restaurant door for you.

Merida Malls – A Primer

For those of you into malls, you will happy to know that there is a glut (too many, pues) of shopping malls in the formerly-white city of Merida. Wherever you turn, there is another mall! This is in addition to the already gazillion little placitas that people keep building on any available corner that feature independent and sometimes chain business that quite often are doomed to fail as a result of over-supply. This is the mall panorama at the time of this writing:

  • Plaza Dorada – The ‘family’ mall as they like to advertise themselves. This mall was one of the first malls on this side of the city and is an early architectural design by the now famous Augusto Quijano. It looks severely dated now, however, and is comprised of a series of independently owned shops for the most part along with one or two chains including a supermarket. The feel is cheap, and their market could be described as lower middle class. Not a place you would want to spend any more time than necessary in. The arrangement in the mall is that all commercial space is privately owned, so any renovations or improvements have to be agreed upon my all the owners, which, in Merida, is a challenging prospect to be sure.

    In addition, Plaza Dorada was eclipsed by the construction of the Las Americas mall right next door, which put the nail in the Dorada coffin – a nail that had been placed there by the burning (some say intentional) of the Dorada cinemas, run by Ramirez who were opening a mini-plex at the new Las Americas across the street.

    Plaza Dorada is not a happy place.

  • Plaza Fiesta – Once Meridas premiere mall, before the opening of La Gran Plaza, Plaza Fiesta manages to hang in there after years and years of operation and several ambitious renovations. Built in the square, boxy style common at the time, Plaza Fiestas latest reno made the interior more curvy and a little more modern. Hard economic times have hit Plaza Fiesta where it counts and many many commercial spaces are vacant making the ambiance more depressing than it was. Sin embargo, locals from the area still go there to do there shopping at the supermarket and there are several bank outlets as well, making it a functional plaza but not a destination for people who like to stroll the malls
  • Plaza Oriente – As its name implies, Plaza Oriente is in that part of town known as the Oriente, which is not an oriental reference in the sense of anything Chinese, but rather that it lies in the eastern part of town. Not exactly an upscale neighborhood, the area around Plaza Oriente is middle to low income families and the minimal offerings at this shopping center reflect the low level of discretionary income available to be spent within its severely aesthetically challenged interiors. A few shops, a bank or two and that’s about it. One of Meridas first malls, this is one place you would never feel compelled to visit for any reason.
  • La Gran Plaza – the construction of this new, modern mall was announced with much fanfare in 1994 and its moniker is ‘the fashion mall’. Just like that; in English. And when it was finished, in its initial phase, it was indeed the place to go and Merida was excited to have a mall just like the ones in the US and Canada, all fancy and upscale. Shops were charged an arm and two legs to get in and the rents were the highest ever charged for commercial space in an enclosed shopping environment. The Gran Plaza became THE destination mall to stroll around in and the businesses that catered to this strolling market made a killing.
Now when I say ‘destination’ mall I mean that it took the place of the traditional zocalo or main square that is a central fixture in every Mexican town and small city; where the populace comes to see and be seen, where young folks of opposite sexes glanced at each other furtively under the watchful eyes of aunts or mothers or perhaps a chaperon in the form of a little brother or sister; where old men came to gossip and leer somewhat discreetly at the young females in their best and flirtiest outfits; where entire families strolled, ice cream cones in hand and greeted one another warmly. This social environment has not been eradicated in spite of the best efforts of Televisa, Dish Network and DirecTV. It has simply moved indoors, where a climate controlled environment makes for a much more pleasant outing. Mothers and fathers routinely leave their barely pre-teen children in the mall, to hang out with their friends, perhaps go to a movie and just chill, thinking that the mall security will keep an eye on them. Those of us who have children who grew up during that time can remember vividly the masses of people congregating at Wendy’s (now Starbucks) directly across from the Gran Plaza and where parents would pick up their offspring after the mall closed.
  • Plaza Las Americas – As I alluded to earlier, Plaza Las Americas was built directly across the street from Plaza Dorada under the auspices of the owners of Chedraui, who own similar projects throughout Mexico, always with one of their supermarkets as an anchor. Plaza Las Americas was a ‘big deal’ at the time since it actually looked pleasant and had some interesting stores, a cinema (the Ramirez company who used the insurance money from the fire at their Plaza Dorada location to finance the new theaters) and a food court with real gringo franchises like KFC, McDonalds and Burger King. It is however, a small mall and not much fun to stroll around in since the distance to be covered from one end to the other is too short and the layout is a Y which makes it difficult to go in circles.
After a few years of stability in the mall market, someone heard something and a spate of construction began that created the current mall glut in Merida.
  • MacroPlaza –  built in that area behind Los Pinos, near the monument to the Xtabay, this tiny strip mall is another shopping only kind of mall with not much to offer beyond a supermarket, some stores, a nearby WalMart and a cinema. There is a tiny food court but nothing exciting that would lure you to come and have a look.
Major malls soon followed.
  • Altabrisa – a joint venture by the group that built the Gran Plaza, along with Carlos Slims company (one of them, anyway) and two other investors, this mall is probably Meridas most ambitious mall to date, easily out doing the Gran Plaza in terms of fashion-ability and status symbol stores. Everything from Haagen Dazs to Zara to Starbucks to Nine West to Benetton can be found within the walls iof this huge, high ceilinged collosus that is run like a mall would be run in the US or Canada. That is to say: all the stores, or at least 80%, are occupied, the air conditioning works, there is music from the moment you step out of your car and in general it’s just a pleasant place to be on a hot Merida day. All the upper middle class to upper class folks from Merida, young and old, come to this mall to do their walking around and the cinemas are probably Meridas best. Unlike movie theaters in the US or Canada, these cinemas are packed when a blockbuster movie comes out or on a Saturday night.

    A quibble I have with this mall is its awful food court, which resembles an unfinished airport hangar with food stalls on either side of it. The space in the middle is gigantic, full of metal and plastic chairs and tables and completely devoid of any charm. Eating there is an exercise in self control, as you want to run from the place, it is so uncomfortable.

    Points go this mall for its mall-ness, its location; ideal for buying a gift or waiting for someone to get better (or die) at the Star Medica hospital next door, the fact that it has a Chili’s and those deliciously decadent top shelf margaritas, a great cinema experience, Starbucks coffee and almost every upscale store you could want.

At the same time that Altabrisa was being built, a group from Mexico City announced the construction of yet another mall, because Merida – hooray – really needed another mall.
  • Galerias – owned by the folks who run Liverpool the department store, this is another high end mall, complete with a central ice skating rink, a Ghandi bookstore (big deal if you are from Mexico City, although it has absolutely nothing on a Borders or Chapters) and even a Hugo Boss boutique. I don’t know of anyone who would buy anything at retail in a Hugo Boss store here, but then that’s just me. This mall, as a shopping experience, is probably a failure judging from the business closing there in the last year or two. The big draw is the air conditioning, the casino and the skating rink. Oh and the fabulous margaritas and consistently mediocre service that characterize the American chain restaurant, Chili’s. The food court at Galerias is off in one corner on the second floor, almost as if it were an afterthought and is as unattractive as the one in Altabrisa, but with even less options.
Another group of businessmen, from somewhere up north, smelled opportunity (how or what, quien sabe) were building, at the same time:
  • Plaza Senderos – another giant project that would serve that part of the city previously attended to by the tiny and outdated Plaza Oriente. Unfortunately this mall never really took off and is struggling at the moment.
  • City Center – If the above were not enough, the Hines Group out of Texas (Gallerias in Houston is one of theirs) and their Mexican affiliates had the brilliant idea to also build a shopping mall, but with a different concept in mind. Theirs would be half outdoors and strollers would be able to shop and dine al fresco since to get from one shop to another you needed to stroll around outside. With retail giant WalMart as their anchor, they ambitiously launched their advertising campaign. Fridays came on board (under a different franchise owner than the Fridays on Montejo, btw) as did Los Trompos who opened their most ambitious taqueria yet, complete with a giant revolving sign. Unfortunately here too, the demand for this mall did not meet expectations and the shopping center is mostly empty. The food court, for example, has not a single occupant.
I think I have hit most of the major shopping malls in Merida with this little write-up; hopefully, as a newcomer to Merida, you will find it useful when deciding where to go to escape the heat, which is what a great majority of Meridanos use their mall time for.