Some photos from the 2017 Telchac Education Full Moon Jazz Night at Villas Wayak.
“El chile pica” warned the waiter, pointing to the blackened chile habanero bits mushed up in the little bowl.
The gringo smiled. He had eaten chiles before. Had even watched a show by Rick Bayless once where Rick explained how to spot a particularly spicy one.
“De verdad pica; tenga cuidado” repeated the waiter.
He seemed truly concerned and hovered for another moment at the red plastic table watching the gringo, who nodded and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
The waiter turned back to the counter to pick up another order; mondongo para la mesa cuatro, his Mom told him from behind the counter, hands slick with pork fat as she worked the lechon.
He was setting down the spicy soup at table four when he heard a loud cough and the scrape of a plastic chair being violently pushed on concrete; the gringo was standing up waving his hands in the air and his mouth opening and closing like a freshly caught pescado. Comical almost, if it wasn’t for the fact that he looked like he was going to die right there.
“Pinche gringo, que bruto; se lo dije” he thought to himself.
People at the other tables smiled bemusedly at the gringo’s predicament and those nearby held out their drinks or some tortillas, all of which the gringo ignored, not out of rudeness of course but because he simply couldn’t see them, his eyes were watering so bad.
Mom was already out from behind the counter, arms around the stumbling gringo and leading him towards the counter where Luisa had some milk in a glass. Mom was also stuffing tortillas in his mouth to soak up the picante.
Little by little, his eyes drying and the coughing subsiding, the gringo came back to this world. He opened his eyes to find himself sitting at a stool by the counter with everyone looking at him. He gave a limp wave with one hand.
“Bien, estoy bien” he said lifting one hand and looking somewhat chagrined. Everyone smiled and returned to their meals.
He walked slowly, almost carefully, to his table and sat down to finish his tacos.
The waiter stopped by at the table.
“Esta bien? Si pica el chile verdad? Se lo dije no? he asked with a not unkind smile.
“Oh, si!” said the gringo and gave a feeble laugh. The waiter patted the gringo’s shoulder and moved back to the counter.
Tacos de lechon para la dos. His Mom gave him a wink.
The other week, I felt strangely compelled to join other palefaces living in the formerly white city to an event organized by the Merida Verde people to officially launch the second edition of the Living In Merida book, now new and improved and chock full of information for new, English speaking arrivals, with the occasional tidbit that might be useful for those of us who have lived here longer than most and have our own personal favorite suppliers of everything from accurate law advice to honest real estate brokerage services to where to get a transmission repaired without losing an arm and a leg in the process.
To project an air of respectability I put on a clean shirt, picked up always charming Better Half and headed out to that hotel with the Pinedo Covalin boutique located on the corner of 47 and Montejo, right where Montejo ends and what some locals call El Remate which of course is a misnomer as it is not a remate as such, but a principio or beginning of that famous avenue modeled after Paris’ Champs D’Elysees.
Again, I digress.
There were all manner of expats milling about, some of which sported faces completely new to me, as I am somewhat out of touch with this crowd, who for the most part inhabit that part of Merida they charmingly call ‘Centro’ and are not frequent visitors to the other end of Montejo, where the Fridays, Sams Club and McDonalds along with the mall and its adjacent Starbucks make for a very different, and oft-criticized by visitors, impression of Merida.
“I prefer the REAL Merida!” they will say, wrinkling their nose, as if everyone should be wearing white outfits and balancing trays of glasses and bottles on their heads while dancing a typical jarana, panucho in hand. God forbid the locals should aspire to eating a hamburger or having a double grande latte with non-fat soy milk.
As I made the rounds, I overheard – and occasionally engaged in – earnest, well-meaning conversations on organic gardening, saving yet another local dog, the latest restoration of yet another fabulous little colonial down on 66 and all the Art that everyone seems to be making. These subjects are somewhat foreign to me, having been here now for so long with my regular boring job, normal family obligations and other mundane, boring activities that leave me precious little time for this navel-gazing that seem to be so popular among those who have moved here from el norte, to relish the freedom that a bank account in dollars can provide in a land of pesos.
Inside, the wine flowed freely (hey it was free, aprovecha!) and as some of the dialogue began to get a little slurred, I tried to identify, without much success, some of the people who I might have engaged with only online, before moving outside for some fresh air and a smoke. This nasty activity is of course now banned anywhere indoors in Merida, to the delight of many and the disgust of many more who can’t understand why Merida needs to adopt these new regulations when there are so many other things to be improved upon.
Once the book was presented and the thank-you’s made to all the collaborators in a drawn out affair which proved that not only Yucatecans will continue their conversations while someone is making a speech, the little soiree was over. A little more socializing with a few good friends I found there and I called it a night.
And the book? I’m sure it will prove to be a valuable addition to the information already out there, particularly on websites such as yucatanliving and yucatantoday and of course lawsonsyucatan, but one must take it all with a grain of salt. For example, the section on buying a used car mentions that one place to buy a previously owned vehicle is the ex-Penitentiary, which, as any local will tell you, is rife with stolen automobiles, cars with ‘papers’ issues and the occasional con artist.
It was a strangely different sort of evening, a take on a Yucatecan night out minus the Yucatecans, featuring a fantastic selection of characters out of some travel novel from the last century; something by Somerset Maugham. And although at the time I was a little less than enthusiastic about going, I am glad I went.