Tag Archives: Living in Merida

Why I Don’t Read the Newspaper – a Rant

Today, a copy of the Diario de Yucatan, once Merida’s more serious newspaper, entered my home and once again reaffirmed my belief that it is far better to ignore local news in any form because hearing, reading or seeing what is ‘newsworthy’ is really just depressing and makes one’s blood boil.

Boiling Point 1

In the newspaper, dated Saturday 20 of June, 2015, the Local section had this as their top story: “Elogio de la ONU (Spanish for United Nations) a Mérida.

It turns out that someone from the UN came to Merida for an environmental Expo and made encouraging comments about the potentially ‘great business opportunities’ in the area of renewable energy production that exist in the Yucatan along with the fabulous wealth of natural resources.

Now I am not sure what planet she is coming from – although later she mentions being in the DF so anywhere looks promising after that – but perhaps she didn’t read or hear about the rapid rate of contamination of the peninsula’s ground water thanks to complete indifference by authorities and citizens alike, who have no qualms about disposing of waste into the aquifer. Or read the article by another visitor recently who was blown away by the amount of trash that can be found everywhere in the Yucatan, particularly along the so-called Emerald Coast which was named after a visit to the Yucatan by a direct descendant of L. Frank Baum. Or see how trees are cut at an alarming rate both by those exploiting them for lumber or pulp as well as many developers and residents who regard anything resembling a leaf as garbage and ‘undesirable’. Natural resources indeed. Perhaps she was referring to the abundance of limestone. We sure do have a lot of rocks.

When she mentions that “Yucatan has one of the best environmental strategies in the country” I can only wonder at how bad the other states in Mexico really are. Is there potential for wind and solar? Yes. Is it being aggressively pursued by any government agency? Not that I know of, but then I don’t follow the press on a regular basis so am not up to date on the pomp and circumstance of self-congratulatory official pronouncements. There is an ongoing, energetic program to rid the Yucatan of plastic. Kidding. And the reforestation along avenues and highways is also a priority here. Not. Especially not when there is a billboard that needs seeing.

My lethargic cat has more environmental strategies than the Yucatan.

In the article she also states that Merida has ‘buenas vialidades‘; in other words, a good road and street system. I will give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor. What vialidades is she talking about, I wonder.

  • The multilane manic madness of the Avenida Itzaes with its lanes that are abruptly repainted at each intersection?
  • Downtown streets with its yellow curbed no parking streets that are ignored by the PAN officials who park their cars in front of their office?
  • The white-knuckle bottleneck that is the glorieta experience at the new museum of all things Mayan?

Many of us who live here would beg to differ and it is only getting worse, as the recent opening of Krispy Kreme on Montejo or a drive through the neglected neighborhoods in Merida’s south can attest.

Boiling Point 2

Second article in the Local section, is the confirmation of the construction of yet another centro comercial aka mall, this one called Uptown Center, following the accepted and malinchista protocol of naming all new and exciting commercial developments in English. Uptown Center sounds so… uptown, after all. and that’s where we all want to be. With a Walmart and a Starbucks, it most certainly will feel uptown. Meanwhile, el sur de Mérida continues to languish amidst potholes, deficient street lighting and dilapidated public transportation. What the hell, they’re poor and their apellidos are cortos so who cares.

This new mall location is a large property and it seems the Ayuntamiento has signed off on it. What makes my blood boil is the fact that Merida does not need yet another upscale freaking mall. What Merida needs is parks and green spaces for its citizens.

Imagine the city of Merida leading the way in Mexico and even North America not because of what was already there (Mayan culture, natural location – see boiling point 1) but because of what its citizens and government did to make it that way. But alas, the general interest is not in having a great, livable and healthy city; the general trend is to have as many Walmarts and Starbucks as possible, covering everything with concrete as we pursue that goal, and THAT will make us all feel like we are living in a great city.

Does this not make anyone else angry? Feel free to comment below.

Boiling Point 3

On the inside pages of the Local section, along with stories of multimillion peso frauds committed without consequence by the mayor of Yaxcaba, the usual tawdry reporting on spousal stabbings and spectacular car accidents, there is an article entitled “The Mayans; a tourism magnet”

The powers-that-be of our fine tourism infrastructure are busy promoting – in England no less – all things Mayan. Among the last names of the fine citizens representing the initiative mentioned are Bravo, Ancona, Franco, Tovar y Teresa, Gomez and others. It would seem to me that including one or two actual Mayans would be an interesting and refreshing twist to these continued efforts to milk the Mayan culture dry, that continues decade after decade, without returning a centavo to the actual Mayans living in the Yucatan today. Of course, there are many ambitious and promising projects that are announced with each new governor, mayor or president; projects with fancy logos and stationery and even official vehicles and uniforms; projects that are promptly abandoned or the funds siphoned off for a new vehicle for the office, or other much-needed accoutrements of the white-guayabera-clad functionaries with their iPhones and shiny black shoes, smiling among villagers who have been screwed over again and again and still pose for the photos, in the hope that maybe this time, the promise might be real.

As I have the opportunity to spend time in the villages and comisarías and ejidos, I see real, emaciated and forgotten Mayans every day and can tell you – without hesitation – that these Mayans do not receive any benefits from these promotional junkets.

International trips where Merida chefs prepare and serve tacos de cochinita and antojitos yucatecos; where miniature replicas of Chichen Itza and other Mayan archeological pieces are expensively shipped and displayed for foreigners who then congratulate the officials accompanying the pieces on the cultural heritage of the Yucatan. The last people to benefit from all this promotion of Mayan-ness, to paraphrase my friend Macduff Everton, are the Mayans themselves.

And that, my dear readers makes my blood boil the most; how about you?

Maybe if I read the paper, listed to the radio, turned on the TV on a regular basis, I would become inured to these myopic assaults on common sense, on human dignity and on the vast potential of Merida and the Yucatan.

Alas, (or fortunately, for my own mental health) I do not.

And so, when a newspaper comes between me and the table, and I see the absolute mierda that is occurring around me in the city and state that I love and have come to regard as my own, I rant. For I am seeing this not as a romantic foreigner who just bought a colonial in Santiago and finds the Luca de Galvez market still charming, but a long-time resident that feels coraje at the potential of the place being squandered so cavalierly.

Spanish for Newbies – Helpful Hint No. 117

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Spanish for Newbies – Helpful Hint No. 117

The photo (above) is typical of one you would find in a public or semi-public parking lot in Merida and to the Merida newbie it might be a bit confusing.

If you have studied any Spanish at all, you might recognize the word – sort of – and think “Oh, I remember paloma, which means pigeon, so this might mean male paloma. A palomo!” Alas, you’d be wrong and besides, you’d still be wondering about the ‘lic’ part. I mean it’s not ‘lic’ as in ‘lick’ which could mean don’t lick the palomos, but no.

‘Lic’ is short for ‘Licenciado’ which is a title usually handed out once you have completed some sort of lawyerly career option. Once you have achieved Licenciado status, you can place it in front of your last name and often people will call you simply ‘Licenciado’ instead of using your name. Short version? Lic. Pronounced Lick. With that explanation under our belt, we can therefore deduce that the sign is referring to a Licenciado Palomo; Palomo being his last name.

And there’s that crossed out letter ‘E’ as well, which everyone who has traveled means no E’ing. Seriously though, you have studied some Spanish (maybe you’ve been to España!) and so you recognize the sign indicating no parking. Parking is estacionar in Spanish. So that crossed out ‘E’ means no parking.

Now you must put them together.

It might mean that there is no parking if you are the Lic. Palomo. So should he happen to show up, he most definitely can not park in that space as the sign is personally directed at him. It might also mean that ‘Ey, no licking palomos‘ in that space because that’s how you pronounce the letter ‘E’ en español –Ey. Third option – and this one’s a keeper – is that the space is reserved for a certain Licenciado Palomo, so don’t you go parking your damn car there.

Got it? Good.

Hanging out with the Expats at the Living in Merida Book Launch

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.