Meet the New Merida: A provincial town morphs into an urban metropolis
Merida, the cultural capital of Southern Mexico, the white city, the place that comes alive in the historic centro with traditional dances, musical sounds such as la trova yucateca, people of all ages strolling with their family or lovers, savoring helados or marquesitas. Those who live here or have been here before, inhale a familiar scent of humidity, traffic and tacos al pastor—or if is it after 2am maybe the smell of hotdogs wrapped in bacon. Walking through the streets of the centro you can feel the presence of over 450 years of civilization. How many ghosts must still wander these streets and how many stories of love, scandal, tragedy, passion and elation have unfolded in the shadows of the cathedral, plazas and countless churches? You can see it in the eyes of the Yucatecan people, their triumphs, suffering, and their acceptance of life as it is…a lo yucateco.
Although many tourists and foreigners who live here understand exactly what I describe above and have indulged in the historic Yucatan that has embraced them with open arms, many extranjeros aren’t as familiar with the modern Merida. Yes, okay. You have seen Costco, TGIFs, and have been to City Center or bought art from the accomplished local artists; however, many don’t have much contact with the Meridian movers and shakers. The amount of talent this town has to offer as far as designers, chefs, producers, intellectuals, writers, entrepreneurs, etc. is indeed astounding. The new Merida embraces and encourages entrepreneurship and creativity. As we see unfolding in front of us, Merida is expanding by the minute. New convention centers, gastronomic endeavors, luxury high rise apartments, contemporary workshare offices, cultural and commercial centers are popping up left and right. This city’s past, present and impending future seem to be colliding together at a velocious rate and—I have to say—it is fascinating to witness and it makes me want to be a part of it, not just a foreign observer. Provincial Merida is becoming an urban metropolis right before our eyes.
Not surprisingly, the challenge foreigners face when trying to delve into Merida culture old and new, is the lack of language skills. While a good deal of Meridians speak English relatively well, the language barrier does not allow for socializing in the circles of Merida’s creative and enterprising minds. When you are invited into their world, that world is in Spanish and maybe they can interpret for you here and there, but if you don’t speak Spanish, eventually you find yourself completely lost, zoning out on your smartphone or hailing your Uber home. In light of this obstacle, I have decided to try to bring my world of mingling with people of many different walks of life to you the reader. Through interviews and exposés of Merida’s contemporary trailblazers, I hope to introduce you to the fascinating people and places of this 21st century town. We will continue to discover the treasures of this land together.