Why the Maya?

Three decades, three trips along the Ruta Maya. México’s Yucatán; Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize; Chiapas and back to Yucatán. I suppose I should explain.

I owe my interest to my teacher, William Evans. Dr. Evans was a poet, a novelist, and a farmer. In the summer of my junior year of college, he was my creative writing professor. He didn’t hold class per se. Students visited his office once a week to drop off short stories and hear what he thought of what they had written the previous week.

Dr. Evans was critical and encouraging, generous with his time. He always told me to write something every day, to write for at least one hour. Every day I don’t write something I feel I’ve let him down.

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México Coda: Safety

November 2016

People in the U.S. believe México isn’t safe. They hear tales of drug gangs gunning people down in the streets, kidnapping people for ransom, and having shoot-outs with the police and military.

Such concerns made me wary of returning to México for a long time. When you talk to people in México, you learn that the truly dangerous places are well known: the areas in the north of the country leading to the U.S. border, and the Veracruz region along the Gulf of México. Everyone here will tell you that.

I felt safe traveling in Chiapas and Yucatán. People were friendly and tolerant of my rusty Spanish. Even driving around, I felt secure, if not sure of where I was going.

Highlights: Chiapas and Yucatán, México

November 2016

Mérida’s little airport could use some signs. How I could end up with three other people in the wrong part of the A gates is beyond me. In my defense, it was five in the morning.

Terminal 2 in México City is a much better organized departure point than the chaos of Terminal 1 in which I had arrived eleven days before. I had only one hour to make my connection today. I made it with fifty-five minutes to spare.

It’s been twenty years since I last was in México. Much has changed. The airport is more modern, in places. The country is more modern, too. There seems to be a more stable middle class, although there’s still much poverty. Services are better than I recall.

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Souvenirs

Mérida, México
November 2016

I tend to leave souvenir shopping for the last day or two. I’m too busy traveling and seeing things at other times. And I don’t want to accumulate too many things early in the trip, especially if they are breakable. Karimé’s shot glasses are definitely a last-day purchase.

The drawback to this strategy becomes apparent when I reach the last destination and realize that those great jaguar figurines that were so plentiful in the street market at San Cristóbal de las Casas or in the artisan market at the Palenque ruins can’t be found in the markets and souvenir shops of Mérida. I know just where one should go on a credenza in my living room.

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Sunday Drive

Upper Yucatán, México
November 2016

It took me five minutes to get lost today. I was driving the rental Chevy west from the pickup point, and I went straight through an intersection where I should have turned left. I noticed something was amiss when the numbered streets reset to lower numbers. Eventually, it set me out on the expressway that wraps around the outskirts of Mérida.

After a couple of questionable turns, I found the road that leads back through the city to Uxmal. Of course, if I’d just turned the other way on the expressway, I would have gotten there sooner.

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Day of the Iguanas

Uxmal, México
November 2016

The spirits of Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Burton are strong today at Uxmal. I’ve seen dozens of dragon lizards, if not quite iguanas, bathing in the sun or crawling out from the rubble. They are the last remaining residents of Uxmal.

I have returned to Uxmal to correct a mistake I’ve regretted for twenty years. And as soon as I crest the hill leading from the entrance and see the grand House of the Magician, I realize I will never accomplish it.

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Mérida, at Last

Mérida, México
November 2016

It’s taken me more than twenty years to come to Mérida. But Mérida is worth the wait.

Spanish meets Mayan meets Caribbean.  A small, tropical city of colonial townhouses and colorful mansions, of narrow streets in the old centro and the wide boulevard of the cosmopolitan Paseo de Montejo. Churches galore and museums, too. The best food in the Yucatán. Chichen Itzá and Uxmal an hour or so away. A quick drive to the Gulf of México.

And the most vibrant weekend social scene at the Plaza Grande.