Thursday, January 27, 2011


A Mérida tradition that goes far back in time, perhaps, predating the conquistadors. In the neighborhood of Emiliano Zapata Norte nearly ever street corner torches an effigy similar to the one you see above that is cram- packed with pyrotechnics and then doused with gasoline to insure a spectacular ear splitting spectacle.   Related link: Video of burning the man of the old year

New Year’s Day the traditional Mayan celebration begins early with roast pig and tacos known as cochinita and festive dancing followed by a parade through the neighborhood. This is a family event that consistently brings the ancient customs of the Maya to the present day.
Live music with a tinny bouncing beat makes the rhythm march to a cadence perfect for the jarana, traditionally danced here in Yucatán where the beautiful ladies are colorfully adorned and the gentlemen wear a simple white as snow garb.
Three generations of Mayan tradition lives on here and is alive and well.
These are the long-established time honored customs carries on to this day with pride and pleasure.

Related links:
Video of Danza de la Cabeza de Cochino 
Blog with more photos of same group in 2008

Saturday, January 22, 2011


So, how does your bicycle wind up here?
If you leave your bike unlocked in a public place it is fair game for confiscation. Even locked your bike can meet this fate if blocking a sidewalk, impeding a public access or locked to a park bench. The police carry bolt cutters and are quick to pitch your property in their truck and be gone.  

More than 350 confiscated bicycles have piled up in the cities impound yet unclaimed.

The manager in charge Miguel and I, John Grimsrud confer about the status of the bicycles, tri-cycles and assorted hand carts that have been accumulating and as yet not claimed.
Miguel states that in order to reclaim your bicycle you must present the original factura or bill of sale along with positive personal identification.
Miguel was very accommodating and friendly.
There is a charge for reclaiming your bicycle and you might even be obligated to pay a multa or fine depending upon the circumstances of the confiscation.

At the entrance to the impound yard Jane and Miguel.

Located in the city center on the corner of Calle 48 and 57 this unimposing municipal building is the office for the impound yard where motor vehicles are also stored.

Monday, January 3, 2011


In a natural progression of things that evolve out of necessity and the availability of materials colonial dwellings were built.
With only lime stone rock and wood, mamposteria, (stacked stone) buildings were the only option.
The method is simple;
Lime stone rock abundantly found in Yucatán is stacked; the spaces between the rocks were chinked with smaller stones and then just plastered over. A finishing coat of plaster not always used was optional.
There is no reinforcement in this type of construction. The stone used is soft, absorbent and porous and the plaster-cement consists of lime stone aggregate, “cal”, quicklime, and a stingy amount of cement.
This flimsy cement concoction is never wet cured to enhance its small amount of structural integrity.
The crumbly cement is not cohesive when dry and soft when wet, (from the bottom of the footings to the wall tops all is the same).
If not disturbed these walls could conceivably last for centuries.
The roof, another matter, is a simple procedure;
(Vigas, “rafters” and bovedillas, “filler material”) go to make up the roof and are only plastered over. 
Vigas are merely support joists just placed upon the wall-tops and not fastened down in any way. In this case logs were used as the vigas. In more elaborate structures the vigas were actually hewn.
These vigas were placed and spaced at regular intervals parallel on the wall top to be part of the roof. (There are no fastenings.)
Next stones, bovedillas, were placed between these vigas in order to fill the open spaces. Then smaller and smaller stones were placed until a surface that could be plastered was ready.
The roof was plastered inside and out and that was it.
This type of construction when complete can give the appearance of enduring strength.
Make no mistake about it, in time even the best of these mamposteria structures will succumb to the forces of gravity and Mother Nature.
If the wooden vigas, rafters, are allowed to become damp in any way, (a leaking tinaco, roof-top water holding tank or a stopped up scupper) these wooden vigas will quickly decompose into compost. Even the hardest of woods in this tropical climate will not endure when wet.
The result will be an avalanche of deadly rock that will come pouring down.
These buildings do well in the dry season, but the absorptive porosity of lime stone acts like a sponge to draw up and hold moisture.

These structures in downtown Mérida are typical mamposteria construction and as you can see for yourself gravity and Mother Nature have done the inevitable.

This might look like a total loss to you but this mamposteria structure is still a habitation with electric service.
As amazing as it might seem a building like this one may soon have a new roof, plaster and paint job and be put on the market at yuppie-come-lately rip-off prices for the next unsuspecting exuberant and eager discoverer of Mérida. 
This is just a natural progression of things that evolve here in the land of buyer-be-ware.
Note; a friend who is an architect bought one of these mamposteria dwellings to restore and discovered that the seller had glued paper over the rotted off vigas and painted them.
© John M. Grimsrud 2011