Southern Mexico: From the great Merida to the traditional San Cristobal
Unlike all other Central American countries, Mexico is large and powerful state. It is similarly structured as its northern neighbor, the United States. Center of the state is one of the largest cities in the world - Mexico City. Our trip included the southern part of Mexico, specifically the states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche. The circle starts at the big tourist center of Cancun, where we arrived from nearby Cuba. It is difficult to "shift" the way of thinking after only half-hour flight from Havana to Cancun. Airport in Havana was a sad and bleak, as opposed to Mexico`s crowded airport, with the travelers from all around the world. While in Havana time stopped in fifties, Cancun has new modern hotels lined along the coast, and the city looks optimistic and cheery - with capitalist enterprise of all kind on one side, and with consumer madness from rich American tourists on the other. Tourism, which Cuba had in the past, has gradually developed in neighboring countries. It`s a very lucrative business, even Castro had regrets for levaing it aside, but apparently too late. Well, one`s lost is others gain.
Rich Mayan architecture
Yucatan is rich with the remains of ancient Maya cities. We visited Tulum ruins. Excellent position of the city, on the steep cliffs above the sea, makes a visit to this place attractive not only because of the ruins - everybody jumps in the sea at least once from the beautiful beaches, which are located at the foot of the rocks. A few hundred miles away, near today`s town of Palenque, there was a town Otolum, which means "land of hard knocks." The position of this town is also interesting - it is located at the end of the valley, which extends all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the first slopes of the high mountains, which stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Palace in the middle has a tower, which was probably used as a watchtower. The first association is that this is the church tower, which of course is not true - the city was abandoned long before the Spaniards came. Modern life and culture of indigenous people is best seen in the city San Cristobal de las Casas. The city is still deeply immersed in the traditions and customs of the Mayan and is pleasant and a great tourist destination. Harmonious streets are connected to the large main square, dominated by the cathedral. Becouse it is located at 2,000 meters above sea level, the climate is much cooler than in the lowlands. San Cristobal de las Casas briefly became world famous in 1994, when the Zapatista guerrilla group briefly occupied it. Armed struggle eventually calmed and drifted into peaceful negotiations, although the spirit of revolt still exists in some parts of Chiapas. Southern mountainous parts of Mexico are poor, dominated by indigenous people who feel disenfranchised. Zapatistas named their self after Emiliano Zapata, the legendary fighter for the rights of downtrodden lower classes of society, especially for the rights of indigenous peoples. Some pictures of Che Guevara and Frida Kahlo, and postcards with masked guerrillas are the only souvenirs which can remind tourists on the past events.
Another travel books from the region:Travelogue Cuba
The modern Mexico is seen in Merida, the economic center of the Yucatan Peninsula . Roughly the size of Zagreb, it is typical colonial city, divided into two series of parallel streets which intersect at right angles. Street map looks like a huge network, with numbers instead of street names. Squares and any other landmarks which could distinguish one part of the city from another are rare. If you have a map of the city and if you gett along well with the maps, no problem! But without a map, you should leave bread crumb behind you like Hansel and Gretel, because all streets look the same. Exception is the beautiful central square. Typically for Central America, it is in the middle of the park, with the cathedral, one of the most beautiful buildings in this part of the world, on the one side, and with the palace for different purposes on the other. Cathedral sumptuous exterior hides an unusually modest interior. Apparently, the interior was devastated during the riots hundred years ago. Merida is a pleasant place to take a break from traveling. However, after a few days, when you look around all major churches and palaces and several museums, it becomes boring. We spent time walking through a large closed market, where it is interesting to watch people. Unlike Cubans which are, if you generalize, slim and tall people, Mexicans, at least in the Yucatan, are generally low and stubby. Although delicious, traditional Mexican food is not very healthy and it is very caloric and fatty. It can certainly be seen that obesity is quite a big problem. We, of course, did not stop our selfs from eating tacos and burritos, which are available at every turn. After hearing Cuban music, it was unusual to listen to mariachi. However, judging by what we`ve heard, Mexican pop music is almost identical to European pop music. Just when you think that they will sing some Miso Kovac songs, you hear their vocalist. We were surprised that some songs have a lively accordion and polka style. It was like listening to Slovenian or Austrian music.