I have no idea what time it is and I have no idea why that bothers me so much, but it does. I spent the whole morning walking trying to orient myself in this old city. I got lost four times already and have been here for less than two full days.
It´s rainy, wet and humid here. I´m glad I didn´t stay in Cancun yesterday. After flight delays in Chicago (thank you snow) I got to Cancun around 3p.m. I was supposed to have landed at noon…I decided to go ahead with my original plan and go to Merida directly. After customs and baggage claim and a bus to downtown Cancun I barely made the 5p.m. bus to Merida. I checked into a cute hotel with a gorgeous garden and pool. It´s simple, quaint and absolutely charming.
I think I decided on my theme for this trip: it´s called BE HERE NOW. This morning I went to the Zocalo (main town square) and had some famous Yucatan coffee while reading the paper. The headline was about an increase in prostitution in this state due to the number of women with children abandoned by their husbands. I wonder where the men go. To the U.S.?
I was in Oaxaca this past April eating dinner with my friend when a young woman approached us handing us condoms, no less, asking for a donation to help educate the public on the prevention of HIV and AIDS. I asked her if HIV was very prevalent in Mexico thinking that its conservative religious culture might at least help in the prevention of the spread of this pandemic. She responded that HIV was more prevalent now because the men would leave ¨al norte¨ (up north…to the U.S.) and come back home to their wives with the disease and pass it on to them.
I remember reading an article in Chicago about this very thing except many men mentioned in the article were bisexual or homosexual and living ¨on the downlow¨ because of the potential social stigma implied by their preference. They had unprotected sex with other men and then passed on the disease to their wives.
Anyway, back to here. The town is quiet today. It´s a cloudy Wednesday and I am drinking coffee watching the high school kids in their white collared shirts hustle off to school while old men in large hats hang out across the street with their shoe shining kit. I was sitting here at this same cafe four and half years ago. I can´t help but feel that this city feels different. I don´t know if it´s me or Merida. Things seemed much more lively then.
Mexico has been hit hard – tourism – it´s biggest industry is fighting to keep the cities clean and safe but as the economy worsens and government is consumed by fighting against the drug cartels, tourism is getting hit harder. The bad press isn´t helping, nor is the excessive violence plaguing the country.
Still I´m happy to be here. I am happy to wander the streets and trip over cobblestone and smile at the old men and women saying ¨buenos dias.¨ Everything tastes better here right down to the Diet Coke or in this case, Coca Cola Light. I am in awe of the colonial architecture this city is famous for. I stood in front of a small church for twenty minutes straight today (it seemed that long but I have no sense of time here) completely still, consumed with the detail.