On this, my last Saturday in Merida, I finally managed to get myself down to the weekly Noche Mexicano held at the beginning of the Paseo De Montejo, one of the loveliest streets on the continent. There is something going on every night of the week here, much of it free, and the people-watching is so good as to render the featured entertainment almost irrelevant.
But not quite. Tonight's show of more-or-less-traditional music from other regions of Mexico began with a rangy old cowboy (or a fair imitation of one) addressing the large crowd in Spanish too rapid for me to follow. Appreciative laughter followed his introduction of the first performer, Roberto Gonzalez, wearing the kind of suit and enormous hat favored by Mexican villains in bad Westerns. When his musical accompaniment proved to be pre-recorded, I didn't expect much, since my thinking has always been that live music should have live accompaniment. (Yes, I am married to a musician, so a bias is present.) But his voice was a clear, mellow baritone, and the crowd loved his songs. At one point, a smallish gaggle of teen and tween girls linked arms and swayed to the music while the elders in the audience sang along. Fun was definitely being had.
The next act was the Ballet Folklorico of Merida, young dancers whose black and white costumes seemed a cross between square dance outfits and The Day of the Dead. Their faces illustrated the ethnic melting pot of this city, where people from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas have been meeting and intermarrying for several centuries. The dances were likewise a high-energy mix, combining what looked a lot like Irish step dancing with occasional polka moves, line dance, and a cattle ranch motif. Even these young people were getting winded.
Public fiestas in Merida involve lots of vendors: jewelry, hats, leather, hennequin bags, ceramics, and lots of beautifully embroidered clothing. Food is abundant. A local food truck favorite that I have yet to sample is the marquesita (not to be confused with the margarita), a kind of thin waffle pressed until it begins to crisp, filled with shredded cheese and something sweet, and rolled. Lots of those were being consumed, along with that other local favorite, corn on the cob, here eaten with a stick inserted into one end so that it is easy to hold. Of course, there were taco trucks. (And I had eaten dinner and resisted everything.)
Parking is often at a premium in the center city, so many people choose to walk to the Paseo. Others, however, arrive by carriage. Merida is home to a number of coach owners who give horse-drawn tours of the older parts of town, or just serve as elegant taxis. Many of the carriages are trimmed with flowers. Upon asking a taxi driver where the horses were kept, as one sometimes sees the carriages parked on residential streets, I learned that most of the drivers live in the old parts of town, where the Spanish colonists would lead their horses in the front door, through the house, and out to the back yard. Today's carriage drivers do the same thing.
Merida does sometimes feel like a fantasy, and tonight, I passed a horse whose equipment included a sparkly rainbow horn, which it seemed to wear most proudly. If you have ever wanted to ride in a carriage pulled by a unicorn, you can do it in Merida.