Had a great time in Cuernavaca. It is quite a beautiful city and Angela and I got to check out some amazing museums as well as Xochicalco, a pretty spectacular archealogical site outside of the city. What impressed me the most was the drainage and water collection systems of the city, as it supported a fairly large population and was on a hill top so that made water transport a possible issue.
I have moved on from Puerto Escondido and am moving along the Pacific coast. I have been staying in smaller coastal towns so internet access is few and far between and what I have found is quite slow. That is the reason for the lack of posts. I will have to catch up when I get to a bigger city.
Hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July weekend.
Does the photostream above appear as one row or two for you?
I have noticed that it changes depending on the computer I am using but has been fairly consistently one row for me. I want to provide an asthetically pleasing experience for my guests, and if it is showing up as two rows it would be annoying and unpleasant.
Please respond so that I correct this situation, if it must be corrected.
Turns out San Cristobal de las Casas is a beautiful city with lots of amazing architechture/city design, it also has an incredibly diverse variety of culinary offerings. Seemingly, a place I should enjoy very much. Unfortunately , it just does not fit me. It remindes me too much of Otavalo, Ecuador. Touristy to a disturbingly overt point, where the nick-nacks that are manufacutred somewhere else en masse and sold as "native" have become woven into the tapestry that is the city now. This brings up an interesting question when thinking about tourism and the promotion of tourism as an economic strategy.
In the village I was staying at there are unexcavated ruins and a cenote near by. During my time there the main road was being expanded and properly paved to promote "la ruta de inglesias", a route concived by the local government to bring tourists though the area (the road project was not for the locals, if not for these alterior motives it would not have been performed). It would feature the chruches of these small towns, a point of interest not only archetecturally but for their role physically and symbolically in La Guerra de Castas. Obviously these ruins and the accompanying cenote would be an additional draw.
The important part in this "not for the locals" part. What happens socially, histoically, and interpersonally to a city, town, or otherwise who devotes a majority of their resources not to cultivating themselves but to cultivating an atmosphere and environment for people who will be but a transient mark, staying for hours, days, or weeks. The percieved will or wants of this collective "other" become the defining motivation for development. Is this sustainable?
The economic crisis has shown us the vunerablility of tourists destinations. Even more so, other threats such as the cartels in Northern Mexico have taken an even greater toll. I have seen the results first hand, in the border towns and further south as Mexico gets lumped into a cohesive conceptual idea of which results in people being scared of the entire country. Many not realizing the size of the country and distances between the events they see in the news and the major tourist destinations involved.
Aside from its vunerabilities and lack of guarantees of stablility (for more on this check out this blog post, I randomly came across it while writing this and it takes premise of tourism as a suatainable econmic strategy and examines the case studies of Elmina, Ghana, Prora, Germany, and Acapulco, Mexico with very interesting results) there is also the question of where the economic impact is actually felt. Is it the locals who actually benifit from these sorts of projects? local governments? or foreign investors? Many of the Caribbean Islands show the negative effects of the monoculture tourism cycle where outside investment comes in economic growth is made but the funds go back outside or are used just to promote more tourism. Arable land is eaten up by hotels and other projects to bring in more tourists while the local population gets the leftovers. Public works projects or building local economies are not a priority. Imports rise to provide for the comforts of the tourists. And the local population is provided jobs but soon, on some of the smaller islands, you have a nation of hotel workers, cooks, bus boys etc. Is that a model for sustainable growth? A model for economic, agricultural, or societal independence?
Unfortunately, I do not have the resources with me to cite more direct examples. Here is an introductory book that looks into the development of the contemporary Carribean click here. Obviously, the history of there islands is very different from that of the village and the area which I am discussing but the results not only economically but societally should be taken into account. The blog post I listed above, has references for looking more closely at the anthropology of tourism and some of the effects of tourism that look beyond just "the bottom line". My travels have just make me question the seeming "quick fix" that tourism is presented as.
For more on the difference between local and non-local economics please take a look at this study.
For those of you in Arizona I encourage you to visit localfirstaz and utilize it as a resource. It is a great collection of local vendors for most all your needs. Next time you need something or a service search here instead of walmart, target, google, etc. Not only are you helping keep your money in your community but you will end up meeting some of the great people that run many of the fantastic local shops thoughout the state. I am not paid by or in any other way affiliated with this organization.
On top of all that the weather is horrible this time of year in San Cristobal de las Casas (cold with drizzely rain). I decided to risk it and head for somewhere warmer. The trip would put Fricka and I to the test but I felt we were up for it and I just was not "feeling" this city, and if I was going to settle in a city for a little while I need to "feel" it.
I had alread planned on hitting Puerto Escondido on my route home and a hostel advertisment I found turned out to be the last push I needed. So off we go!
Naturally, the first bit of travel after I no longer have a camera to take pictures turns out to be the most spectacular visual and technical day of riding I have ever had in my life. To start out with, San Cristobal de las Casas is high in the mountains and as I was moving toward the coast I would have travel quite a distance vertically. The city is so high that as I took the winding mountain road to Tuxla Gutierrez I was above the clouds. As I looked over the sides of the road down the mountainside the clouds completely blocked my view of the valley below. It was the closest thing to majestic that I had seen since being in this country. Distant forest covered (confiers, similar to the flagstaff area) mountain peaks poking above a sea of wispy haze, the sharp v-shaped vallies filled with a swirling mist that looked like tide rolling into the coast.
As I moved futher down in elevation I was soon engulfed in the mist. My visiblity was reduced to but a hundred feet or so, and I would lie if I did not say that I was anxious enough after a few days before to be driving granny speed, but I enjoyed every second of it! Not only was the atmosphere captivating but I pretty much had the road to myself and it was proving to be even better than the road I had come up on (most importantly only 2 topes!).
My head was quickly brought out of the clouds, figuratively and literally, as I entered Tuxtla Gutierrez. The highway happens to go right though the center of the city and there are an exorbinant amount of stoplights. It was frustrating and ate up almost 30-45 min traveling only a few dozen kilometeres.
The trial was worth it and as I exited the city I was greeted with another spectacular road. Not only did this road have only 1 tope but it was in excellent condition and the mountain which I was traveling down looked out over a lush rolling prarie-like valley. I must admit I was in a bit of pain but was greatly enjoying this opportunity.
After that it was a flat straight road to the Oaxaca border though the valley. It was ranching area but so vividly great and the plant life so vividly aboundant. Being at a lower altitute the flora was of a much more tropical variety and covered the mountains that formed a wall around this neatly protected, fecund treasure.
Considering this was all in the first few hours of travel I could not ask for much more from Chiapas, but the state left me with a parting gift that I will never forget. As I exited the valley I came over a rise to find my decent would take place on a twisting and winding road that followed along the side of a geologically marvelous v-cut valley with sharp toothy mountains forming a line like a serrated blade. The forest that covered these mountains looked like it was ripped from the set of Jurassic Park, complete a river at the bottom of the valley fed by a multitude of cascading waterfalls. Best thing of all? Not a single tope on this entire strech of road. Pain and tentativeness were thrown to the wind, Fricka had had enough of that as it where, and I dove right in to the splendor that is the Carretera Federal 190 Chiapas-Oaxaca border road.
My first bit of Oaxaca paled in comparison to Chiapas, a flat plain filled with marshland. Soon I turned toward the coast as I made my way past an enourmous wind energy farm, in scale and individual windmill size. I unwittingly got trapped on two cuota (toll) roads, but the total ened up only being about 70 pesos and once I had got back onto the carretera libre I realized that I probably saved a few hours of time by avoiding Salina Cruz.
As I came down off the foothills of the central Mexcian mountain ranges I spotted my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Soon I was close to the coast but could not get a good view of it. Just a little peek here and there though the trees lining the road. I was along a cliff face so do to the erosional nature of the ocean the road had been set back a ways from the edge. I continued on.
I was rewarded for my patience, though if I was inpatient I would have recieve the same view but I am sure it would not have felt as good. As I rounded a right hand turn the trees parted and I could see a bay, gaurded by two large mounts on each side of its mouth with the surf breaking just before colliding with a brillantly white semi-circle of a coastline. It was an amazing view.
I was happy I was close to the coast as when on the gulf side the coast was where I made good time and the trip was relatively relaxing. Unfortunately, That would not be the case on the Pacific side. There were no problems but the road is very twisty, and as enjoyable as that is, it really cuts down on your speed and the time you are able to make. This is important for me as my body was starting to feel a little achey. The weather decided to not do me any favors and with an hour or so I was driving through the heaviest rain I had experienced on this trip. Right before that though, in the area between Playa Grande and Huatulco I found another just fanstaically visually stunning area. There were cascades, natural hotsprings, large granite bouldered vallies and river beds. Seems like a great place get lost if you ever want to find a place where people most likely won't find you.
The rain persisted and so did Fricka and I. The cold and wet were starting to take a toll on my body but I was able to maintain a reduced speed and stay alert in the less than ideal road conditions. Luckily, the weather and road opened up as I got closer to Puerto Escondido and I was able to make it to the hostel while it was still light out in the amount of time that I had planned, roughly 10 hours.
The hostel, Osa Mariposa, ended up being exactly what I wanted it to be. It is not a sterile formal enviroment. You are expected to take care of yourself and it is set up so that you can just hide out in your room all the time. The hotel does not have all the fancy ammenities and you have to walk to find internet, it is a little ways outside the main town, but it is only a 200 meters from the beach, the staff is fantastic, and I am happy. They do operate as a bar/resaurante as well, the serve vegetarian cusine and it is pretty good.
I was going to stay at another hostel called Frutas y Verduras but I emailed both hostels that I would be traveling on motorcycle and if they had room to accomodate. Frutas offered a one sentence reply. Dave, the owner of Osa Mariposa, sent me a one page reply, even offering a chain to lock it up. He also cleared up my questions about directions, double checking the google map link I sent him.
I tend to do this before heading into a city now, send out a few emails to see if there is room for Fricka. One, I do need to know this information. Two, the promptness and detail of the response tells me a lot about the ownership and atmosphere of the hostel.
So here I am in Puerto Escondido, just southeast technically, I will be taking some time off now as I have a few body parts that are a lot more sore than I thought they would be. Additionally, Angela and I had been trying to figure out a place to meet up at and using this location as a home base places me in easy bus ride distance from Cuernavaca, the place she had originally suggested we go. I had doubts as it was quite a distance out of the way of my ride home and I had wanted to stay away from the traffic and police around D.F. Fricka and my current states make this easier as I can bus up and do not have to worry about the extra miles, which neither of us are in shape for right now (Dave made this option even easier by offering to store my things at the hostel while I was gone for free).
As I hope I was able to capture in words, today was a visually mind-blowing experience. I apologize to you all that I was not able to have a camera to share this with you. It was something very special and I think that you all would have very much enjoyed the pictures. I thought of posting images from the web but figured you could look them up yourself and it did not feel right to me. The camera is gone and the blog should reflect that.
That being said. I could not be more pleased that I have no pictures of the events and experiences of today. As special as all of this was it is even more so to me knowing that the only evidence resides in my head (this is a figure of speech and for those of you out there who have aruguments over where images or memories may actually reside or how they may be accessed, this is not the time. Though I look forward to continued conversations on such matters.). As I mentioned in my first post, taking pictures is not something I do for myself, and if in anyway the emotion and excitment which I exerienced and experience thinking about this day in my head (again, stop it) was translated into the words you just have read, that is the reason why. It is not the easiest thing to express in written form but their is a distance and detachment that is created when viewing life though a camera lense.
A picture will always be a reproduction, indeed my memories are a reproduction but they are not just a visual reproduction. They engage each and every one of my senses. I can still feel the stiffness in my knee and the tinge of pain when grabing the clutch with my left hand, along with the force of the wind, the dew that clung to my face when I went though the mist in the mountains. I can smell the pines of mountains, my sweatiness in the plains, the subtle accent of salt as I reached the coast. Speaking of salt, I can think of the taste of my sweat as well as the bitter cold of the heavy rain. I hear the shifting gears within Fricka as I downshift into a sweeping left hand turn that brings me feet from the edge of the escarpment on which the guardrail-less road clings to the side of a mountain hundreds upon hundreds of feet above the valley below. And then, only then, we have the words which you read above.
You may say that a picture helps to stimulate these other senses. But there is something to the way in which we, those of you who feel the shared collectivity of the word in a societal and contextual sense, are so focused on visual stimuli and the way it dominates our lives that we forget the rest of the senses that help to enrichen the human experience. And again with you picture you are another step removed from reality (whatever that may be). This is not a dimissal of the medium or to say that there is nothing from which an art like photography has to contribute but their is a distinct difference in reference to percieved reality.
For anyone who wishes to explore this further and articutlated in words much clearer and by a mind much more brilliant than mine, I recommend The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, the link is to a free web version but if it interests you I would suggest these Illuminations (contains the above article) and Reflections by Walter Benjamin. I also feel that I must mention Michel Foucalut's The Order of Things, in relation to how this preferential treatment of sight may have come to be.
This is the type of thing that links in directly to the academic work I am interested in. What are those underlying taken-for-granted influences of society, language, etc., the structure in which we are born and live, that have such a pervasive and subtle affect on our entire lives. What manisfestations do these effects make and in what ways do individuals exert their own agency and slowly manipulate and change these structures?
If you made it though this entire thing, thank you. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I will be stationary for a while and will have time to respond. If you wish to just wait and talk when I get back, I cannot wait, I'll bring the wine.
Good news, I am safely in San Cristobal de las Casas.
Bad news, Fricka and I are a bit beat up from the trip.
I was feeling the itch to keep travelling so I decided to head out from the village and explore some of the rest of the country. Everything was going very smoothly and I was in Palneque ahead of schedule. San Cristobal de las Casas is not that far away milage-wise and I knew of a good hotel there, the sister hostel of the one I stayed at in Mèrida. I decided to go there and use it has a "home base" to visit the archaeological and scenic sites in the area.
Turns out this is one of the twistiest roads I have ever seen (this would be one of the greatest driving roads in the world if it were not for topes). It was great fun and I was loving all the turns but because there were so many and they were so sharp my travel speed was reduced significantly. About halfway there I had to slow down even further as it started to rain. It started getting dark quickly and soon I was driving in the dark.
I was being extra careful and alert but I really wanted to get to town and get to bed. I saw a sign "San Cristobal de las Casas 28km" and got really excited, "almost there!". That excitement loosened me up a little too much.
As I entered a left hand turn the a car going the other way, with their brights still on, crossed the middle line forcing me wide. When I recovered from the lights and could see again I found that the turn bit more sharply than I had anticipated. As I tried to correct my course I rolled off the throttle and leaned in to the turn but I started sliding on a bit of gravel. Next thing I remember was the pavement approaching my face very quickly. After going down we slid for about 15-20m and off into the rain gutter. Thankfully this was a turn that went into the mountain rather than away from it.
I is not a pleasant feeling knowing what is about to happen when you start going down. As I slid across the pavement I was more concerned about Fricka then myself. When I came to a stop I checked for movement in the extremities, "all working". Next, I picked myself up, still pump up on adrenaline but starting to feel the damage to my left side. The adrenaline boost helped my pick Fricka up and get her on the side stand. I toggled a few switches and tried to start her up, after a few tries the engine was running. Knowing that I at least had a ride out gave me a bit of relief, any small bit is a lot after a motorcycle accident on a small mountain road in a foreign country. With that sense of relief came a sensation of pain from my left hand, forearm, and knee. I fell back into the grass behind me...
It could have been 10 seconds or 10 minutes later but I heard a car coming to a stop a little ways down the road from me. I got up and a man approached me asking how I was doing. He also started looking around for things that had come off the bike. While searching we found my GPS, windshield, mirrors, sunglasses (found these by stepping on them), and gloves (they had come off in the crash). I carry a flashlight on me and several on the bike so we were able to find most all of the parts and items that had been damaged or fell of the bike. He and another passanger in the car were very helpful and friendly, asking if I needed medical attention or a ride into town. I told them I would be ok and that they did not have to stay around, thanking them before they left.
Reassessing, Fricka I found that the back rack was completely ruined. That meant the the top box was useless as well as I had no way to carry it. The engine was in good shape, the guard bars doing their job. The front fairing took the brunt of the damage and was cracked, the windshield in pieces, with both mirrors damaged beyond repair. The rest of my luggage and Fricka were in good shape though. I had to cut my loses with the top box and take everything out of it and repack without it. Thank you for led flashlights as it made this task much easier on the pitch black mountainside (of note were the stars as they were especially bright).
With everything repacked I was going to take a picture but found that the impact had rendered the camera inoperable, so sorry, no more pictures for the trip. I started to make my way down the last little stretch to San Cristobal de las Casas very slowly and carefully. It was a bit depressing seeing how close I was to the highway that would take me the rest of the way. Fricka performed beautifully the whole way and should be in condition to make it home fine.
I was able to track down a internet cafe and find the location of and directions to ROSSCO Backpackers hostel. The man on staff there was very helpful and they had a courtyard for Fricka to stay in. I cleaned up my wounds, thankfully I had randomly bought a small vial of alcohol the week before, and went to bed.
I am thinking of staying here for 4-5 days as it is pretty cheap and will give me a chance to recover physically and work of Fricka mechanically.
The most important thing is that everyone is ok and still intact to complete the journey. And now I have a cafè project when I get back home.
All is well down in the pennisula. I have been quite busy as I have arrived at a particularly eventful time at the village. Here is a brief list of what I have been up to.
- Birthday party (speaking of which Happy Birthday Mom)
- Elections for the village "mayor" (which actually took place twice as there was a discrepency in the first count which resulted in someone getting thown into the village jail for hitting someone in the head with a rock, and this is with a law banning the selling of alcohol on election days)
- A ritual involving rain
- A trip though the jungle to an unexcavated Mayan site and its accompanying cenote
- A 3 day ritual involving rain that included participating in the slaughtering, butchering, cooking, and eating of several pigs and chickens (pics to come)
- A mutitude of small gatherings of friends just drinking, eating, and conversing
I will try to capture one of the rituals in writing to share with you but I must admit that the descriptive narrative of these events does little to capture what I am actually interested in. It is hard to capture relationships in words and pictures (of which I have not taken many during my time in the village).
In addition to the descriptive piece I am preparing a more theoretical piece that will hopefully explain why I feel a purly decriptive, this is what happened and this is who did it, chronicle of my experiences, and those who participated in them with me, is inadequate for my interests anthopologically. And beyond that just as a human being.
When I get back to traveling the descriptions with resume as they had but as for my time spent with other human beings it is far from adequate...
Sorry for the lack of posts this last week. I am currently staying in a small village just southeast of Tihosuco, México, and had a bit of an adventure finding my way there. I had to make a 50 mile drive today to come to Valladolid to use a computer. I am searching around for some alternatives but until then the posts may be few and far between. I am also planning some ventures into Belize and Guatamala which may put me in a situation where I do not have internet access.
Since I will have time off from my regular posting methods, I will be in this location for about a month, I will try to write up a few story /comment posts back at the village, trying out some different styles, so I can have them prepared to type later this week or early next week.
Additionally, right now it is hard to leave as the village, not just do to the distances involved, but there are a number of events that I have been invited to recently and want to attend with my new friends. Of which, it is good I can laugh at myself as it was difficult enough tyring to work around the country without very good Spanish but my Mayan is nil. This situation offers many opportunities for me to misunderstand or mispronounce words, much to the amusement of others. I am having such a wonderful time though and the everyone has been amazingly generous and kind.
I hope you all are doing well and enjoying your summer so far.
After vistiting some of the more interesting places within the city I looked for a place outside to visit. The most obvious was Chichén-Itza. While I was hanging around the hostel I met several people who had been to Chichén-Itza already, it is the biggest and most well know site in the area. They spoke of how disappointed they were because there were so many vendors and tourists in at the site. I put a bit of a sour taste on going but if you are down here this is the place to go so I decided to go anyways.
The hostel I am staying at offered tours but I did some calculations and determined it would be cheaper to drive over. Additionally, I had planned on seeing Izamal so if I drove over I could pop up to see Izamal on the way back and not lose too much time waiting for buses and see two locations in one day. A benefit considering I have a limited amount of time in Mérida.
I had originally planned on doing this loop on Saturday but I figured if this place is already going to be flooded with people I might as well go on a weekday so it would be a little less crowded.
They were not laying about the vendors, they were out in full force and they were EVERYWHERE. The path that takes you around the entire site was lined with vendors for about 80% of its length.
Funny thing is, that though most of the stuff is distinctly "Mayan" I could swear some of the things that were being sold I had seen in a few locations in Ecuador a couple of years ago. Regardless, you actually feel bad for the vendors, they are the locals from around the area. They have to pay for a permit to be allowed to sell stuff in there while the government takes a little off the top in addition to all the money they get from admissions fees and the like (which were far more than any other site I had been to). It is all around not a very positive economic situation. It is something I have noticed with the government here and back in the states when it comes to "national or world heritage sites". The people most closely tied to this heritage seem to be the ones who are last in line to reap any benefits or have any input into the interpretation of the sites. With that in mind, here is why I came:
I was down on going but the spectacular nature of the architecture really made of for any of the issues that you could complain about. It really is a "must-see".
Not paying the ridiculous amount for a guide, who from what I overheard are spouting some very questionable "information", allowed me to get though the site fairly efficiently. I was very thirsty, as I was walking around in full gear, but I refused to pay the outrageous prices for water, like at any tourist attraction, and hit the convenience store in the town of Piste on my way to Izamal.
While it is apparent in all the cities in this area, Izamal captures the reality of Spanish conquest better than any other location I have seen yet. The town is designated by the Mexican governement as "magical". According to the requirements to be considered magical by the Mexican government, the town or city must be small with rich historical tradition, but also must be near other "touristically interesting" sites or large cities, be accessible with good highways and roads, and there must be willingness by the locals to develop the project.
The thing that makes Izamal so "magical" is found in its nickname "The Yellow City". The majority of the buildings in the town are painted yellow. They were done so to match the Monastery Basilica of San Antonio de Padua at the center of the city.
The history of the construction of the town is what brings out the colonial references which I referred to earlier. In the 1500's the Spanish conquered and enslaved the Mayans in the area that is now the city of Izamal. There was already a large Mayan city there and the Spanish were especially ferverent in their conversion efforts in this location. The slaves were forced to tear down the city, which included many pyramids, and then to build churches, monasteries, or other official buildings on top on the location of the more extravagant architectural sites (about a dozen estimatedtemple sites). The monastery was painted yellow and the rest of the town to match it as a message.
So everywhere you look you are just reminded of a sequence of quite horrible events and you see people who their very houses force them to remember what happened to them everyday. I took one picture but just had an odd feeling about the town and did not enjoy it too much.
You may ask why I even went then. Well, I read about this history when I arrived in Izamal. This is not an indictment of the city. As I live in Phoenix, Arizona and a large portion of the greater Phoenix metro area is on top of many different Native American sites. I just had a particularly odd feeling about this location.
Sorry to leave on such a somber note but it was an interesting day navigating the negotiations between history and its contemporary ramifications.
I was going to give myself a day off to settle in but I was so close to several great beaches (Progreso, Celestun) a bunch of amazing Archeological sites (Chichén-Itza, Dzibilchaltun, Mayapan, Oxkintok, Xlapak, etc.). So what did I decide to do with so much to choose from?
Hit the museums in Mérida naturally.
I mapped out a nice path that took me throughout the city, so I could get accustom to it, and would take me to Museo de Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan(Yucatan Museum of Contemporary Art), Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan (Yucatan Museum of Popular Art), and Museo de Antropología e Historia de Mérida(Anthropology and History Museum of Mérida). I was very excited and was waiting at the entrance of my first destination before it opened.
I first went to theMACAY, arrived around 9:30 but it opened at 10m. It gave me some time to sit and enjoy the grand plaza in the city center and do some writing. When it opened up I was the first one in and had the place all too myself, on top of that admission was free. It is a beautiful location for a museum and it was interesting seeing how the building, which was originally built as part of the Chapel next to it and later became a seminary, was reappropriated as a museum. The large courtyard space and room construction/dispersement were unique for a museum and probably would not have existed as such in a purposeful design of a museum.
Next I was off to the Yucatan Museum of Popular Art. I ended up falling in love with the building more so than any of the art it housed. The house was built in 1900 for Carmela Molina, and is called Casa Molina, as a wedding gift from her father, Olegario Molina Solis. The house was designed by Italian architect Enrico Deserti and its construction was under the care of engineer Manuel Cantón Ramos.
The thing I love the most about the construction is the doors. They can be used in so many configurations and they are beautiful. They have four panels which can fold away into the jamb to create an open walk-through. The panels can be locked, two to each side, to work as a traditional door would. Each of the interior panels has fixed venetian wood blinds which are backed by a hinged wood panel which can be moved to allow for air to pass though easily. The exterior panels are etched glass and also backed by a hinged wood panel which can be moved to allow for more light to come into the room. Quite beautiful, and I took many pictures for future reference. I want these doors if I ever own a house.
Last but not least was the Anthropology and History Museum of Mérida. Again the building itself stole a bit of the show for me. The building combines Classic, Neo-Classic, and French Baroque details. It is known as known as the Palacio del General Cantón as it was was built in the early 1900s by, then governor of Yucatan, Francisco Cantón, . He lived there until his death, and in 1959 it was renovated as the museum. The location houses many of the artifacts excavated at the archeological sites throughout the Yucatan.
The bottom floor is dedicated to anthropology while the top floor, reached by climbing a magnificently carved marble staircase, houses the historical aspect of the museum which had an exhibit on the Mexican revolution when I visited. Here are a few teasers, see the rest here:
After all that, I was very happy with my first full day in Mérida. And with the museums visited I could start planning some day trips to some locations outside of the city.
I found a solution to my picture uploading problem. I decided to use Picasa web albums. It turns out an account was automatically created though Google for me as that is where the pictures for the blog are stored, so it was easy to access. Additionally, Picasa grants you 1gb of free space so I will be able to post a lot more pictures.
So while it was incredibly time consuming with the speed of the computers I am using, I was able to get pretty much all of the pictures I have taken online today. Here is a link to the public gallery, even though you should be able to link to it though the photostream at the top of the page.
Even though I had gotten quite comfortable there it was time to leave Campeche. I had told myself that I would stay as long as it took to catch up on the blog so I stuck with the plan.
I decided to take a more inland route to Mérida as it passed though an area called Ruta Puuc (The Puuc Route, just 80 km south ofMérida. Along this route there are Mayan archaeological sites, the caves ofLoltún, haciendas , cenotes, Mayan villages, and larger Mayan city/towns).
I left Campeche around 7 am. I was blocked in by a truck that had parked in the exit but the guy behind the desk (Miguel) tracked down the owner to move it. Turns out the owner just gave him the keys to move the truck but Miguel didn't know how to drive it so I ended up having to move it. Had not driven a 4-wheeled vehicle in a little while but there were no issues.
With that small problem out of the way I was off. Along my proposed route I saw the exit for Edzna. I was not planning on going there but I was not expected at my hostel in Mérida until 4 pm. I actually had a reservation this time, Nomadas Hostel, as I decided to do some research ahead in Campeche as I was growing tired of riding into cities and wandering around at night trying to find a place to stay, I had gotten lucky twice in Cardenas and Campeche and did not want to push my luck. Additionally, when I was layed up in the hotel the day before making sure Fricka and all my gear were in order I saw a tourist ad, directed at Mexican nationals, for Campeche that featured Edzna as a can't miss spot.
So, since it was early and I had heard about the place I decided to make a small detour, and I am very glad I did. It was only 32 pesos to get in and since I was there so early there were only 3 other people in the whole site. It was pretty amazing. It is one thing to see a Discovery or National Geographic special but these Mayan sites, in person, are astounding. The size, scale, and proportion are..... well just look at the pictures:
With one site down I was looking forward to seeing more. On top of that the road I decided to take was fantastic. There was a lot of cloud cover so it was cool, there were very few people on the road, and their was lots of twists and turns. Not to mention the beautiful surroundings of tropical flora and fauna. I say fauna because during this whole ride (until just before Uxmal) I was bombarded by butterflies, there were swarms of them. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a pick were they showed up at speed.
Shortly after leaving Edzna and getting back on my planned route I crossed into the Yucatan state. And not after more than a few kilometers into the state I saw a turn off for another site. Why not? off to Sayil I went.
Luckily, Sayil was extremely underpopulated as well. I entered in with just one other couple and was able to lose them quickly, as the site is pretty spaced out and I do not think they planned on as much walking as there was. So for the second time in a row I had a Mayan site pretty much all to myself!
It was now around 11-11:30 and I still had a little ways to Mérida so I was thinking that I had better get to Uxmal and then get to my Mérida, giving myself the time to get to the Hostel and change money if necessary.
As I left Sayil and got back onto the road to Mérida I saw a sign for Kabah and it was really close but I had already decided that I wanted to hit Uxmal and go. Surprisingly, unlike the other sites, Kabah is right along side the main road. So all of a sudden I notice this huge site off to my right as I am riding. I quickly slowed down, made a U-turn and went back to the site.
Fricka was really feeling left out since she could not go into any of the archeological sites. And since I was planning on skipping Kabah anyways I decided not go in or take a pic of me there so this place could be all hers.
I was really happy that I was able to find something like that for her. We were quickly off to Uxmal. Uxmal is a bit more touristy and has a hotel and restaurants built all around it. The price for admission reflects the touristiness of it as well, 115 pesos. That being said, it was completely worth it. Again, because I was going to all these sites on a Wednesday, at this time it was around noon, there were very few people here as well. Again, the pictures say more than I can, I was just fascinated seeing these in person, there really is no substitute to truly understand the scope of this architecture.
As much as I was enjoying the sites, after Uxmal I was ready to get to Mérida. As I mentioned on of the astounding things about these sites are their size and the distances between the architecture. With this comes the fact that you have to do a lot of walking. Since I ride in full gear (helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, boots), and I don't have a lot of storage space on the motorcycle I usually could just lock up my helmet, and gloves. That means I had to walk though all these sites in boots and pants and carry/wear my jacket. I am not complaining (as I plan on doing this several more times, Chichén-Itza for example), I am just explaining why after walking around three sites in 32-38 degree weather why I was ready to get to the hotel. Being able to have the wind flowing by you afterwards while riding between locations really helps though. And as you can see from the images, it was more than worth it.
Uxmal is not that far from Mérida so I was their in an hour or so, I keep the speed down to save of gas, tires, and hopefully from dealing with police. Mérida is constructed on a grid, but all of the streets are one way. Thankfully, I had used google maps to plan my route though the city to the hostel ahead of time as I could see how quickly driving around here would have become very frustrating if I did not know which street went which direction.
When I was about a kilometer or so from the hostel I was stopped at a read light when the driver's side door of the taxi in front of me came swinging open and the driver came sprinting over towards me. I popped the clutch into 1st and was getting ready to twist the trottle when I noticed this big smile on his face. Turns out his name is José Antonio Garrido Romero and he is the president of the BMW Moto Club Yucatán. He gave me his card and from what I could tell from his very fast paced Spanish was that I should give him a call if I needed anything and that there would be a meeting tomorrow around 8:30.
With that, the light turned green, he was off somewhere in his taxi and I was at my hostel. I found this place though a guide someone had called Lonely Planet. This place has great facitlities, people, and is really cheap. Kind of made me wonder why I hadn't left Campeche sooner with a place like this available. None the less, I was here now. I will be here until the 9th when Miguel flies in and we head off to the village.
I am planning a few excursions in the meantime so there will be some action here unlike in Campeche. Even thought, there is nothing really to do in Campeche as it is a sleepy city and really good for if you are just looking to chill out and relax, not needing any night life or heavy tourist attractions.
I made it to Merida today. I hit the archeological sites of Edzna, Sayil, Kabah, and Uxmal on the way. The computer at the hostel I am staying at is having some trouble handling the camera so hopefully I can have pics and a post up in a day or so. Hope all is well wherever you are reading this from.
***Update in the update***
Found a way to get the pics up. It is a bit tedious so I will be posting them on flickr one site at a time. First up Edzná. Sayil and Kabah up now. Uxmal up now. That is all of them, but it turns out you can only have 200 pics on a free Flickr account (had to cut a few repetitive ones out, but there are a lot more pics I would like to share than are available for you to see right now). I am debating whether to open a few other free accounts or spring for the upgrade.
The whole reason I even thought to come down here, at least to the Yucatan (I have plans in my head for a Pan-American Highway trip but that would go down the West Coast of Mexico. Though I am also really interested in SE Asia, particularly the coast road in Vietnam that seems to put the PCH to shame. Hey, why not both?), is on of my professors, Miguel Aguilera. He is an anthropologist who has been working in the Mexico and Central America for over a decade (he speaks Spanish and Mayan). He is primarily a socio-cultural anthropologist but has done archaeology as well, call the mix ethnohistory.
He has a hut where he works in a small village in the state of Quintana Roo. A year or so ago he inivted me to come down to check things out. I had not up until this time and figured this summer was as good as any, why not?
More than a vacation though, this trip has academic relevance to me. With a focus on transdisciplinary research methods my research interests focus around understanding what it means to be “black” for people in the Circum-Caribbean. In my studies I have seen the political nature of power and how this operates though discursive processes to create and reproduce race, gender, and other classifications that are not ontologically existent but none the less are salient in everyday life.
I am interested in how such classifications operate as a societal construct generated by competing powers each trying to define present political situations and how individual agents work to manipulate this system in various ways within relational historical and contextual settings. I will focus particularly on the consequences of these processes and structures in the contemporary society with the use of an ethnographic methodology.
This ethnographic methodology is not something you learn in class but something you have to practice though experience. One of the biggest challenges I will have is writing. I will be using this time to record a more private record of my trip in the hopes of devloping my skills. I wish to also expriement a little with different styles and forms ranging from the more traditional and descriptive Turner and Prichard to more experiemental narratives like those of Taussig. I do not think I will ever be able to capture things in the way Taussig does with words but his writting is an inspriation to me.
Yes, I could do this all at home, but it is not as fun as being here!
Aside from all of that I am really just here to spend some time with a good friend.