The Journal  

11 December 2005


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Mérida, Yucatán , Mexico

November 30-December 1

Mérida is a dirty, little rundown town, but only if you leave the Paseo de Montejo.

Walking down the street designed to be like a Parisian boulevard you can completely avoid the rest of Mérida if you look straight ahead and don't peek down a side street. But turn a corner and it's back to cracked sidewalks and bars on the window. But there are enough things on the Paseo to catch your eye that you don't need to look elsewhere.

The Paseo de Montejo is lined with stucco mansions, many converted into either museums or expensive restaurants and the streets are filled with horse-drawn carriages, taking tourists and wealthy locals to have dinner in stuccoed former mansions. It's the place to walk among neon Santa Clauses, with street lights that blink in a pattern made to resemble fireworks. A building blocks the end of the Paseo, so you don't have to worry about accidentally wondering into downtown Mérida, where the streets aren't as well lit with neon and it's harder to find a good hamburger.

  A horse-drawn carriage pulls riders down the Paseo de Montejo and around a plaza decorated for Christmas.

Mérida was once a capital for Spanish colonialists, but it's still an important place. Mérida has a Wal-Mart. Not just any Wal-Mart. It has a Wal-Mart Supercenter . And even then it's not just any Wal-Mart Supercenter . It's the Saks Fifth Avenue of Wal-Mart Supercenters, complete with underground parking, a spiral set of stairs at the entrance and associates who wear ties.

Inside it was a little surreal to be standing in the overflowing aisles, under the watchful eye of the ubiquitous yellow smiley face when one hour before you had been washing your clothes by hand with cold water in the backyard of the hostel you were staying at. Lost in a typical Wal-Mart crowd, I felt like I was in one of the dreams where you're in a familiar place, but everything is just different enough to make you uncomfortable. The same aisles to get lost in. The same 25 loading gate cash registers, only five of which are open. Only the crowds and signs saying “extra low prices” in Spanish reminded me where I was. Just when I thought the surreality had reached the breaking point, a Mennonite family, complete in plain clothes and bonnets, walked by.

  The biggest surprise for us in Mérida was the Wal-Mart Supercenter . Here we saw a Mennonite family eating in the Wal-Mart food court. We hoped to buy a few provisions and breakfast foods, settling on apple yogurt and granola.

We made our purchases, several well-priced bargain items, discounted just enough to undersell the native competition. Then we walked the eight blocks south to where the Paseo de Montejo ends and with no other choice, turned west towards our hostel. We made the corner, tried to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk and walked away from the light and into the darkness with nothing to protect ourselves but blue Wal-Mart bags.

  Jeremiah has been studying the types of motorcycles the police use in Mexico . Here he captured a traffic officer next to his Harley.

  Trying desperately to fit in, Jeremiah tries riding without a helmet like many of the locals, as he rounds the block to park the bike.

All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus