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The vivid color pallette of Mérida is easy to see.

There is something about walking quietly on the streets of México that captures and holds my heart. The distressed walls or new vivid colors take me away from the pervasive black and white world of North American function. The smell of corn masa tortillas and frying pork lard seem to permeate the country. I hear music everywhere.

“Once you have the dust of México on your clothes, it will never come off,” was a proverb my uncle gave to me as a young child. And so my walks in México help me contact his angelic presence.

But maybe it is the sleeping sense of history that made me fall in love with México.

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At the Hacienda Abal outside of Mérida.

Walking in Mérida, the capital city of the Yucatán, is a special treat. At one time one of  the wealthiest cities in the world because of the production of rope in the late 19th century, the city boasts the Champs Elysées of México, the Paseo de Montejo.

The Paseo de Montejo sustains the dream of Mérida as a powerhouse city. The avenue got underway in 1904 and goes north south. It was widened in 1926 and the rest is history. The French had a knack for tree lined boulevards in the tropics, something I know well from years spent in Việt Nam. And unlike any other city in México, in Mérida one feels a French influence. And in fact it was easier to sail to Paris than travel overland to México City until the mid twentieth century.

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The Regional Museum of the Maya on Paseo de Montejo.

It’s an easy Boulevard to walk, even if the temperature is hot – and in the Yucatán there is an excellent chance you’ll experience tropical heat. But that is not as fearsome as it sounds. Like the ubiquitous habañero chile found in many Yucatecan dishes, the heat in Mérida is broken by billowing clouds that often block the sun. Cooling breezes soar through and across the entire peninsula from both the Gulf of México and the Caribbean Sea. And the trees of Paseo de Montejo keep you insulated from becoming sunburned.

I will let a photo gallery give you a taste of México’s Champs Elysées.

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Billowing clouds create a backdrop for a stunning mansion.

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A tremendous porch for a Cuban cigar in the afternoon.

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Mérida is also known as “The White City” as can be seen here.

But the splendor of the Paseo de Montejo is just one part of Mérida. As I started my walking tour, I passed a paint shop on a small adjacent street from my hotel. The entire neighborhood smelled of fresh paint being mixed. Guajillo reds, chocolate browns, blazing whites, Chaya greens, marigold orange, cobalt and sky powder blues, rose pinks, the color swatches on the wall predicted what I was to see walking in this up and on the move city in the Yucatán.

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Deep tangerine wall for the restaurant Chaya Maya, an old reliable standby.

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A hot pink hotel close to restaurant Chaya Maya.

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Vivid rose pink and aqua blue.

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Deep olive tones justaposed with pure white and deep chocolate trim.

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A bright mojito lime green for the Palacio de Gobierno.

And then there are the markets. Deep red achiote flavors most Yucatecan food and it is easy to find at the Mercado Lucas de Gálvez. Yes it stains.

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Finding achiote, pumpkin seed or black chile paste is easy at Mercado Gálvez.

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Red, orange, and green habañero chiles flavor the colorful cuisine of the Yucatán.

And of course, there is the color of  Yucatecan food. Good to know that this cuisine was the favorite of composer Aaron Copland. Gaining weight can be fun!

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An icon of the Yucatán kitchen, cochinita  pibil at Chaya Maya.

So we’re just getting started on Mérida and the Yucatán. I’ll return soon with a post dedicated to one of Planet Earth’s great cuisines.

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Join me soon for another post about the Yucatán!

My friend Ricardo Gallardo of the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble was right. I would be dividing my life before the Yucatán, and then after the Yucatán.

Best, best, best,