Yucatan honeymoon adventure

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Hurricane Gilbert hit the Yucatan on September 3, 1988. On December 18, 1988, I flew to Cancun for my honeymoon. We expected it to still be in pretty bad shape. The beaches were washed away in many places, the sand bars went on forever, and the hotels were empty. It was still the Caribbean, and it was still beautiful. We spent a few days eating tacos and drinking beer and then we rented a car and headed for Merida.


On the way from Cancun to Merida, we stopped at Chichen-Itza to see the Mayan ruins. The pyramid, known as El Castillo or The Castle dominated the site. It was built around 1000 A.D. and was used as a temple to the god Kukulkan. It had 365 steps, and was 30 meters tall. I climbed to the top and the view was spectacular. However, the most interesting thing we found in Chichen-Itza was the Caracol or Observatory. The Mayans were very interested astronomy.

Merida was an old Spanish town founded in the 1540’s on top of an old Mayan city called T’ho. In the early 1900’s Yucatan was known for rope making since the sisal plant thrived in that area. This fueled the Merida economy and the Montejo family constructed a large palace off the Zocalo as well as a long avenue modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. Electric trams and streetlights made it to Merida before Mexico City. The area was still known for its hammocks.

We stayed in a small hotel just off the Zocalo, or main square. We saw Santa Claus wandering around, went to see the Montejo Palace, bought a hammock and ate lots of good food. In a small garden restaurant I ate chicken baked in a paper bag. We were introduced to a local liquor call Xtabentún. It tastes like licorice and is believed to have its origin in the Mayan ceremonial liquor called balché. We took a bottle home with us.

Uxmal was another important Mayan site. It was founded around 700 A.D. and had about 25,000 inhabitants. It was about 50 miles from Merida so we decided to go see it. It was known to be one of the best maintained and restored sites in the Yucatan. It was believed Uxmal and Chichen-Itza collaborated both economically

and politically. It was well worth the trip.

RuinsThe biggest problem we had in Merida was parking the car. The street outside the hotel had some strange parking rules we could not figure out. We were told we could park there only at certain times and for different lengths of time. We were directed to a lot across the street that cost almost as much as the hotel room. One day we thought we were parking on the street at the correct time but we came out to find a ticket on the windshield and a policeman conveniently hovering over it.

I had spent enough time in Mexico to know what that meant. The ticket was for some outrageous amount of money and we were told we had to go to some police station on the other side of town to pay it in person. Of course, for a fee, the policeman could take care of it for us. This was Christmas Eve. We were leaving the next day to drive back to Cancun. I started arguing with him. It was all so obvious it made me mad.

My traveling companion told me to calm down and pay the man. I started arguing with him as well. I would have happily given the guy a Christmas donation but the blatant corruption made my blood boil. Of course, I had no choice. I was not going to drive to some out of the way police station and everybody knew it.

I paid up and wished him a Merry Christmas. He was very happy and I’m sure his children were too.