CULTURE / La Peluqueria

La Peluqueria

La Peluqueria

5 November 2005 LIVING, CULTURE, Art & Local Culture 19

Mexicans have a much higher standard of personal grooming than Working Gringos will probably ever achieve. When walking along the calle at 6:00 AM, the women are impeccably dressed. Their makeup is carefully and prudently applied. They leave a scented trail of rose water or talcum as they pass by. The men wear guayabera dress shirts, slacks smartly creased, and polished black leather shoes.

We have no idea how early these people must wake up every morning to achieve this effect. Working Gringo spends ten minutes in the bathroom to shower and shave, then throws on tee shirt, shorts and sneakers, the standard-issue uniform of the gringo expatriate.

Most Yucatecos dress predominantly in white. It is nothing short of a miracle that they manage to keep their clothes as white as they do. In case we've not mentioned it before, the weather here is often a tad sultry. It's the tropics, and in some places it's a jungle. Things get dirty. But even the most modest of Mayan women living in the smallest pueblo in the farthest reaches of Yucatan manage to achieve whiter laundry than our technologically advanced Frigidaire over-under washer-drier combo using new, improved Tide.

We also assume that Yucatecos take at least three baths a day. That's the only way we can account for how pleasant they smell. All day long.

The first time we recognized this was during our first El Grito. This is when everyone in Merida swarms into the main plaza to hear the Governor re-enact Hidalgo's cry for independence from Spain. This happens at 10:00 PM. It happens in September. In other words, it has been a long day during a rather humid season, which can leave one smelling a bit, uh... ripe.

We waded into a crowd packed more tightly than a mosh pit at a Pearl Jam concert to get a better look, and the first thought is: gee, the crowd smells like a botanical garden. The second thought is: do we smell like cattle?

Fortunately, there are always fireworks at El Grito, so the familiar battleground aroma quickly covered for us.

The crowning achievement of Yucateco grooming is their hair. We have no idea what feats of mechanical engineering are required for the various women's hairdos, nor how they maintain the colorful garnishes they plant in them. We do know that the men check in to their local peluqueria, or barbershop, at least weekly, if not daily, in case the Armani people call for a photo shoot.

One of the oldest and best barbershops is on Calle 60. It's called Estetica Panamerica and the proprietor is a 68 year-old maestro del pelo named Fernando. He knows everything about Merida. He speaks deliberatly using basic Spanish so Working Gringo can actually have a conversation with him. And, of course, he's perfectly groomed.

Last night, Working Gringa suggested we go out to dinner. Oh, and on the way we should stop in at la peluquiria so Working Gringo could remember that for only 15 minutes of his time and $9 dollars of his money, he could rejoin human society. Clothes may make the man, but a fresh haircut makes the Mexican.


  • Lynne 9 years ago

    Just had a great haircut (short shaggy razor cut) from Nestor at Visage Beauty Calle 76 #460b x 51 y 49. He did the cut, shampoo and blow dry for only 60 pesos. Highly recommended!

  • Working Gringos 10 years ago

    Thanks, Allan, for the great information from your grandmother! and thanks for reading and contributing to Yucatan Living... we'll try to come visit next time we're in Santa Elena!

  • Allan 10 years ago

    My grandmother (84 y/o) lives in Flores Peten, Guatemala, and she says that wood ashes are the secret to making clothes very white. She says to leave the clothes under the Sun for an hour or so. We used MelaPower 6x laundry soap from Melaleuca, and it did not work as well as the wood ashes. I have an Unisex Peluqueria (unisex barbershop) in Santa Elena (mi elegancia on Facebook) and as a Mexican, I want to open one in Merida as well. I hope to see you soon in Merida some time. Thanks "Working Gringos" for all the info about the Bilingual Schools too!

  • vanessa 14 years ago

    Great forum!
    I am looking for the phone number of a high end italian stylist called milla, in the colonia miguel aleman, if I remember correctly. Does anybody know?

  • Working Gringos 14 years ago

    Brenda, we have been happy with our hair color and cut at Aries in the Gran Plaza Mall. Also, Nuada ( is a new salon in Colonia Mexico Norte that seems nice... we've only had a pedicure there, but it was a good one. And the salon is very beautiful; the owner spent many years working in US, though she is Yucatecan.

  • Working Gringos 14 years ago

    Dear David,
    Perhaps things are different in the Yucatan... the first year we went dutifully to the zocalo a little after 11 pm expecting the grito at midnite. Instead we were informed that it had happened at about 10 PM.

  • David López 14 years ago

    Dear Working Gringo,

    There is a small glitch I'd love to point out. The El Grito is not usually performed before 11 PM - it may unlikely be 5 minutes after the hour, but not before.

  • Brenda Thornton 15 years ago

    My question is a bit more mundane. I am a plus size gal, and I was wondering if there are shops with what be assumed to be reasonable decent clothing, and comfortable for the environment, in the Merida area?

    One can survive for only so long with the same outfits being washed over and over, and I am afriad I am a pig, and cannot get through a meal or a day without a smudge or stain to be attacked. White scares the dickens out of me, so do they ever make the Yucatano fashions in any other color than white?

    Oh, and did anyone ever get a message about an upscale, as in one which won't burn the hair off my head, with highlights, for hair care?

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  • ruthie 15 years ago

    Can someone please suggest a high end salon in Merida? I need a trim and highlights if anyone has suggestions. I'm a bit afraid of the products that are used here as my hair is very fine so I would rather pay the extra to have it done properly. Please respond ASAP!!!! and also, english speaking stylists would be a plus, my spanish might not be sufficient at this point...

  • Theresa 15 years ago

    That is how you make lye. You pour water thru wood ashes, in England they used Oak, you can probably use any wood ash. Lye is very caustic, and one of the ingredients in homemade soap, which is basically lye and fat and water. You can look up the recipe on the net, if you are so inclined.


    reminds of when we did historical re-enactments (mostly when I was at the cottage at Blackpoint). Someone would ask 'how do you wash clothes". The loooong answer always was, first you make a good oak fire, then you collect the ashes in a busket, then you filter clean spring water thru the ashes. etc, etc, etc....I will spare you the part about how you obtain the fat.

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