Fiesta in the Countryside
On Saturday, a good friend of ours had a house-warming party. This was a party we did not want to miss, as the house she has just finished renovating is about one hour east of Merida in a tiny pueblito in the Yucatecan countryside. There was going to be a Mayan ceremony with a real he'men (shaman) to bless the new home, and then of course, a party and feast afterwards.
We got there about 12:30 and, sorry to say, we missed the ceremony. Apparently the he'men had a very busy Saturday scheduled and had insisted on holding the ceremony earlier than he had planned so that he could go on to the next event, a funeral. No one really sticks to clock time around here... in fact, we can't think of one friend here that wears a watch... so we weren't surprised. We were thankful, however, that we hadn't missed the "feast" portion of the afternoon!
Out in the back of the house, in an orchard of palm, avocado and lec (Mayan for "gourd") trees, was a big table, groaning under the weight of a big pan of cochinita and another of roasted pavo (turkey). The tortillas were stacked high and they looked fresh, so I walked farther back into the lot, and there were two older Mayan ladies, in their white huipiles, hand-patting tortillas and grilling them on their tin-drum lids over open fires. One of them proceeded to take a long piece of metal wire and wrestle some mandarinas (tangerines) off of the tree she was sitting under. She peeled them and offered them to us. Yum! The servers took the fresh tortillas, dipped them in the turkey juice, piled shredded turkey, onions, potatoes on top and handed them to out on paper plates. After sprinkling on some chopped habanero chiles - the piece de resistance - we ate them all up! Ohmigoodness! They just don't get more delicious than that!
So enough about food. There were lots of people there... a mix of ex-pats and native residents from Merida, Izamal and the Gulf Coast, as well as a slew of visitors. English and Spanish intertwined in all our conversations with varying levels of ease, depending on who was talking. There was a man from New York City, who had just bought a colonial home in Merida. A couple that were finishing up a renovation of their beach house near Progreso. Friends who once hailed from New York, San Diego, Charleston, Houston and Austin. A couple visiting from England. Three little children from down the street. A grandmother, daughter and granddaughter from Merida and Mexico City. A woman from upstate New York who has just finished her hacienda renovation. Each person we met had an interesting story to tell... and the mix of people from all the different backgrounds was a lot of fun.
The three Mayan children - Jose, Jessica and Cecilia - were very interested in our puppy. How old is he? (4 months) Is he a boy or a girl? (a boy) Does he understand Spanish? (no, not much. not much English either) And then it was on to the more general questions. How did you learn English? (grew up speaking it. Now we're trying to learn Spanish and Mayan) Where do you live? (Merida) Where are you from? ...and on and on. Great practice for our Spanish speaking skills. Eventually we ended up by the swimming pool (and old water tank renovated for a new purpose) where we took this picture of Jessica.
The puppy wasn't the least bit interested in polite conversation so he escaped through the front gate and went exploring around the pueblito. We followed him, not so much because we were worried he would get hurt... just that he might get lost. The town probably has ten cars pass through it on a typical Sunday, so it wasn't like traffic was a problem. The other dogs lying around in the dust didn't seem all that interested in him. So we just went for a walk. We walked across the big lawn that serves as the town's soccer field and a place for corridas during fiestas. We looked around the church and the playground. Walked back through the corridors of the ayuntamiento, or town hall. It was quiet, the birds were singing, an occasional local radio show wafted towards us from inside a house.
By 5 pm, the sun was sinking low and it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and drove back to Merida, leaving the little pueblito to enjoy the sunset.