Saturday, June 25, 2011

Memories of Merida - Part 2

Viewed from a causeway
Long graceful necks bent
to the briny water
The food they gather
Bring color to their feathers
forming acres of pink
as far as the eye can see
They take flight
pulling up their legs
and exposing the line of black
under their wings

We took a side trip the day after the tour of the nature preserve the beach town of Progresso. It is a cruise ship stop and if it is your only experience of this part of Mexico, I would not blame you for not returning. The town is, to be charitable, unimpressive. A thin strip of beach fronts a series of shabby shops and take out restaurants that line the narrow streets.

After we had had our fill of the beach and were ready to return to Merida we consulted the map we had with us. We decided on an alternate route back as there ewer icons on the map indicating a ruin and an important cathedral. We found the cathedral first. It was a variation of a sight we would see several times over the next days. A massive 16th century cathedral, again built with stones from the original Mayan structures, dominating a tiny, dusty speck of a town. The early Spanish colonials were apparently intent on saving the souls of the Mayans, even if it killed them....the Mayans that is.

As we continued to the ruins we turned onto a causeway that led across an area of shallow, briny water. The sight before us made us immediately stop the car. On either side of the causeway were pink flamingos feeding. Hundreds if not thousands of them. The water was pink, literally, as far as the eye could see. Calling this sight breathtaking does not do justice to the experience. It is a memory I will always treasure.

After tearing ourselves away from what, I think we both knew would be a once in a lifetime sight, we continued on the ruin. In this case, it was a salt trading center. It was also the first of what would be several similar experiences. It is eerie to be wandering through the remains of a lost civilization by yourself. This ruin,like several others in the area, is not heavily visited. We climbed to the top of a small pyramid and stood by ourselves surveying the land. A family of 4 were climbing another of the structures. There were no other people there. On later occasions we would be the only ones exploring the  archaeological sites.

Here there were stone cisterns. The briny water in the area was collected in these and when it evaporated in the intense heat of this part of Mexico the Mayans took the salt that was left. There was a small plaza with pyramids and the foundations of a large structure assumed to be the home of a wealthy merchant. It was a wonderful introduction to the ruins we would experience later.

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