Archive for the ‘Mérida’ Category

Yucatán’s Magic-Mérida Side Trips: Treasures of Mayab

October 2, 2011

Finally the book for traveling adventurers who want to see more than just trinket shops and crowded tourist traps has arrived.

Just launched — our new book, Yucatán’s Magic – Mérida Side Trips: Treasures of Mayab

–Built one stone at a time like the Mayan pyramids–

Over a quarter of a century of inspired exploration and recording of our travels in captioned photo stories has led my wife and me to compile an impressive collection of outings that are the foundation for this book, built one story at a time.

We present the best of the best after over twenty-five years; places, excursions, and outings. Each place we have visited we liked for different reasons; tranquility, history, view of village life, and connect with the Maya past and present, change of scenery and a look at a uniquely distinctive region.

Available at for Kindle and in paperback.

To download  e-book EPUB edition, click here.


2011 Mérida, Yucatán – Faces of Carnival

March 8, 2011

To view more of John’s photos of Faces of Carnival, click here.

Pedro Ínfante

May 31, 2010

Pedro Ínfante
Lived hard
Died young
And left a beautiful memory

José Pedro Infante Cruz, born November 18, 1917 in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is the most loved and famous Mexican actor, movie star and singer of all time.

He began his film career at age 22 in 1939, appearing in more than 60 films, and starting in 1943, he recorded nearly 350 songs. His performance in the movie Tizoc won him the best actor award at the Berlin Film Festival.

Pedro was in love with Mérida and Mérida was in love with him.

He met the exotic dancer Lupita Torrentera and had three children with her in Mérida.   Pedro was a ladies man.  He had a wife, but he often had love affairs with other women.  Many women found his celebrity and charm  irresistible.

The morning of April 15, 1957 at 8:15 a.m., aviator enthusiast Pedro Infante, while piloting his own converted B-24 Liberator bomber, crashed and was killed while leaving the airport at Mérida, Yucatán, on his way to Mexico City.

The world mourned.

A national outpouring of grief spurred the creation of three majestic bronze statues in his memory; in Mexico City, Mazatlán and Mérida.

Cast in bronze from thousands of keys donated, by his adoring fans, this art in action figure is located near downtown Mérida at the intersection of 62 and 93 in Colonia Delio Moreno Canton.

A fitting image of Pedro silhouetted against the sky he loved so much and dressed in his famous movie set attire atop a bucking horse.

Pedro Ínfante sang and recorded, Kiss Me a Lot, his one and only song in English. In Spanish, the song is Bésame Mucho and was composed by Consuelo Velázqiez, Mexico’s greatest female composer.*  That legendary song was featured in the 1951 movie A Toda Máquina in which Pedro was the star.

Pedro Infante’s reputation has enlarged greatly since his death.
He was everybody’s hero; the partying cowboy charro, people of the working class and  lovers of Mexican movies and music  around the world.

To this day, musical tributes of homage are paid to this one-of-a-kind charismatic personality by singers of traditional ranchera and mariachi music.
As Pedro rides off, his timeless songs, which resonate through the ages, are kept alive.

*For the interesting story of Mexico’s most famous female composer, Consuelo Velázqiez, click the following link:

©2010John M. Grimsrud


February 27, 2010

(In Yucatán, Mexico, a mestizo is a person of mixed Spanish and Mayan parentage.)

Monument in Chetumal, Quintana Roo dedicated to Gonzalo Guerrero, his wife Zazil Ha and their children, the first mestizos.

This fascinating story actually begins with the birth of Gonzalo Guerrero back in the early 1470’s at Palos, Andalusia, Spain.
Trained as a military combatant he fought to drive the last of the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula by 1492 ending eight centuries of Islamic occupation. Then he took up his next position of soldier/sailor on Columbus’s first ocean crossing expedition aboard the small open carvel vessel, Niña.
This soldier of fortune’s story did not reappear in the annals of history again until 1511. Gonzalo set sail in good weather from the Gulf of Darien on the Colombian coast of South America north bound with looted treasure and slaves.
What happened next is one of the worst nightmare stories that could happen to anyone.
Forty year old Gonzalo was plummeted into the sea aboard a makeshift raft with no food or water, one of eighteen men and two women to survive the wrath of a hurricane that dismasted his ship and sunk it.
Only eight lived to make landfall, having to resort to cannibalism in order to survive.
Salvation did not happen. The group of eight survivors were apprehended and enslaved by their Mayan Cocom captors on the Yucatán coast.
Four of these survivors were sacrificed and eaten immediately. The others were caged and fattened for a future festival of flesh feasting. The fattening gave the remaining four the strength to escape to the Tutul Xiues tribe of Mayas who were enemies of the Cocom’s.

(An interesting fact of logistic history; in the recorded accounts of the first encounters of these Europeans arrival in Yucatán it was noted that hammocks were in use by the natives.)

Tutul Xiues made slaves of these surviving Spaniards. Due to extreme hard work and exhaustion only Gonzalo Guerrero and Geronimo de Aguilar survived.
Geronimo de Aguilar kept his religion and cultural ways but Gonzalo Guerrero took up the Mayan ways and became a military advisor and trainer teaching the Maya the combat tactics of the Spanish.  It has been speculated that this Spanish combat training gave the Mayan people of the eastern jungle part of the Yucatán peninsula the ability to drive out the conquistadors. The Mayan of the Quintana Roo region, (eastern jungle) have never been completely subdued and it wasn’t until Méxican federal forces put down the protracted Caste War in the early 1900’s that this area became a territorial part of México.
Gonzalo Guerrero left a lasting legacy with his newly adopted countrymen.
Next Gonzalo kills an alligator attacking his master and gains his freedom from slavery. He then engaged in ritual mutilation and tattooing that included piercing his ears and cheeks. These acts assimilated him into the Mayan way of life.
Gonzalo next took a Mayan princess named Zazil Ha as his wife and was given the temples of Ichpaatún north of Chetumal, presently designated on maps as Oxtankah.
Chetumal Bay has been a major route of commerce since the days of the ancient Maya because it linked sea-going trade routes to rivers incorporating man-made canals. Lamanai is one of the three most prominent Mayan settlements that remained continuously active through the post-classic period and even after European arrival that is linked by river/canal to Chetumal Bay.
In 1519 Hernán Cortez arrived at the island of Cozumel and attempted to rescue the two Spanish survivors, Geronimo de Aquilar and Gonzalo Guerrero from the Maya.
Gonzalo Guerrero replies; “I married a Mayan woman, have three children, am chief and captain, taken their ways with tattoos, pierced ears and scared face…this is my place.”
Gonzalo’s daughter was rumored to have been sacrificed in the cenote at Chichén Itza to end a locust plague.
He eventually met his fate in battle against the Spanish invaders.
Geronimo de Aguilar went with Cortez and took a job as translator.
For centuries Gonzalo Guerrero was despised by the Spanish for being a traitor, defector, and renegade. He was a man, who had fought against his countrymen, turned his back on his land of birth, society, renounced his faith and denied Christ.
After the independence of Mexico a change took place; strangely some Mexicans descended from the conquerors now began to feel a real passion for the Mayan culture. From the Maya one name that symbolizes the struggle in opposition to colonial imperialist power and a struggle for freedom was Gonzalo Guerrero.
Ultimately Guerrero would go from villain to hero and from traitor to a champion of freedom.
The Mayan ruins and Church at Oxtankah in the jungle north of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico have been restored and memorialize this extraordinary man and his wife, Zazil Ha, the parents of the first mestizo. An adjacent lagoon in the area of the Oxtankah ruins near Bacalar bears his name.
On the prestigious Paseo de Montejo in Mérida a monument now commemorates his memory. Donated to the city of Mérida by the founder of Akumal, Pablo Bush Romero who was also the president of the Explorers Club of México this bronze monument sculpted by Raul Ayala is perched atop a stone pedestal at the north end of Paseo de Montejo.

Remarkably this monument to one of the most noteworthy Spaniards to ever venture to the New World, Gonzalo Guerrero, his wife, Zazil Ha and their three children sits between eight lanes of bustling traffic.
There is no sign of recognition or plaque of explanation and few people if any that pass here are ever aware of the incredibly fascinating story behind this first Spaniard to integrate into Yucatán.

There is no sign of recognition or plaque of explanation and few people if any that pass here are ever aware of the incredibly fascinating story behind this first Spaniard to integrate into Yucatán.

The symbolic sculpture of Gonzalo Guerrero attired in his Mayan clothing with his wife Zazil Ha behind cradling one of his infant children while another of his three mestizo children plays with a Spanish conquistador war helmet tells much of this epic story.

This sculpture of Gonzalo Guerrero is a part of the monument in Chetumal dedicated to the Cradle of the Mestizo.


December 14, 2008


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Mérida: Faces of Carnival 2008

February 16, 2008


Mérida pulses with the ear-splitting reverberations of festive carnival music booming out of gigantic speakers lining the parade route for a week of day and night celebrations until ultimately the burning of the carnival effigy that begins the Lent season.


Tranquility and beauty of another kind can be found on the quiet side streets of Mérida where flowering trees of vibrant colors distinctly mark the seasons. This February day is brightened by pink; the previous month was ablaze in brilliant yellow.

Festivals and tropical flowering trees make the winter season very tolerable here in the “land of take it easy”. Photos by John M. Grimsrud


January 4, 2008

panarama danza

NEW YEARS EVE AND NEW YEARS DAY 2008 by John M. Grimsrud
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This traditional Mayan festival still takes place annually in Colonial Emiliano Zapata Norte six kilometers north of Merida’s central zocolo on the east side of the Prolongation de Montejo which is a popular neighborhood that still clings to it’s traditional ancestral customs.
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Our neighbors Don Jorge and his daughter Lupita display the manikin they will burn in effigy of the old year on New Years Eve. Stuffed with pyrotechnics the effigy will be ignited by a long string of firecrackers blasting the New Year in and the old one out. They kick off the Mayan “Pol kek’en” festival or “Danza de la Cabaza de Cochino”, (Dance of the pig’s head) that is of pre-Hispanic origins.
New Year’s Eve dinner consists of roast turkey salbutes and caldo authentic Mayan specialties handed down over the centuries.
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New Years day a pre-parade eating extravaganza rallies the neighborhood for food and drinks while the marching band sits down to stuff themselves and “wet their whistles” with a few beers while tuning up for the parade. Above turkey tacos get served up as fast as the eager participants can put them away.
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The jubilant participants eating and drinking will soon parade the streets dancing.
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Pork and beer and lovely native customers set the stage for a harmonious tradition.
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Mucho-macho these guys have been partying non-stop since last night with no end in sight. The traditional Mayan drink for this festival is called balché, (Latin: lonchocarpus longistylus Pittier) and is make by fermenting the bark and roots of a tropical tree of 18 meters of that same name combined with anise and cinnamon. Tradition has yielded to expedience and beer is now easier.
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Topping off for the parade and dance that follows with youthful exuberance coupled with old time tradition, the neighborhood unites.
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Getting in step for the dance with a preview performance bedecked in Mayan tradition.
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These lovely girls are our good neighbors.
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Under way in a cloud of pyrotechnic explosions that shatters the tranquility of Emiliano Zapata Norte the New Years Day parade gets under way.
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“Pol kek’en” festival or “Danza de la Cabaza de Cochino”, (Dance of the pig’s head). Each participating household features a roasted pig’s head on a platter dancing in the parade.

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Catholic Saints have no trouble intermixing with traditional Mayan pageantry.
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The musical tune of the New Years Day Parade is traditional and played note for note the same throughout all the Mayan communities
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As the parade meanders through Emiliano Zapata Norte past participating households they in turn join in the ever growing parade only stopping now and then for a blast of pyrotechnics and more dancing.
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Our lovely good neighbors of seventeen years make the neighborhood a good place to be.
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Catholic Saints are honored along with the Mayan ceremony that has maintained a flexibility to facilitate it to survive in some type of harmony for nearly five centuries.
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We live in one of the few holdouts to traditional Mayan community activities.
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Even the children are brought up to partake in their ancestral pageantry and almost all still speak their native tongue of Maya though less and less daily dress in their traditional costume.
You don’t have to go far from the big city of Mérida to find villages where one in all speak Maya and dress in traditional attire.
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Don Juan our good neighbor is one of the active participants who keeps this family heritage alive and makes our neighborhood a close community.
The festival season in Yucatan begins on December 12th, Lupita Day and continues on until the 6th of January, Three Kings Day.
It seems like the party season only builds to a crescendo without a slack or letup…this is Yucatán, Mexico!

A visit to the cantina

September 10, 2007

Monday we met friends for lunch at our favorite Merida cantina, La Carretta Cubana 2 located on Calle 27 in Col. Mexico Oriente. The botanas were abundant and the conversation flowed.


Photo: John, Jane, Terry, Thalia and Cynthia