Thursday, January 28, 2010


Once again, the Olimpo in Merida has managed to secure some of the works of another world famous artist. Unfortunately, they have only secured some drawings and sketches/etchings. I must add that these works are well-displayed and the lighting is exceptionally good. While all the items on display profess the genius of this great artist, I was again disappointed. But, there is good reason for my disappointment.

I have had the privilege to visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, several times. ( Housed there is the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in the United States. The docents provide an expert insight into the surreal style of Dali’s paintings and some of his most famous and easily recognizable works are on display. If you ever get to St. Petersburg, Florida, put this on your list of things you “must see”.

The exhibit at the Olimpo was good, but I wanted more of the real Dali. He was a prolific artist, creating over 1,500 pieces of work during his lifetime. His genius is recognized in the art world by the vast majority of all critics, and his works range from pleasingly psychadelic, to absolutely absurd, to surely surreal, and back, and then some!

I am a big fan! If you’re in Merida, Mexico, or the surrounding area, or St. Petersburg, Florida, or the surrounding area, I encourage you stop by and witness the genius of Salvador Dali for yourself.

Birth name
Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech

May 11, 1904(1904-05-11)Figueres, Catalonia, Spain

January 23, 1989 (aged 84)Figueres, Catalonia, Spain




Just 50 kilometers (31 miles) SE of Merida, there is a delightful little pueblo named Cuzama, where, once you enter, you literally slip back into time. A time when henequen was king, the land was tended, and the soil was rich and fertile. Approximately 100+ years ago, the hacienda employed several hundred workers and one can only imagine that life was very simple.

Today, the hacienda is no longer active and mostly in ruin. The land is still there of course and you can still see the occasional henequen plant growing wild and unattended along the roadside and trails. Because the land contained three cenotes (a deep water-filled sinkhole in limestone that is created when the roof of an underground cavern collapses), the old railroad tracks were left in tact, somewhat rerouted, and remain in use today. However, the horse-drawn trucks (small railroad carts) no longer transport the henequen harvest, they transport tourists!

To visit the cenotes, you must hire a truck with two drivers. Each truck can haul 4 adults and the rental fee for truck and drivers for a two hour tour is 200 pesos, or approximately $16 US. You definitely get a big bang for your dollar! Although the trails are narrow and bumpy, the scenery along the way is quite nice and I found the ride to be relaxing. The horses that draw the trucks are all well-cared for and kept clean and well-fed which was a genuine concern of mine. And, they definitely know the route!

The railroad trail is one way, no exceptions! As you are going to a cenote, you have the right of way. On the return trip, if you meet up with another group of tourists “going”, you must disembark, stand off to the side, and your drivers must physically lift the railroad truck off the tracks to let the other truck pass, and lift it back on to continue your return journey! Somewhat of a primitive system, but it works for all.

Although it didn’t seem quite that far, the drivers of the trucks insisted that the first cenote is 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the starting point, and each cenote thereafter is another 3 kilometers, for a total of a 9 kilometer trip each way. You have time to visit/swim at each cenote. The first cenote is accessible. For me, the other two cenotes were not! One is a mere hole in the ground which descends way, way down to the water filled cavern. The other is quite a steep descent and not for the weak of heart! Being claustrophobic, I opted out this trip, but would, and could, swim in the first cenote.

After our trip, it was time for lunch. There is a brand new restaurant on the road where you negotiate for your truck and tour, and we decided to give it a try. The building is exceptionally nice, only 3 months old and they serve only Yucatecan food! Just what the doctor ordered after a great ride through some rugged countryside. I had “poc chuc”, a local favorite which is thin slices of marinated pork, grilled, and served with refried beans, rice, tomato salsa, grilled red onions, and accompanied by fresh, hot tortillas! I don’t usually do restaurant reviews, but this was some of the best local food I have ever had and I can highly recommend you try it if you go.

Even though two cenotes are not readily accessible for swimming, the ride on the old horse drawn henequen trucks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the water in the cenote that is accessible is crystal clear and ever so inviting. A great day trip if you’re up for it!

Monday, January 25, 2010


Adjacent to the Caribbean Coast, just before the country of Belize,and located approximately 425 kilometers (265 miles) from Merida, Laguna Bacalar (the lake of seven colors), is by far one of the most beautiful, serene locations I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The largest lake in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo, it extends 33 miles in length and just a little over a mile at its widest point. The Lagoon meets up with the Hondo River by way of the Chaac Canal.

The crystal clear waters of this magnificent Laguna are truly a sight to behold. Quite suited for a leisurely boat ride, you can witness mangroves, reed beds, and an array of wonderful color reflections on the lagoon itself. Or, just sit back on the shore, relax and enjoy the beauty Mother Nature has provided for you. The sunrises on the Laguna are picture perfect, the reflections of the noon sun glisten like precious jewels off the calm, crystal clear waters, and the evening sunsets will capture your heart and imagination.

There are numerous activities in the surrounding area including ancient Mayan ruins (Kohunlich and Chacchoben), visit Cenote Azul for an enjoyable dip in crystal clear water approximately 600 feet deep, or take in one of the many attractions along the Caribbean Coast. You can rent kayaks, bird watch, go cave diving, canoeing, windsurfing, and a host of other aquatic activities. The country of Belize is a short 30 minute drive away to the Zona Libre where you can enjoy duty free shopping and casino activities.

Retirees and investors are showing lots of interest in this undiscovered, virgin area and there are several ground-floor opportunities to own a lot right on the Laguna. Many folks are planning ahead on their retirement or just investing in their future and purchasing undeveloped, unspoiled lots in this truly wonderful area.

If you ever feel the need to “just get away”, consider a visit to Laguna Bacalar.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Located approximately 425 kilometers (265 miles) from Merida, the little pueblo of Bacalar, population 10,500, is nestled along the shoreline of the magnificent Laguna Bacalar. It is small, quiet, and unassuming. We found one pizza parlor that doesn’t have a phone number and doesn’t deliver! That really describes the lifestyle of the population. Declared to be “Pueblo Magico” in 2007 by the Governor of Quintana Roo, this quiet little village goes about its daily business without fanfare.

Interestingly enough though, directly across from the main square there is a hidden treasure just waiting for you to discover! There is a magnificent old fort with a museum that I just couldn’t resist.

Fort San Felipe was built in the 1700’s under the orders of Don Antonio Figueroa y Silva, Field Marshall of the Yucatan, when the current state of Quintana Roo was part and parcel of the Yucatan and did not yet exist. The purpose of the fort was to protect the Bacalar population from frequent attacks by pirates and to defend the entire region from harassment from the traders in Campeche wood. (The swashbuckling Johnny Depp, in full regale, would be right at home here!)

The views from the old fort are nothing less than spectacular, and the reinforced walls and moats surrounding the fort have stood the test of time. Below are some photographs that need little to no explanation. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I am by no means a photographer in any way, shape or form, but every now and then you are fortunate enough to snap a shot that is a “real keeper”. I think I have done so on my recent trip to Laguna Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico (which I will blog about later).

Shortly after 6 AM, I was snapping shots of the sunrise and this is one that I caught. A real keeper, wouldn’t you say?

With God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - IT'S COLD! EVEN IN MERIDA, YUCATAN, MEXICO!

Well, it's not cold enough to make a snowman here, but we are feeling the effects of the cold front that is sweeping North America! Our temperatures have dipped to (in Farenheit) the very high 40's and low 50's in the mornings and evenings, but we do warm up to around 70 - 75 during the day and that is quite comfortable compared to our Northern neighbors who are literally freezing to death in this horrible cold front that is moving through the US and Canada. There are no immediate changes forecast in the near future either! Brrrrr!

For the local Yucatecans, the current temperatures brought on by this cold spell are unbearable. They are all bundled up as if they were going ice skating, and we Gringos have changed from shorts and T-shirts to long pants and T-shirts!

I have never been in a home in Merida or the surrounding area that has any heating system at all; air, yes - heat, no! We really just do not have a use for such a thing here in the Yucatan. (Unlike my friends in Canada and the US and other parts of the world who are probably thinking of putting their thermostats up just one more notch as they read this blog!) My family in Western New York State report that the snow plows are working overtime and they tell me how much snow they have and how cold it is, plus the wind chill factor, the ice conditions, etc., and so on, and I just shiver! I am so thankful to be where I am, here in Merida.

My friends in Florida, The Sunshine State, report they are expecting a frost and the farmers are preparing their orange groves and strawberry fields for a very cold, frosty evening. They burn smudge pots in the orange groves to save the crops and they water down the strawberries to create a thin coating of ice on the plants and fruits which, believe it or not, saves them! The strawberries won't be ready to harvest until February so here's hoping they can be saved as well as the orange groves. People are scurrying to cover their precious tropical plants and shrubs with old sheets and tarps and whatever else they can find to save them.

Because Mexico uses the metric system for measurements and Centigrade instead of Farenheit to measure temperatures, I often get confused. I think I have the temperature thing down pretty good. Here's a quick and easy formula for you to convert centigrade to farenheit without needing a calculator and a degree in math:

1. Take the Centigrade temperature.

2. Double it.

3. Add 26.

4. You have just converted Centigrade to Farenheit. And, it is fairly accurate.

Or, you can go to: This is a great site for converting temperatures and is easy to use!

To all my readers, I wish you a Happy New Year, filled with the promise of peace, health, and prosperity. And in addition for you folks north of Merida, stay warm and cozy! If the cold gets to be too much for you, come on down!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


For those of you who may not know, “aluxes” are the Yucatan’s equivalent of leprechauns, elves, gnomes, trolls, faeries, and other names for wee, little, mischievous people, be they mythical, imaginative, legendary, or otherwise!

The Maya themselves would claim that the alux are the spirits of their ancestors, or the spirits of the land itself, and precede contact with Western civilization. Stories of aluxes live on, even in today’s high-tech society.

Wikipedia ( tells us that the Maya peoples from the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize conceive an alux as being small, only about knee-high, and in appearance resembling miniature traditionally dressed Maya people. They are generally associated with natural features such as forests, caves, stones (especially Mayan ruins), and fields but can also be enticed to move somewhere through offerings. Their description and mythological role are somewhat reminiscent of other spirit-like mythical entities in a number of other cultural traditions as the tricks they play are similar.

I readily admit that I have never encountered an alux or a pink elephant. Not even after several tequilas! However, I know several locals who will swear on the souls of their loved ones that they have experienced such an encounter with an alux.

About 10 years ago, a friend and local Mayan fellow from a nearby Pueblo related his experience to me about his encounter with an alux. It occurred at the Mayan ruins of Dzibichaltun, just outside of Merida. He was working there and spotted the alux hiding behind a bush. The alux was smoking a cigarette and swaying from side to side, observing his movements. He describes the alux as being very small, somewhat crouched over, and walking with a lumbering, side-to-side gate. He then proceeds to duplicate the walk of the alux! He has recanted this story to me on several occasions and the details never change. He is definitely a believer. He also relates that both his father and grandfather have had similar encounters with aluxes!

Another friend, a local, relates seeing several aluxes at a nearby hacienda. He describes them as being only 12 inches high or so, but swears that they inhabit the land there! I asked if he has seen them only once, and he firmly states that he has witnessed them on numerous occasions, as have his family and friends.

I have talked to other locals who absolutely believe in these little fellows and readily admit to seeing them, or at least knowing someone who has witnessed a sighting! The alux of the Yucatan, are deeply imbedded in the local culture. We even have a large hotel here in Merida named “Los Aluxes”. The terminology, “alux”, appears throughout Mayan folklore, legend, history, and persists in day-to-day conversations.

Fact or Fiction? As for me, seeing is believing. However, the adamancy of the locals who claim to have witnessed an alux brings into question their actual existence and authenticity. I guess you could say while I do not absolutely “believe”, I absolutely do not “disbelieve”! Perhaps it’s just that vivid imaginations abound in the Yucatan Pennisula? If you live in the Yucatan, or visit here, ask around about aluxes. You may be surprised at what you hear, or see!!

Personally, I would welcome such an encounter!