Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Around the Barrio de la Presa

Above, La Bufa framed by bougainvillea blooming on the patio of our rental

The first week of our stay was right in the heart of the city with roving bands of costumed estudiantinas egging their audiences on to shout “Beso! Beso!” over and over again outside our windows. The second half of our trip was spent in a much more bucolic setting of a neighborhood near the dams, or presas, protecting the city. The split experience almost felt as though we visited two different cities. The second house we stayed in provided a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains, including La Bufa, and came with a backyard bonus of ripe limes, figs, blackberries and pomegranates.

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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Along Paseo de Montejo

Above: Crumbling stucco lends a painterly appearance to a row of balconied apartments off Paseo de Montejo.

The wide boulevard of Paseo de Montejo invites ambling with its row of elegant residences, in varying condition, built during Merida’s henequen boom (see earlier post on La Quinta Montes Molina). The street really comes to life when it is closed to automobile traffic on some weekends to allow what seems like all the families in Merida to safely hop upon their bicycles.

Palacio Canton was completed more than a century ago for General Francisco Canton Rosado (1833-1917), a governor of Yucatan who owned profitable henequen haciendas and railroads during the Porfiriato period. Now the building houses the Regional Museum of Anthropology, showcasing a collection of Mayan artifacts, including some from Mayapan (earlier post).

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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: A house that henequin built

Texas farmers’ need for a digestible binding material for bales of hay tossed to cattle gave rise to incredible wealth in the Yucatan, a boom that lasted from 1880 to 1915. Operating under the favorable conditions for the wealthy to further enrich themselves, aristocrats in Mexico were able to take advantage of a native plant – henequen – and cheap native labor to bankroll a lavish lifestyle built upon production of the requisite fiber. In 1914, more than one-million bales of henequen were exported from the Yucatan.