Thursday, April 02, 2009

Izamal (another Yucatan post)

I have several sets of photos to share from my trip south last month. These are photos from a new favorite town of mine. Maybe, one day, I'll open up a hot dog stand in this town!

If you take the old road, the non-toll road, from Merida to Cancun, you’ll drive through the beautiful town of Izamal. Bouncing over the speed bumps (which surprisingly are found on most roads entering a Yucatan community), I begin to have visions of a ball park frank on a bun slathered with French’s mustard. But there were no hot dog stands, only neat buildings painted a mustard color, giving rise to my food fantasies.

There are still a few henequen fields in the Yucatan. This plant was often raised in large plantations, the leaves harvested for their fiber and used in rope production. It’s also used in making a drink similar to tequila and, according to a guide book, there is a distillery just outside Izamal. I was surprised to learn from my hosts that in the early 20th century, several thousand Koreans moved to the Yucatan to work on these plantations and that there is still a rope plant in Merida.

The cathedral in the center of the town, the Convento de San Antonio, was completed in 1562 (that’s only 70 years after Columbus) and older than the cathedral in Merida. It was built upon the site of an ancient Mayan temple. In front of the cathedral is a large enclosed plaza, which is billed as the largest atrium in North America. The plaza, surrounded by 75 arches, is supposedly second to only St. Peter’s in Rome.

The town’s marketplace is colorful and very neat and I wish I’d had more time to spend here, but I was on my way from Merida to Xocenpich. This shot is looking toward the market, from the walls around the atrium in front of the cathedral.

Two final shots of the cathedral, that I added after Mother Hen suggested "lower" shots, showing the sky.

Previous posts include my visit of a tortilla factory and to Chichen Itza.


  1. What a fascinating post, Sage. I love the colors and architecture of Mexico. Not to mention the history. I had no idea that plant was the source of so much. Can you imagine being the guy/girl to have the first idea of, 'Hey, this could be fashioned into rope!'.

    Thanks for bringing us along on your journey south.

  2. Nice, the first picture of the alley is good. It reminds me of a movie set... I think there is a movie starring Brat Pitt which has such a colorful and pretty alley too, but I am not so sure about your hot dog stand though. The cathedral shot - oh look at that sky, that could be a very powerful shot, if you lower the camera a lot more than you were.

    Neat town, great pictures. I really need to travel to South America one of these days.

  3. Wonderful post, this. Makes me want to see it. Those are great photos too. I like visiting old Cathedrals.

  4. The cathedral kinda makes me sad. I mean, that was already a religious site and they went and built over it? Boo. I know it happened all the time, but it still makes me frustrated.

  5. Stephanie, I'm currently listening to Horwitz's "A Journey Long and Strange" which deals with the European conquest of America--he deals with the history in a humorous way!

    Mother Hen, I don't think I could have gotten much lower--maybe 2 feet--but I was already kneeling. I do have some other shots taken from the steps to the pavilion, looking up that makes the facade of the church look imposing.

    Gautami, thanks!

    TC, sad but conquerors often do that--the Muslim dome of the rock on top of Jewish temple site, etc. Most of the Mayan religious sites were no longer functioning as such when the Spanish arrived.

  6. It does look like a movie set, especially so few people around. Wouldn't you love to know the history of what has taken place in the plaza through the years?

  7. Are all the buildings that color? I love it. When we went from Cancun to Chichen Itza, I remember many small homes and huts, and none so colorful as this.

  8. If you build your hot dog stand, we will come... That's my kind of town.

  9. Hi, NetChick sent me. Great photos!

  10. I'd love to have some time prowling around the back roads of the Yucatan. Thanks for give us a taste.


  11. Your life and travels are so rich, Sage! I love that Cathedral!

  12. For some reason, the town of Izamal rings a bell in my head. Is it a tourist town? Perhaps a recent hurricane?

  13. it's beautiful. The Mayan influence almost looks Moorish

    In Oaxace, Iglesia De Santo Domingo took 400 years to build and many many slaves died. The church is constructed with much real gold. I used to get all worked up about it when I was a teenager and later, yet wonder if I could just appreciate its beauty now. Probably not

  14. Beau, I was suprised by how much of the Yucatan wasn't crowded (but then I wasn't on the beaches)

    Kenju, this would have been about an hour further inland from Chichen Itza.

    Kiva, think they'll like hotdogs down there?

    Thanks Stacie

    Randall, when possible, take the backroad!

    Michael, what gets me is that, for the New World, it is so old!

    Ed, There are some tourist there, but generally just a stop-over. It's a ways from the beach and is a town of about 10,000.

    Pia, in Horwitz's book that I'm listening to (the part I listened to today) he told of the Spanish building a church on a Zuni religious site (that's today gone back to Zuni use)

  15. Love the pics and the architecture and the streets.

    Were you in town for the biker rally?

  16. Even though I can document tens of thousands of miles in North America I wonder why I never had the bug to go see the beauty to the south of me?

  17. Thanks Mistress,

    Bone, Bike Rally? No way, it was the "International Scooter Chase!" See them all lined up out in front of the cathedral?

    Walking guy, the Yucatan is nicer than the other parts of Mexico that I've traveled--especially the border areas.

  18. Glad to hear you fell in love with the country. I was in Cancun and Belize City last year. Loved it. Hey, I wasn't stoned sober writing that poem. In re-reading it, some editing would help.

  19. I'd love to photo graph those colors and architecture. Great post!