After many years of living on the planet, it’s obvious to us that maps can both clarify and obfuscate. There’s nothing more frustrating than an out of date map, but newcomers need them… we noticed when we first traveled here that we spent a lot of time with our maps. Now that we have lived here for a while, we use maps more as a “rule of thumb” when driving through the Yucatan countryside. The magic of traveling in the Yucatan is easier to find when the maps are left folded up in the back seat.
It used to be that there wasn’t much in the way of maps here. When we left California to drive to the Yucatan (it took us ten days of driving from 8 am until dark), we took with us very detailed guides that had been given to us by the company that sold us Mexican car insurance. These guides laid out routes (Guanajuato to Mexico City, for instance, or San Miguel Allende to Puebla). And they told you every single turn you needed to make at every single tree or gas station. The guide told you where the signs were or were not. But while these guides were thorough, they were not always accurate because even then, things were changing rapidly.
When we finally arrived in Merida, we were given a large map with all the place names of every little pueblito in Yucatan. We were told this was a very precious document, and if we wanted another, we’d have to go to the INEGI office, something local Yucatecos seemed to know how to do but very few gringos had yet accomplished.
Then maps started showing up more often in the local Dante bookstores. Good maps, then better maps. We “discovered” the Guia Roji for driving anywhere in Mexico. Guia Roji is published yearly as an 8×10 book. It is only sold in Mexico, but it is sold in many places. We’ve seen them in Dante Bookstores, Sanborn’s and WalMart. Guia Roji also has a comprehensive website, with both paper maps and maps on CD for sale. With the most recent Guia Roji, you can drive anywhere in Mexico with assurance. But don’t think last year’s Guia Roji will give you the same warm fuzzies. Mexican roads are being built at a rapid rate, and it helps to have the newest information. This is *especially* true in the Yucatan, where the local government has prided itself on the kilometers of new road it has laid down every year for the last few years, and has erected billboards to tell us about it.
When maps started showing up as useful tools on the Internet, those of us who lived here were disappointed to find that none of them included the Yucatan (or much of Mexico for that matter). It didn’t surprise us and we wrote off the whole idea of Internet maps. When Google Earth was launched, Merida was a big white blur.
But in the last few years, Merida has started to show up very nicely, thank you very much. Google Earth now has high resolution photos with street overlays of Merida. And just like that out of the blue, MapQuest had all of Merida completely mapped! What a find! No longer does anyone have to rely on outdated maps of this area. We now have the same tools available to us as anyone in New York City or Paris.
So when it comes to the Internet, we can say Merida is finally on the map!
- Mapquest map of Merida
- Mapquest map of Cancun
- Guia Roji
- Google Earth
- Beautiful Satellite Photos of the Yucatan Peninsula from Earth Snapshot