We often take URL, our amazing Mexican wonder dog, for a morning walk up the Paseo de Montejo, a wide, tree-lined boulevard near our house. Stately mansions – most of which are banks or restaurants today – as well the Paseo itself were built during Merida’s bella epoca, between 1870 and 1910. With everything French so in vogue here at the time, it was designed to be Merida’s Champs Elysees.
The bella epoca years were boom years for Mexico, when the president-turned-dictator Porfirio Diaz enforced liberal economic policies that brought wealth into Mexico, probably for the first time. (A lot of wealth had been leaving Mexico for years, in the form of gold, silver and other natural resources.) Under Diaz, the rich got really rich, especially in Merida where the hacendados (the owners of most of the land) were cultivating and shipping sisal (rope) to the world.
Unfortunately, the poor got really poor, and there were, as always, a lot more of them…
All of this history had a direct effect on our doggy stroll this morning, because as we turned the corner onto the Paseo, we were surprised to discover hundreds, perhaps thousands, of school-age children milling about dressed in white shirts and trousers and bedecked with wide sombreros, ammunition belts and rifles! Que hay?
Does November 20th ring a bell? (Actually, no. They ring the bell on September 15th for Mexican Independence Day. That’s called El Grito and it happened in 1810. )This was Revolution Day, the day that Francisco Madero proclaimed himself president and called for an insurgency after Diaz thwarted a legal election in 1910. The poor Mexicans were muy listo (very ready) and dutifully provided the insurgency, bringing such colorful characters as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata onto the national stage (and ultimately into legend).
The revolutionaries this morning were not nearly as bloodied, but they were just as colorful. At this early hour, they were busy staging for the big parade, putting on their gear or practicing their bugle fanfares prior to the march down to the zocalo or main plaza. Loud speakers on nearby trucks blared Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and a Spanish version of “My Sharona” in classic Mexican dissonance.
It looked to us like every town from the state of Yucatan was represented by some school or club.
One of our favorites was the group of girls wearing white mini-skirts trimmed with embroidery like a huipile, as if they were Britney Spears’ Mayan backup dancers. But the perennial favorites are the fierce young ladies dressed as revolutionaries like the boys, but wearing plaid blouses and long skirts.
URL the dog was not the least bit intimidated by the revolutionary mayhem. He is Mexican after all. We meandered up the Paseo, enjoying a leisurely stroll and the justicia, tierra y libertad that made it possible for all these kids to walk here, too.