Yucatan News: Izamal's Favorite Pope
News Starting April 25, 2011
May 1:The Beatification of Pope John Paul II
Don’t forget. Pope John Paul II continues to be a much beloved figure in Yucatan. Although we have no listing of special ceremonies for Sunday at this writing, we are certain that Izamal, one of Mexico’s 35 Magical Towns, will pull out all of the stops for its beloved hero. The following is from the Catholic Register.
Pope John Paul visited the convent in 1993. He chose it as the meeting place for his encounter with the indigenous peoples of Latin America. A statue of him in the courtyard (as well as a small museum in the convent) commemorates the event.
The atrium of the world-famous convent is reputed to be the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. The grass-covered courtyard is surrounded by 75 distinctive arches. The structure is painted a vibrant yellow; in fact, the entire town centre is painted this colour. It is known in travel brochures as “The Yellow City.”
The monastery’s principal church is the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Izamal, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It is the most important Marian shrine in the Yucatan Peninsula (which encompasses three states: Quintana Roo to the east with its 200 km of Caribbean coastline, Campeche to the west and Yucatan state to the north).The famed statue of Our Lady of Izamal, named Queen and Patron of the Yucatan, was commissioned by Fray de Landa in Guatemala (the centre of religious art in the New World) in 1558 and is enshrined in the church.
The lavishly painted “camarin” (dressing room of the Virgin, a feature of Marian shrines in Mexico) is said to be the oldest in the country. It is in sharp contrast to the nave of the church which is in an austere, typically 16th century Franciscan style.
Read almost any description of Izamal and its “convento” and you are sure to notice one thing: Superlatives abound. Sometimes such guides are known to exaggerate. In this case they do not.
Whether you are Catholic or not, we recommend that you try to make your way to Izamal for this once in a lifetime event – the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.
This is the year of tourism in Mexico, with special emphasis on domestic tourism. This past week, along with the arrival of the Olympic athletes, their families and their coaches, Merida has had two other types of visitors from other places in Mexico: our tourism competition and those who came for the religious experience. Both groups, when interviewed, said they were amazed not only because of the beauty and cultural offerings of the city, but also at the feeling of security they have in the City of Merida. One family said they had plans to visit the beach but so enjoyed the city that the beach will just have to wait for their next trip. Most of the domestic tourists came from Mexico City, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Guadalajara, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Sonora.
Single Women Adopting in Yucatan
There has recently been renewed interest in adoption in Yucatan and we have already reported on how successful couples have been in opening their hearts and homes to babies who have been cleared for adoption. Now, attention has turned to single females and children who are, for the most part, over the age of five. In recent days, 24 single women have adopted 26 children and the program seems to be well on its way. The goal, of course, is for every child in Yucatan to belong to a family, complete with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even siblings, if possible. Initial efforts are being directed at women, as potential adoptive parents of female children and teenagers. One step at a time has brought about great change in Yucatan and everyone is just thrilled for the new mothers, their children, and their extended families. We are particularly happy to see that sibling groups are included in this program.
Sometimes, life events do not allow students to complete their educations. To remedy this situation, there is a Mobile Community Plaza bus touring the state for the purpose of enrolling students in free adult education classes. The bus has 15 computers on board, as well as printers, projectors, microscopes, and a whiteboard. All of this is to teach potential students that adult education is not like school and that they can succeed. This is great news, especially for older students in outlying areas of Yucatan.
Fires in Almost All of Yucatan
Please be careful when driving on rural roads. There are fires burning in almost all sections of Yucatan. In one case, over 550 hectares burned in just 3 days. During this time, the rules continue to be the same as they have always been: Don’t start fires to burn trash or yard wastes. If you are driving and see smoke ahead, do not drive into it. If you find yourself driving and overtaken by smoke, turn on your lights so that others can see you. In all cases, if you become aware of a fire, call the authorities immediately (066). To see current fires in Yucatan, visit NASA’s Regional Fire Map.
U.S.-Based CineMark Opening in Merida
CineMark now has 31 locations, 18 of which are in Mexico. The latest is in City Center Plaza, on the north side of the city. Inside, movie patrons will find five standard theaters, two premier theaters, and one XD (the 3rd in all of Mexico) theater. XD, by the way, stands for Extreme Digital Cinema. All of CineMart’s XD theaters have 2D and 3D digital projection capabilities, wall-to-wall screens, and a custom, wrap-around sound system. Their attention to ensuring that every seat provides a maximum comfort entertainment environment makes this new theater a great place to take in a movie. This is also great news for a new mall that has stiff competition. If you are a mall walker, a dedicated mall shopper, or if watching movies is your favorite hobby, Merida, Yucatan, should be first on your list of destinations!
Traffic on the Malecon – Changes Are Permanen
The change in traffic flow on Calles 21 (flows east) and 23 (flows west), in Progreso, as well as the banning of vehicles on the Malecon, will now be permanent. This is expected to make a visit to the beach a safe and convenient outing for all individuals and families. Those of us who are old enough and have lived in Yucatan long enough will continue to remember “way back when” there weren’t as many people living here and crowd watching as an endless stream of cars rolled by on the Malecon was part of every holiday season. The chaos will be remembered with nostalgia, even as we enjoy new opportunities to safely enjoy the beach.
Xocen Ceremony Thanks Mayan Gods
The Maya may have had a short break in their knowledge of their ancient ways but, as a people, we are happy to report that they are alive and well, and making great strides toward rebuilding every detail of their heritage. Nowhere is this more evident than in the amazing manner in which Catholicism and the ancient Mayan religion manage to both not only exist side-by-side, but grow as well. This past week, as Christian Yucatecos, including many Maya, took stock of their lives, made their peace with God, and began life anew, the Maya held a ceremony in Valladolid that was designed to thank the ancient Mayan deities, nature and the great Father God for the benefits and protection received by the Xocen community during this past year. If comparative religion interests you, Yucatan is a wonderful place to explore this topic.
State Program: Let’s Read Together
Xook Muul, the second State Reading Day, has just ended with the presentation of 243 books for prisoners at Centro de Readaptacion de Tekax. More than 120 people participated in public readings in Tekax and over 2,000 Yucatecos participated in readings throughout the state. Public readings, in both Spanish and Mayan, are designed to raise awareness about the importance of reading and they are having a wonderful impact throughout the state. It is especially important that prisoners are not being left behind with respect to both reading and education.
Chess in Rural Yucatan
Every once in a while, we post a tongue-in-cheek warning to adults who might be tempted to play chess with small children along Sunday’s Bici-Ruta. Chess is a big sport in Yucatan and it is hilarious to watch the faces of unsuspecting adults as they are soundly defeated by these very young children. The giggles of the kids are priceless! But what of chess in outlying communities? This week, we heard about a group of elementary students, in Pustunich, Ticul, who wrote a letter to their Municipal Library, asking for chess sets to help them “exercise their neurons.” The letter was sent to the mayor, who immediately sent over several chess sets, but even that was not enough for everyone to play. A friend ended up making additional chess sets from recycled materials. Now, the children can be found in the shade of an avocado tree, developing awesome brain power by playing chess. …and the next generation of Yucateco chess masters is born. Well done!
What a Nice Lady!
Believe it or not, everybody in Yucatan doesn’t go to the beach during spring vacation. For those who are left behind, however, summer fun in a public swimming pool is a great diversion from the heat. Leticia Castillo Lizama is the owner of one such pool in rural Tizimin. Every day, she is faced with children who are just a little bit short of having been able to gather together the $10 peso admission price. They ask if they can still swim and pay her later. It breaks her heart and she lets them in. While that may not be the best way to turn a profit, it is certainly evidence that Leticia Castillo Lizama is an exceptional human being and a shining example of the people who are the reason for the kindness and tranquility found throughout the State of Yucatan.
Yaax Ha Ecological Center
Have You Been to Yaax Ha Ecological Center? We didn’t even know it was there until just this past week. Their blog is called Hidden Wonders and it has great pictures. There is a straight (well, almost straight) road to Tixkokob that you can pick up from the Periferico, just north of where Hwy. 180 to Cancun connects to the Periferico. We don’t take enough of these small trips and, as a consequence, miss some of the prettiest of Yucatan’s wonders (as well as a few cool places we might want to live).
Best Website This Week: Ecosystems
This website is designed to teach children about the interconnectedness of all parts of an ecosystem, but it has excellent information for grownups as well. We particularly like El Huerto Tradicional. If you are a backyard gardener in Yucatan, this is a great site to visit. We’ve gotten several good ideas from it already.
Street Dogs Euthanized in Progreso
There is always the same sad thing about Easter in the Municipality of Progreso – the deaths of the street dogs. Please support local spay / neuter programs throughout Yucatan. Until there are no more street dogs, these horrendous practices will continue. Now that Semana Santa is over for 2011, we hope that all of the dog rescue organizations, as well as spay / neuter programs, are so successful this year that there will never be another mass killing of dogs anywhere in Yucatan.