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"The troubadours look for a romantically in love person to take him home and chant melodies and love songs to his/her fiancee."
- Jadranka Vrsalovic

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The first "American Capital of Culture"
by Jadranka Vrsalovic, Barcelona, Spain
Apr 5, 1999

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The gastronomy of Yucatan is rich, varied, and well seasoned, not only of great taste but attractive to see. It is the homage to the racial heritage as in the typical dishes there are traces of the indigenous past with ingredients that today have adopted the elegance of the flavors of Europe and the Caribbean, thus the menu is peculiar, varied and full of flavor.

Fruits such as the custard-apple, the plum, or the guayaba are enjoyed by today’s inhabitants as our ancestors did, deserve special mention.

It is by the sea that one can relish its flavors: the "ceviche", the rich "tikinxik" of sea bass or the "esmedregal" seasoned with "achiote" and accompanied with greens, the beer, the red peppers, the chiles "xcatic" or "gueros", and bitter orange. There are appetizing cocktails of prawns, large oysters, "chivita" snails, squib and calamar. The best known of these is the "return to life" that contains a large number of ingredients and really "elevates the dead".

It is convenient to go to any bar at noon and taste the "tapas" better known as "botanas". Patrons will offer with the beer all kinds of tapas for your enjoyment. In all of the Peninsula there are the rich "antojitos" such as the "panuchos" that are omelets of "ollejo" stuffed with black dried beans accompanied with lettuce, tomato, chicken and "jalapeno" peppers. The "papadzules" which main ingredient is the pumpkin seed are delightful, so are the "taquitos" of maize that include small pieces of chopped hard boiled egg and pumpkin sauce and "chiltomate".

Perhaps the best example of mestizo food is stuffed cheese, a whole Dutch cheese filled with finely ground pork meat and dressed with olives and capers. The "poc-chuc" is an elegantly piece of pork. cooked on a hot plate accompanied with tomato and red onion also cooked on the hot plate. Tradition dictates that this dish be served with black beans. There is no need to introduce the famous "cochinita pibil" served in tacos, rich with smooth ground pork meat and wrapped in banana leaves, baked for several hours in its classical fashion - hot embers, underground- in a special container. It is seasoned with chopped onion and bitter orange juice and grounded chile pepper.

And not to be ignored there are nutritious and flavorful meals based on poultry, like the lima soup consisting of a broth with chunks of chicken breast, accompanied with stripes of fried omelets and a slice of lime that gives to the soup a special flavor. All these epicurean delights can be accompanied with the rich habanero chile "santo y seña".

A few words about dessert. On one side there are the old homely recipes of fruits in syrup like "papaya", "ciricote", "nancen"; on the other the typical sweets as "zapotitos", the "melocha of honey and egg" and the "piñonatas of coco and seeds", and finally the European influences with exquisite versions of international confectionery such as the almond sweets, heaven’s tarts, vanilla ice-cream or "mantecato", all these accompanied with a shot of "xtabentun" anisette.

Merida is in a festive mood for all year 2000. The city has embraced the choice of the American Capital of Culture with pride. The city offers to the visitor cultural events on a permanent basis, free entertainment and numerous activities; it is the festive city of choice, urbane entertainment in its extreme expression every day all days without impairing the good and logical functioning of a normal city.

So, from Monday to Sunday at all times and for all public, the theaters and stages, places and galleries offer countless spectacles and events, free in most cases, from folk music to international, classical jazz dance, contemporaneous and classical theater, juvenile concerts, conferences, parades, book fairs, exhibitions from international artists, sporting events, religious outings, literary and artistic competitions, book reviews and other special events related to the designation of American Capital of Culture Year 2000. Merida will reach the milestone of 3000 thousand cultural events by the end of this year crowning in its urban history a permanent food-print of its selection as the American Capital of Culture.

"Plaza Grande" is a merry place every Sunday night, there one can purchase artisan articles, presents, and taste typical dishes. There is music and the people stroll in the streets that have been closed to traffic. The troubadours look for a romantically in love person to take him home and chant melodies and love songs to his/her fiancee. Typical are the serenades every Thursday in "Plaza de Santa Lucia" as the Yucatanians are captivated by love songs. Yucatan is a place with excellent musicians, composers, and singers: Armando Manzanero is the best known today.

Merida is a city with a great cultural patrimony regardless that a great part of its pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern architecture has been lost due to lack of protection and fiscal responsibility. Merida was and is the Capital for the Mayab and for all of the American Continent, a great place with a special landscape and a true identity.

To the modern Mayan the city continues to be the prestigious T’ho, and at the same time for the white descendants, Merida continues to hold its colonial pride. It is a rich and lively city with exotic enchantment and deep contrasts, it is the white, green, and blue city, it is the city that attracts and steals your heart constantly, it is the AMERICAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE YEAR 2000.

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