One of the things I really like about Merida is the fact that there are parks and pretty churches all over the city. There are parks without churches but if there is a church, you definitely have a park in front of it or somewhere around it. I’ve visited Parques Mejorada, Santa Lucia, Santa Ana, Hidalgo, Amistad, and Aleman but there are at least two dozen more parks in the city I haven’t visited. Not only are these parks well maintained and offer a range of activities (for example, at Parque Aleman there are dance classes, Parque Santa Ana has a market set up everyday, and at Parque de Santa Lucia you can listen to live music), most of these public parks have free wi-fi as well. Earlier this week my Mexican Mom/ anfitriona (hostess), Doña Gloria, told me about a group of artisans and vendors from Oaxaca that set up a temporary market in Parque de Las Americas. I’d been told that this park is one of the larger ones in Merida and as it’s not very far from my school, I decided to check out the market with my conversation partner Vera.
The weather here in Merida has been gradually changing and now I am really enjoying walking everywhere. Luckily for me Vera is also an avid walker; it took us just over 20 minutes to arrive at Parque de Las Americas. Right away, Vera’s eyes lit up when she spotted a vendor selling something called “gorditas de nata.” She said she used to eat them as a child and we should try one. We tried two- one with chocolate syrup in the middle and one plain. I actually preferred the plain one, as nata itself had a wonderfully subtle and delicious flavor. They were making the dough in the back and over a hot griddle, cooking them right in front of us. There were a lot of other yummy looking breads and pastries, we moved on to look at all the handmade goods.
Vera pointed out for me those dresses and blouses that were very typical of Oaxaca, but also those that were from Chiapas and from other parts of the republic. Bright colors and all the beautiful embroideries really caught my eye. And then, we felt the magnetic pull of the Oaxacan specialties… of moles, cheeses, chocolates, and breads. I took a little bite of mole almendrados (it was DELICIOUS) and sampled an Oaxacan cheese that looked and tasted like fresh mozzarella. I was really tempted by the famous Oaxacan chocolate but I walked past it, only to end up in front of a guy selling mezcal (distilled spirit made out of maguey, a type of agave). He gave me a shot of chocolate flavored mezcal to try. Vera and I both giggled like two little school girls doing something naughty, and enjoyed our drinks. It was a lot smoother and less potent than I had imagined. I visited a mezcal distillery near Puebla many years ago but I learned recently that the famous Mexican beverage made out of agave can only be called tequila if it’s produced in tequila, just like the namesake sparkling wine from Champagne.
I think I’d consider myself an “equal opportunity enjoy-er” of tequila, mezcal, champagne, prosecco, cava, or sparkling wine. It doesn’t matter to me whether something delicious comes from Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, or even from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I didn’t know at the time but a few hours later I was presented with Mexican cheeses, Cuban drinks, Spanish olives, cured meats made by a German guy, and a French inspired cake. All right here in Mexico… makes me feel a bit afraid to get on the scale!
Parque de Las Americas: Calle 22 to 18 and Calle 23 to 19 in colonia Garcia Gineres, Merida