Sinister graveyard – los muertos

Three crucifixes

My good friend Victo Dolore recently posted one of her wonderful short pieces of fiction Post Pains. She asked if any of her readers felt something from a building. Since I am a certifiable ball of emotions and feelings, it happens to me all the time and despite the candy colored buildings of my last post Colorful Merida, the graveyard (pictured above) made the hair on the back of my neck rise. There is something about the bells and the three crucifixes that seems so sinister. It was naturally shaded so that heightened the effect. Maybe it was because Merida Cathedral was once a Maya temple?

The interior of the Cathedral was somberly beautiful but there was no color which is unusual in churches here or in Mexico.  Even the nuns were wearing off white habits.  Is it the gray of the limestone that bothers me?

Limestone church and a local with her slippers on? Que?

Perhaps it is those little slits for windows (perfect in a heatwave) that upsets me?

Finally, why do I take most of my photographs from a weird angle?  I have to straighten most of them but it truly reflects what this photographer sees.  My thinking is skewed because of a mental illness, as is my take on life.  It is not always negative, however, and like most people I like to be scared (a little).  Boo!

 

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It was so bloody hot, I went to Mass…

St Ildephonsus Cathedral, Merida

In my fresh outfit, I went off to further investigate Mérida and pray that the electrician was able to fix the power.  I walked past the beautiful Cathedral pictured above I heard the sound of hymns sung in Spanish.  There was no air conditioning in the church but the large airy limestone building was naturally cool.  There were fans up and down the aisles to prevent us from fainting…  It was so comfortable and reassuring that I decided to stay for Mass.  Most of the parishioners were indigenous Maya descendants.

There is a fascinating history to the Saint Ildephonsus Cathedral (Qué?)  It is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas.  The Cathedral was initiated in 1561, finished in 1598 and was built on the ruins of a Maya temple in the city of Tiho renamed Mérida.  Some of the original Maya stones were used in the construction.  How cool is that?  The gigantic crucifix above the altar is Christ of Unity – a symbol of reconciliation between Maya and Catholics.  I’m pretty sure they just forced them to become Catholic… The diocese of Yúcatan and Cozumel was granted by Pope Pius IV in 1561.  One of the reasons for my trip was to see some of the lesser known Maya ruins close to Mérida (that have less tourists).  It was becoming clear that it was just too damned hot to visit ruins in an area with no shade but at least I have now been in one that is posing as a church.  St Ildephonsus was born to a Visigoth family in Toledo around 607, who knew??  His fame was spread by Portuguese navigators.

Once the nuns started preying on us to give money, I slipped out the back door.  That’s a sin, isn’t it?  I promise to give money when I don’t have heat stroke…  Finally the regular shops started opening even though it was Sunday and one department store was blissfully cold.  The streets and buildings were so enticing that I just kept walking for a few hours, stopping just once to have a drink in a café (that was not enough and I must have been severely dehydrated).  I watched in horror as one of the municipal workers drank from a hose on the ground.  The water in Merida is NOT potable!  It has to be one of the few places were you really cannot drink the water even if you are local.  Regular drought, no rivers or lakes and then flooding means that the water is full of bacteria.  I read some reports that the pristine blue cisterns that everyone swims in are not really that safe.  There was a documentary some time ago that suggested that one of the reasons that the Maya empire may have disintegrated with increasing ritual sacrifices was because of a long period of natural drought.  The population had soared during their glory days but now the crops, animals and people were dying.

My companion on the flight was a charming young man who commutes from Houston to Merida and he had mentioned the Grand Boulevard, otherwise known as the Paseo de Montejo.  I felt like I was back in Spain with a marked difference to the old town with narrow, cobbled streets.

A newly renovated yellow building on the Paseo de Monteja

After I had walked the length of the Boulevard I had to admit defeat and returned to the Hacienda.  The staff greeted me at the door with the news that the power cut was municipal and probably a small substation had failed.  I foolishly asked them when it might be fixed knowing that there was no correct answer.  When the last hurricane came through Houston, most people had no power for weeks…  I looked at my beautiful room pathetically and they came to my rescue with an offer of another room at their sister hotel just two doors down.  I could use both rooms if I didn’t want to pack or they would pack for me.  How kind they were!  My spirits perked up again but not for long…

The strange man at the bar…

State Liquor Store #1 Salt Lake City

State Liquor Store #1
Salt Lake City

This is the beginning of my series of travelogues about Salt Lake City. I bet you weren’t expecting that title or the headline photograph! I have many beautiful photographs of the city and temple so worry not. I thought I would give you a funny story for the Sabbath.

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC


So, I arrived in Salt Lake City and took my hotel shuttle from the airport. Joining me were a flight crew (my hotel was full of them) and the lady pilot told me I had a lucky escape from the airline that wanted to interview me for a flight attendant job. It is always nice to start a vacation with a bit of gossip! My hotel was across the road from the Sheraton (President Obama stayed there on a state visit) but it was also right next to State Liquor Store No. 1, along with most of the other hotels. I have been to State Liquor Store No. 4, in Moab and they look like stores from the Soviet era. Barely functional with many bottles of alcohol; they stock many shelves of quarter bottles which gives you an indication that it is a illicit pleasure.

For anyone that doesn’t know, Salt Lake City is the capital city of Utah and the majority religion is Latter Day Saints or Mormonism (they don’t like that term so much). Additionally, my family is half Catholic and half Mormon with a few atheists and ‘lapsed’ thrown in for fun. I went into State Liquor Store No. 1 and as in Moab, felt like a very bad girl leaving with my brown bag and quarter bottle of vodka! It’s slightly ironic that I couldn’t find caffeine free coke given that caffeine and alcohol are forbidden in the Mormon Church. Now that I think about it, the State Liquor store in Egypt was just the same but you had to get a permit to use it.

On my first afternoon, I went straight to the Temple and Catholic Cathedral – much more about that later. I walked everywhere and noticed there were both panhandlers and mentally ill people who were obviously homeless. As I walked the short distance from the Convention Center to my hotel, I was approached by many of them. They were very polite, “You are beautiful. Can I have some money?” One young black man, who was not homeless, approached me and asked me if he could ‘show me around the city’… Despite having visited many dangerous places (and lived in them), I had a feeling of unease in one of the safest cities in the US.

With slight trepidation, I walked a couple of blocks from my hotel to a Vegan bar to eat dinner and have an (illicit) drink. The place seemed funky and modern and at the hostess’s suggestion I sat at the bar. It didn’t have the friendly feel of a place in Texas nor were they unfriendly. I had just started my meal when a very well dressed man came in, stood directly behind my bar stool and ordered a shot of bourbon. The barman urged him to take a seat and I said “hello” since he was in my personal space. He threw back the shot, put cash on the counter and left. Shortly afterwards two young men and a woman came in, I moved along one seat so that they could sit together but like the first man, they just stood and started ordering shots of Jagermeister and tequila.

I couldn’t help but stare in fascination at them tossing these shots back while still standing. The young man closest to me thanked me for moving along. I said, “You know, even in Texas, we don’t drink like that”. He started laughing and said that they were at a Mormon wedding just around the corner where no alcohol was served. Then I started laughing because I have been to a family wedding with no alcohol. For some reason, he asked me if he looked Mormon because he had left the church. In my head, I was thinking, ‘You couldn’t look more Mormon if you had a big M tattooed on your forehead’ but slightly more tactfully said, “You look very clean cut and wholesome”. Then he said to me, “Did you see a man in a brown suit, earlier?” I said, “Yes, he was drinking like you”. It turned out that he was the Minister at that wedding. How bad can a wedding be if even the Minister has to sneak out for a shot of bourbon?? At least I had the good grace to wait until my Mormon family wedding was over before heading to a wine bar…😇

More Salt Lake City stories to follow.

Eagle Gate Monument Salt Lake City

Eagle Gate Monument
Salt Lake City