A Bucket-List Must!
By Mayté Rodríguez Cedillo
Mexico Traveler was invited to attend a special dinner where we had an opportunity to savor some of Yucatan’s most succulent dishes, such as pulpo in recado negro, cochinita pibil, relleno negro and masapan de almendra, all in honor of the newly launched “Yucatan is Flavor” campaign by our friend, the brilliant, Minister of Tourism of Yucatan, Ms. Michelle Fridman. Honored also by the presence of Mexico’s Consulate General Mr. Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez and chefs Flor Granados and Pedro Medina. The celebration took place yesterday at the House of Mexico in Balboa Park.
“The Year of Yucatecan Gastronomy” places our food as part of the axis of our promotional campaign” said Michelle Fridman, Minister of Tourism. “The Yucatan’s history goes back to the big bang and forward to the Maya to today. We have hundreds of years in flora, fauna, people, and food is always part what is happening here. There is no better way to narrate the identity and history of Yucatan than in its flavors and gastronomy.”
Yucatecan gastronomy is culturally rich in traditions that bring together Mayan, Spanish, Caribbean, Dutch and Lebanese influences. It mixes ingredients such as corn, tomato and beans, with endemic products such as habanero chili, sour orange, and the popular Achiote, used to create a paste called recado that is used in tamales and over all types of proteins, most popularly wild turkey and pig. This paste is made in various colors such as red, green and black.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is known as the “Land of the Maya” and it stands as a tribute to one of the most prolific and fascinating civilizations the world has ever known. The ruins of complex ancient cities are scattered throughout dense jungles and lush rolling hillsides. And it’s here where you’ll find the magic and enchantment of the Mayan world at their most brilliant. Don’t wait any longer, now is the time to experience this historical paradise.
Merida, Yucatan’s capital city, is surrounded by one of the richest collections of ancient archaeological sites found anywhere in the world. It’s a true colonial gem… It was once the henequén (a plant used to make rope among other textiles such as rugs) capital of the world, spawning an enormous number of grand working haciendas. The exportation of this natural fiber (or “green gold,” as it was called) brought tremendous wealth to Merida from the late 1800s thru the 1960’s and what remains are fascinating remnants of an important time in Mexico’s history. (Unfortunately, nylon and synthetic fibers put an end to this natural fiber.)
Merida was essentially “cut off” from mainland Mexico (rail and road links to Mexico City were not completed until the 1950’s), so it was easier for the city’s wealthy landowners to travel by boat to the U.S., Cuba, and even Europe rather than trying to go to other parts of Mexico. The result: European in design, yet undeniably Mayan.
Horse drawn carriages carry visitors down tree-lined boulevards past a fascinating mixture of Spanish and French colonial architecture. Elaborate turn-of-the-century mansions still stand as a reminder of the wealth that began in the 16th century with the area’s henequén boom. A lot of these haciendas have now been turned into boutique hotels. The main avenue, Paseo de Montejo, has been compared to the Champs-Élysées and is one of Mexico’s most impressive streets.
Unique and spectacular, the state’s geographical features alone are worth the trip – not to mention the fascinating surrounding area architecture such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Izamal, Celestún just to name a few.
So pack your bags… Yucatan Awaits with Open Arms and Warm Plates!