In your walks around the neighborhoods of Mérida, you will have noticed that families are sitting in their chairs on the sidewalks enjoying the light breeze that cools the warm evenings and nights. Learn with us how to “tomar el fresco” (enjoying the fresh air) Yucatecan style.

There are some customs that are here to stay; “tomar el fresco” at the front door of the house with a couple of chairs (or more, depending on the number of family members) is one of them. In the “barrios” of Centro (Santiago, San Sebastián) and in some of the old “colonias” of Mérida (Alemán, Chuburná, Itzimná), you will see people sitting comfortably in their chairs, it doesn’t matter what style, material, or shape, at their front door, talking and enjoying the evening.

Not much is known about this practice, but it’s believed that it came from Europe, where there is a custom in parts of Spain to put chairs on the terrace and garden during summer as a way to mitigate the heat. In Mérida, the hot temperatures that prevail during the year contribute to the continuation of this custom since decades ago.

In case you are asking yourself what can you do with a chair outside your house, let us tell you that “tomar el fresco” has many advantages. First, you can cool off with the breezes that blow on the streets, light ones, but they help with the heat that is felt in the interior of the houses. Not all families have air conditioning, so this custom is a viable way to keep cool.

Another advantage is to be able to converse and chat about all kinds of things. Yes, before the addiction to TV (and Netflix), iPads or cellphones, families used the evenings and nights after the workday to talk and share their stories of the day. Although the fast pace of life and constant hurry that is lived nowadays sometimes doesn’t allow this to take place, it is important to take every chance to maintain contact with each other.

You can also use this time to socialize with your neighbors and, of course, talk about the topic of the day, and about what it’s happening in the city. Imagine that your talk with Don José (because for sure everyone has a neighbor named José) about what’s happening on the street gently evolves into a philosophic lesson, some popular wisdom, or maybe just a social outlet, something that’s always welcome.

Other additional benefits are reducing anxiety or combating depression. As the saying goes, sorrows and joys hurt less and feel better when shared. The social beings that we are, we need these kinds of moments.

Now are you convinced that you should “tomar el fresco” just like the Yucatecans? We hope you are, for it’s something everyone can do, no matter the age. So, here are some simple instructions to “tomar el fresco” like a Yucatecan: prepare your favorite chair that will fit on the sidewalk, invite your friends or family, and, of course, choose the perfect topic to chat about, watch the people go by, and even listen to some light music while you enjoy this simple pleasure of life.

By: Violeta H. Cantarell