In order to really feel at home in Mérida, why not start your day at one of my favorite breakfast places in Centro: Pita (Calle 55 x 58 y 60). Here you can relax over coffee and great food while gearing up for a day exploring the city. Options include Mexican favorite chilaquiles as well as fruit plates and pita sandwiches. Locals, expats and tourists alike can be found enjoying this great little restaurant.

Once you’ve had your fill, you can continue your day of feeling at home by heading to Lucas de Galvéz mercado in Centro (Calle 56 x 65 y 67). Start off by picking up one of the reusable bags you’ll see everyone selling (around $25 pesos for a smallish one) and you’ll be set to go exploring. You don’t need to feel shy, people will be very happy to explain their wares to you. The market is large and busy and you’ll probably get lost, but panic not, you’ll eventually find your way out! It can get very hot in the market so I highly recommend tasting the delicious juices as you explore – don’t worry, everything is made with purified water.

To truly feel as if you belong in Mérida, find the tortilla makers in the market and buy $10 pesos worth to have for lunch (trust me, that’s plenty). You can pair the tortillas with “castacán” and salsa (if you’re a meat eater) from stalls right around the corner from the tortilla makers. Castacán is a true local delicacy and is some of the most delicious pork belly you’ll ever have. Vegetarians may prefer to search out Oaxaca cheese as this market is one of the few places in town you can find the good stuff. Another great place to stop in the market is at the coconut stands: you’ll see the guys chopping coconuts all day long. Grab a bag of coconut meat as a snack for later. Yum, a perfect energy restorer.

The few weeks leading up to Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, or “Hanal Pixán” in Maya) is an exciting time to be in Yucatán. Before you leave the market be sure to check out the candies, flowers, and candles for sale there.

Once you’ve had your fill of the market, if you happen to be out Saturday October 27, make your way to the Plaza Grande to watch people setting up their altars from 8 am. Many shops, cafés, and hotels will have their own altars set up too, so stick your head into doorways to see what’s going on.

As the afternoon draws on, take a bus or cab over to the main cemetery (entrances on Calle 81-A or 66 Diagonal) to see if anything’s happening. Always a fascinating place to spend an hour or two, as Día de los Muertos approaches, the cemetery will come to life (although, thankfully not literally!) as people start to decorate the tombs and graves of their ancestors. You’ll be free to walk around, and enjoy observing this very real and significant Mexican tradition. There are tours on Wednesdays at 8 pm.


Editorial and photos by Cassie Pearse for Yucatán Today’s use

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