In many parts of the world, summer is considered the season when the skies are filled with spectacular sunsets, beach vibes are just around the corner, and the heat becomes more present.
In Yucatán, it’s a little different, as this begins much earlier since the temperatures start calling us to the beach right after winter ends. You start seeing people in shorts, flip-flops, and sunglasses on the streets. Fans become indispensable, especially starting in May, Yucatecans look for places to cool off, such as swimming pools, cenotes, or the beautiful beaches of the Emerald Coast.
When I was a child and the sweltering heat began in the city, it meant it was the perfect time to escape to my grandparents’ house in Chelem. During these days, we couldn’t miss the nights of playing lotería, eating delicious fried fish, stargazing, and most importantly, spending the day in the sea, swimming, or lying on the sand.
And there, right on the beach or enjoying the fresh air on the terrace, was the meeting point for the protagonists of this story: the Merengueros. That’s how the local people who sell a wide variety of sweets on the beach or inside port restaurants are known, and they are very easy to recognize. They usually carry wooden boards on their heads, covered with plastic to protect the products, while exclaiming, “Meringue, meringue, delicious meringue!”
It’s not just meringues, those sweet and white delights, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, that they offer. The menu is extensive, including popsicles, nut bars, coconut sweets, caramelized nuts, coconut or sweet potato pastries, and of course, meringues. The prices may vary depending on the sweet you choose, but they usually range from 15 to 20 pesos.
Buying from them is simple: just express your interest in their presence and invite them to come closer to where you are. They will proceed to lower the board and place it on a stand, remove the plastic, and show you their sweet treasures.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, you won’t be able to resist; the real challenge will be choosing. Once you’ve decided which one you want, the person will give it to you, either wrapped in a napkin or plastic bag for you to enjoy. You can find them walking along the coast from noon until before sunset, and you might even see more than one passing by at the same time.
Eating a sweet treat on the beach is a cherished Yucatecan tradition that cannot be missed and makes the days more enjoyable. Moreover, by buying from these individuals, you support the local economy of the coastal towns. When you see them passing by, don’t miss the chance to try one of their delicacies, and if you can, offer them a little cup of water since they often walk several kilometers a day to sweeten their customers’ lives.
One last tip: when choosing your meringue, look for the ones that are golden and slightly burnt, as they have a unique flavor and texture.
By Carlos Guzmán
Photography by Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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