In the 10 months I spent in Colombia, I’ve fallen in love with plenty of Colombians. Some were white, some mixed, and all special in their own way.
But as soon as I saw the yellow Mexican, I was floored. It was a love at first sight kind of experience.
I’m not the only one who’s been swept off their feet. My friend Wandering Earl‘s encounter with the yellow Mexican made him “giddy with delight.”
I can’t deny that I was left with a similar effect.
I mean it’s such a gorgeous pueblo!
I emerge from the bus station and walk down the first street. As they unfold before me, one after one of pure yellow, it seems like the color starts releasing endorphins in my brain.
Soon, I have a punch-drunk smile on my face. I probably look a bit crazy, but I’m not the only one.
I pass a large family of visitors. A boy of about 6 or 7 looks around and exclaims, “TODO ES AMARILLO!” His big brother smiles and confirms that yes, everything is yellow.
They say that blue puts people in a good mood, but they have obviously not been exposed to yellow in such a high dose. Izamal looks like the sun came down and exploded everywhere.
Just off the central park, I find steps leading up to a deteriorated cluster of rocks – the unkempt remains of some kind of ruin. A friendly cop passes by me, gives me a smile, and tells me there’s a cooler one on the next street.
A friendly cop? I see the yellow effects the authority as well.
I thank him with a smile and wind my way to the other set of ruins, called Habuk. Surprisingly, the site is set in the middle of a regular neighborhood. Local shop on one side, houses in front, ruins in the middle.
I feel like crossing the street, knocking on the door, and saying, “Hi, do you know that you are literally on top of something built by an ancient civilization? Isn’t that amazing?”
The ruins of Izamal are truly unpolished affairs. There’s no ticket taker, no guides, no one selling overpriced water bottles – just you and remnants of a kingdom.
I climb up the stones, wondering who lived here and what it used to look like in its prime. Then I wonder if any jungle snakes will come out to eat me alive, as the grass hadn’t been cut in a minute (though admittedly, not so long ago that a jungle snake could hide in it).
After I take a few cool self-portrait shots, trying to angle my hand to cut out my arm, I climb down and stroll back to the center, exchanging cordial “buenas tardes” with the residents.
I glance at my SIM card-less cellphone anxiously. I have (stupidly) given myself just a few hours in this town, making it a day trip from Mérida. Fully aware of my love of pueblos, I should have given this town at least a couple of nights.
Thoughts of lunch in my mind, I sit at an outdoor café on the central plaza. As I sip my coffee, a violinist starts to play a few feet away from the tables. The songs are fairly basic, but I appreciate them nonetheless.
You all may not know this, but I play the violin. And I’m good at it. I used to be better, when I actually practiced. Now, I just play my favorite songs when I randomly come across one. I went so far as to buy one in Bogotá and learned a few Bob Marley songs on it in Trinidad (Redemption Song, anyone?). The problem is that I don’t feel passionate about the violin. What I really want to learn to play is the bongos. But I digress.
The violin adds a bit of atmosphere to the Sunday afternoon – not that the town is lacking in ambiance, but the violin adds a special touch for me.
Next, I check out the Centro Cultural y Artesanal on the corner of a smaller plaza. This is a pretty cool co-op dedicated to preserving the handicraft techniques that have been around for generations. The pieces they have on display are unique, and they have a café and even a couple of massage tables in the back.
I don’t have much time left, and thus far I have ignored the elephant in the room – a huge Franciscan convent that dominates the central square. The convent was built over Mayan pyramids, and the monk who founded it burned all the indigenous scripts he found (according to Yucatan Today, an excellent free tourist magazine).
I snap some photos and read some inscriptions, but I don’t stay long. Like most imposing religious structures, especially ones with a history such as this one, I find it spooky.
With a few minutes to spare, I make it to the bus station just in time. I reluctantly climb aboard, giving Izamal one last longing look.