Yucatecans consider themselves Yucatecans first, Mexican second. They’re very proud of their state. It is a delight to live here. The cultures and customs of indigenous Mayans and the Yucatecans were around even before Cortes got to Mexico City, at the time of Teotihuacan (the Aztec capital before the Spanish conquest of Mexico). It’s very safe, it’s great to raise a family, and it’s great for retirees. The only downside for some is during the summer. The hottest time of the year are the months of May and June, when it can get between 90 to 110F, which some people don’t like. But I always come back and ask them what’s the temperature in Bakersfield or what’s the temperature in Arizona during the summer months? If you put the two numbers together then you can be here in the summer and it’s actually quite comfortable.
The lifestyle here in Yucatan is a lot slower than in North America; lot more laidback. I don’t think Yucatecans know what a watch is; nobody ever arrives on time to anything. I don’t think they arrive on time to their own weddings and that’s not a Mexican thing, it’s a Yucatecan thing. I’ve been told many times that it’s not necessarily the mañana syndrome, but because of the weather – until very recently, there would still be siestas here at 2 o’clock, when everything will shut down. Banks, restaurants, etc., would shut down and people would go home because it’s the hottest time of the day, they’re going to have lunch with their family, take their siesta, and come back to work usually around 5 or 6 o’clock. That’s why most people here tend not to eat dinner until late in the evening because people wouldn’t close their shops until late at night, when it was a lot cooler. It is a lot slower, which does take a lot of getting used to. I know many expats have a hard time with that at first until finally something clicks in their head that they’re not going to change 500 years of custom here overnight and if they want to survive happily they might as well accept it. I still have the bad habit of arriving early to my appointments but now I just don’t get angry, because I know that 99% of the time, the other people are going to be late.
The cost of living is very affordable here. Your medical care is very affordable. If you don’t buy you can rent a home under $400; very affordable. Specifically in Merida, there are activities to do every single day and night of the week. Sometimes you wish you had more time because there are activities sometimes twice on the same day that you can’t get to that and you really wanted to do. So the activities here are great. You will never ever be bored, because there’s always something to do here in local Merida.
If you’re an Indiana Jones type that loves to go and explore the Mayan archeological sites, you probably won’t see all of them in your lifetime. They’re everywhere. There are over 5,000 archeological sites just here in Yucatan, and that’s just the official ones. There’s over 3,400 cenotes. People are building brand new developments all the time and run into an archeological site that they have to wait to get examined.
A cenote is an underground cavern that has water in it. There are no rivers and lakes in Yucatan. Most of the cenotes are interconnected into one of the largest aquifers in the world, and one of the largest underground river systems in the world. A lot of cenotes are literally underground caves that have caved in and have opened up. Some are ground level. Some are a little bit low that you have to do some rappelling to get into them. They’re quite beautiful. Stalagmites and stalactites are inside, and many of them have pre-historic fossils; dinosaur fossils, Mayan fossils, Mayan bones. They’re very magical to explore and they are considered magical and sacred by the ancient Mayans. It’s a big, big tourist attraction; they’re quite beautiful to go see and worth the time.
There are so many good things – the lifestyle, cost of living, medical, things to do, things to eat. The local gastronomy here is very good, one of the best in Mexico. Yet Merida has grown not only as a larger city but also as a very culturally active city. The food culture and opportunities in Merida have been growing with a new gastronomy, coming in around the world. If expats miss their home then they can eat at a Thai restaurant or a French restaurant. Yucatan is giving Mexico City a run for their money and Mexico City is world renowned for their food.
(Patrons enjoying the opera at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras, Yucatan, Mexico, pictured.)