Are the stone walls only used to mark roads?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

No, they were also used to mark property lines, a practice that dates back in the Yucatan at least 500 years. This was the ancient way of saying, “This is my property. Do not cross without my permission.”

We have quite a few of these on our property. The walls have been removed in some of the flat fertile areas, but have remained for decades or centuries it the rocky hillsides. They go on for a few feet or a few hundreds of feet. They could have been put up decades ago or hundreds of years ago.

The archaeologist in me wonders what old neighborhoods used to be here. Were they slowly abandoned due to economic decline or were they destroyed in the bitter internal wars that were fought here?

Do you travel the road less taken?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

Heck, yeah.

I even take the road overtaken…
Overtaken by the forest and the jungle that is.

The town of Santa Elena has a population of about 3,500, but two hundred years ago it had a population of over ten times that number. The pole and thatch houses have long since disintegrated, but the calles (roads) remain.

You see, whenever they wanted to mark out a calle they would edge the borders with a mortarless stones walls on both sides. The walls run more or less north-south and east-west. The path between the walls is anywhere for sixteen to eight feet wide and make slight bends and twists for no apparent reason.

The ones that border property lines still belong to the city.

You are not allowed to build on them and the city could legally open them up at any time if there was some political and economic reason for doing so. For example if a strong supporter of the president of the village would like better access to his back acreage, they just may clear and pave the road If a section of road is entirely within your property and it has not been used as a road in living memory, the land could become yours to use as you please.

Our property is just outside of the current village and much of it is overgrown with tropical forest.

When you see the old calles running through the forest, you have to wonder who used to live here, and how long ago.

What’s in the bag, Mister?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

Today I attempted to open a bank account in the Yucatan.

It turns out that this can be a rather complicated process. They won’t just accept my money, there are some new regulations, and they needed to check my documents at some special office before I can open an account.

I was told to hold on to my money and come back in a few days.

So here I am walking around with 100,000 pesos (about $5,500 in US, over twice the average annual wage for the area) in my shoulder bag.

Walking around finishing my shopping, going to restaurants, and strolling down the streets in a foreign city, doing my best to look like your ordinary old gringo with not much in his pockets.

What’s in the bag?

Just some sentimental old papers.

How is your Spanish coming?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

My life has always been a bit surreal, but arriving in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, has only increased the voltage. Here I am without an interpreter and barely know enough Spanish to order a hot cup of coffee.

When carrying on conversations with taxi drivers, hotel staff, vendors and strangers, I am not really sure what they are asking, and I am pretty sure that my answers are equally opaque.

Then there is the art of finding my way in a city that has numbered streets, but the numbers seem to be in the order that they were recorded, and do not follow any decipherable sequence or grid. And should I find the street, there are no numbers on the building.

So, I am not exactly sure where I am or how to get where I am going, And if I say, “Sí,” what am I agreeing to, and if I say “No,” what exactly am I refusing?

It is a rather confusing experience, but I love it, sort of like living in multiple realities simultaneously, or going to a job interview after taking hallucinogens.

Adios, Amigos.