On Sunday, I was planning to take my friend Guillermina to her parents’ house in Teabo, so they could repair some of my old hammocks. I prefer cotton hammocks the nylon ones being sold now. (You can find cotton, but it’s getting harder.)
Before I left to pick up Guillermina in San Antonio Tehuitz, I acquired three other passengers – Bill Morrow, Vanessa Gonzalez and her mom, Addy Gonzalez. So the four of us merrily drove to Teabo. Guillermina’s family compound was on a large piece of property on the very outskirts of town, where there are only dirt roads. Fortunately, Jim and I have an ageing Honda Passport, perfect for these roads and ugly enough not to be stolen.
We left Guillermina to hang out with her parents and we went on to Mani, about 25 kilometers away, for lunch at the Principe Tutul Xiu, a restaurant well known for its superior Yucatecan food. The specialty is pocchuc, thin strips of seasoned, marineted pork, cooked over smoky coals and served with a variety of fresh vegetables and sauces. We also shared other dishes like relleno blanco (my personal favorite) and relleno negro. We all shared a pitcher of naranja agria (sour orange) juice, which is like about 900 percent better than Gatorade on a hot day.
This restaurant gets mobbed on Sunday afternoons when hundreds of Meridianos make the big schlep down there to eat their delicious food and perhaps take a look at the giant, historic cathedral. This is the church where, during the conquest of Mexico by Spain, Bishop Diego de Landa, who was in charge of the area, burned all the books of the Maya on the front steps. What a naughty man.
In fact, one of the family names of the restaurant – Xiu – is the name of one of two opposing Maya families in Mani (the other was Cocom). The townspeople had buried the Mayan codices in a cave, but one of the two families, Cocom or Xiu, I always forget which, had been coverted to Catholicism and lead the evil bishop to the hiding place. The burning of these books eradicated much of the history of these advanced and complex people. There is good info about the codices on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_codices They are beautiful things – delicately drawn in pictographs and glyphs. There are several left around the world.
Then, we drove back to Teabo, where of course it took us a good long time of driving around to find the house. No one minded though. We were having a great time.
Guillermina’s family lives on several acres of land with red clay soil and numerous limestone outcroppings. Somehow, they manage to raise a substantial number of crops including corn, tomatoes, limes, guavas, avocados and more. They also have two coops with chickens. It’s a busy place and Guille’s parents, both in their mid 80′s scurry about like teenagers, maintaining everything. Guillermina’s cousin lives in another house in the compound. Everyone shares in the work. In the yard, there is a batea, an outdoor sink propped up on logs, where they wash their clothes. It’s typical of many Maya abodes.
Guillermina’s parents are delightful people. Neither seems to speak any Spanish – only Yucatec Maya. I never realized Guillermina spoke Maya, but there she was, chattering away. They were very hospitable and we all got out and sat in the yard. They graciously let me explore everything (always nosy) and let me take a few pictures.
An editorial comment here: Most “Mexicans” treat the Maya like subservient beings. They barely address them at all, and when they do, it is usually to tell them to do something. The Gonzalez girls are Mexican, from a professional family, and Guillermina’s family is pure Maya. The Gonzalez girls got right into the spirit of things, talking about women’s stuff and sampling fruit, which one of the kids washed off in the dirty, soapy batea water. You just have to shrug your shoulders and be there sometimes, and the Gonzalez’ hopped right in. They are humorous and down to earth.
We all left with enough limes, avocados and guavas to feed armies. Those guavas were totally delicious. I think I ate four.