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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The year’s biggest stories and trends in Yucatán 2022

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Yucatán Magazine

The story that grabbed our readers the most in 2022 was a doozy. It was about the tourist who took it upon herself to illegally ascend the Kukulkán Pyramid at Chichén Itza. Perhaps what was most interesting was the indignation she earned from the crowd. She seemed to have been expecting applause, but Abigail Villalobos, 29, was actually booed when authorities dragged her away. 

A disrespectful tourist took her lumps after dancing on the pyramid at Chichén Itzá. Photo: Tik Tok @angelalopeze

Overall, though, concerns about the impact of the Mayan Train, the fire that closed down the historic Teatro Peón Contreras, and our weekly field guides to Mexico’s archaeological sites collectively got the most attention. 

A ladder truck helps firefighters reach the blaze at the Peón Contreras theater. Photo: Facebook

The new gastronomic corridor (we still prefer the term “restaurant row”) connecting the Remate de Paseo Montejo and the emerging La Plancha recreation space also garners interest. Power lines are being buried as we speak, and recently another private family has moved from the project’s epicenter. However, despite renderings, we’re still not exactly sure what the gastronomic corridor will be like to visit. 

A computer rendering hints at plans for Calle 47’s planned foodie corridor. Photo: Courtesy

Reader reaction was strong when Carlos Rosado van der Gracht shared his assessment of today’s Playa del Carmen. Our editor, who grew up in Mérida and spent time there as a younger man, hopes that the Quintana Roo resort town will regain some of its carefree vibe. We can only hope along with him. 

Playa del Carmen’s Oceanfront Parque de Los Fundadores looks rather spectacular in the early morning. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Getting to and from the Peninsula continues to be of interest, especially when there are pro tips for avoiding lines or saving money. Budget airlines continue to add Mérida to their rosters, and smaller airports have become increasingly viable.

An ADO bus flipped on the Mérida-Cancun highway Sunday morning. Several fatalities were reported. Photo: BM Noticias

The horrific bus crash on the highway to Cancun hit home to all of us who take the toll road to Mexico’s second-busiest airport. Eight passengers were killed when the ADO bus flipped on a Sunday morning in February. Mayan Train construction has clogged the highway, especially when work trucks — some without tail lights — cut off traffic. 

Mérida’s LGBTQ+ Pride march returns. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

For readers kept from their normal travels during lockdown, we compiled a surprising “what’s new” list that anchored our Welcome Home-themed print edition. Issue 6 listed new cafés, restaurants, and night spots but also documented a shift away from the city’s conservative climate. An LGBTQ+ parade became the biggest event of the year on the Paseo de Montejo. Mérida is getting saucy with new clubs like Boobs and Dix. And a walk down any Centro street tells you that admonitions about avoiding wearing short pants or going shirtless were like soooo 10 years ago.   

These recently opened cafés are within walking distance from each other. Is there room for them all? A Sunday-morning walk across Santa Ana and Santa Lucia tells us that maybe there is. Perhaps it’s because each café is so distinctive. 

On Calle 47 and 56, Baretto has replaced Marmalade. New and old restaurants on either side —Tradicion Venezuela and La Papa Caliente — did not survive. Plot twist: A new Marmalade is opening to the left, right next door. Stay tuned.

On Calle 47 and 56, Baretto and its dark, dark roast coffee and delicious avocado toast, has replaced Marmalade. But here’s an interesting twist. Marmalade appears to be returning to the street, bringing Baretto competition from its left flank, where Tradicion Venezuela briefly opened pre-pandemic. On the corner, a beloved cocina economica, La Papa Caliente, did not survive.

Maria & Montejo, Rituales de Café might be the most mellow and refined of the recent batch of coffeehouse newcomers on Calle 58 between 37 and 39. Despite a fairly obscure location, they are often packed with regulars who appreciate their simple elegance. 

Justo Bread Studio, Matilda, Fiorella Gelato y Sorbete Gelato, and La Bottega on the Paseo de Montejo at Calle 29 in 2022. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

A collection of trendy, delightful businesses has clustered a stone’s throw from the Monumento a la Patria. Justo Bread Studio opened as the pandemic began to spread but remained in operation during lockdown by bringing coffee and baked goods to the sidewalk. Further south, Márago Coffee did the same, and today it’s apparently thriving and has expanded into the Hotel Mérida downtown, where Piñuela was.   

Justo led several vibrant new businesses — Matilda, Fiorella Gelato y Sorbete Gelato, and La Bottega — to replace a defunct airline ticket counter and an insurance company branch office on the Paseo de Montejo at Calle 29. On 58, Tinoc Café is taking on established rivals such as Soco around the corner and Voltacafe and Bengala Kaffeehaus to the west and south. 

Pastel-infused Menta & Rosa, on Calle 56 between 45 and 47, is popular for breakfast and brunch. Very often, customers are outside patiently waiting for a table to be freed up. The mint-and-pink decor makes this the girliest place we’ve seen anywhere in Mérida — a choice that seems to work for them. And the chilaquiles are excellent.

An old sewing machine distributor has become Arista Barista, a vegetarian/vegan café on Calle 54 and 49. It quickly found a following and has gotten consistent five-star reviews on Google. Early reviews give Arista Barista a thumbs up to latte de horchata, and another made with peanuts. One customer said they would convert vegetarians into vegans with their delicious foods. 

What looks like an ordinary walk-in refrigerator is actually the entrance to a very hip speakeasy. Photos: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

The speakeasy trend, which started with Apoala, continues to grow, including one pretty hip cocktail bar that, until enough people shared the news on Google, we couldn’t tell you about. People in the know enter through a walk-in refrigerator behind the El Malix restaurant on Calle 53 near 56. It’s very hush-hush. Yakuza also has what we’d call an open-secret bar, entered through an unmarked door to the right of the restaurant. If you see knotty-pine paneling, you’re in the right place. Keep walking toward the door at the end of the hallway.

The highest place to take a dip is at the Courtyard by Marriott in Mérida. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

The Courtyard by Marriott, across from the hotel zone’s International Convention Center, opened a huge swimming pool with the best views in the city. An adjacent Kioyú Sky Lounge has surprisingly decent pan-Asian food, and the breeze is as sweet as it gets in the Centro. On a clear day, you can see Progreso. 

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