The (expat-oriented) Internet came to Merida in a big way well over 15 years ago, when Miguels Mexico real estate website began listing a few properties for sale. Created by Mitch Keenan of Denver, the first Miguels Mexico listing was the sale of a single home for a long-time friend who had decided to move back to the USA.
Merida had long been a sleepy stop-over for tourists on their way to Chichen Itza and Uzmal. Continental (now sadly United Airlines as of this weekend) has had a Merida stop for decades and flight crews frequently shared the secret of the tranquil colonial city with families and friends.
Twenty years ago, the expat community was tiny and mostly confined to a few blocks in the Santiago neighborhood west of the Zocalo. A couple in the country outside Cholul. Another here or there. A marriage or four or five between an expat and a Yucatecan. A few dozen permanent expats at the very most. And a few true explorers living in the countryside.
Arturo was one of these. Arthur had bought a ruined hacienda for a few dollars. In those days, no one saw any value in the old places. He had brought the casa principal back to life with running water and electricity. One night, we sat upon the raised terrace – nearly second-story in height – under stone-columned arches – drinking Mexican beer, eating something salty, and listening to the jungle sounds. It was one of my first magic moments in Yucatan. Time travel, in a way.
Cries of strange birds, shrieks of monkeys, various other rumblings came from the jungle surrounding the place. We’re not in Kansas anymore, I heard in the back of my mind. The breeze tossed palm branches lining the drive. From the tiny Mayan village a few hundred meters away came laughter, voices, bits of music. Not a solitary car, motorcycle, airplane engine broke the magic until it was time to return to Merida.
These days, due to the success of those first listings on a pioneering website, Merida has some five thousand or more expat homeowners with probably several hundred in residence year round. (Numbers are notoriously difficult to obtain for certain. People don’t all leave their country of origin simply to be counted elsewhere.)
Aside from Miguels Mexico — now Mexico International — other websites soon boosted Merida’s visibility. The second major development was The Merida Insider, a forum-type website dedicated to helping expats solve their problems, locate services and supplies, make connections, get to know each other. Despite the tendency for somewhat obstreperous interchanges, Merida Insider eased the way for many newly arriving expats.
The website no longer exists, having been a purely voluntary adventure based on mostly free-ware software which typically came under hacker attacks “because they could.”
Third up in my own personal hit parade is Yucatan Living published by the Working Gringos, a talented couple who arrived in Merida following the Internet boom and crash, finding a place they loved to write about and photograph. Perfectly suited to this type of work, their magazine-style site touched all the right notes.
Determined not to be ugly Americans (a bit too often evidenced on the Insider), Yucatan Living’s writing was well-edited, well-balanced, provided insight into local customs and habits and built a solid reference library of information that new arrivals could use to get started. Although not a forum experience, the comments section frequently added more information to the articles via other local folks.
Not long after Yucatan Living, blogging started to catch on with many joining the fray to keep in touch back home, to share their experiences, and inevitably, real estate website after website. Most of these earlier r.e. websites were offspring of Miguels Mexico / Mexico International when their new proprietors believed they could make more money on their own.
Today, we have YoListo, another forum-type place with typical forum-type behavior. It seems forums tend to runaway from their purpose without solid, continual moderation. You only have to look at the comments on any western newspaper website or Yahoo News to see the lunacy that regularly breaks forth without regard to the topic. It seems fairly well-established by now that people will write things via the anonymity of the computer screen which might cause them to pause a bit about before saying those things to a human in person.
These days, I also enjoy reading:
An Alaskan in Yucatán, A northerner “at home” south of the border continues to discover how very different, and yet how much the same, it really is. (a perfect self-description)
Lawson’s Yucatan, The Neurotic Foreigner, William Lawson. (This is a long-term website/blog that started on Geocities far back. I like the writer’s long history of pointing out what is wrong as well as what is great about Yucatan, including the utter insanity of parking lot layout and construction, plus restaurant reviews and fun fiction)
Writing From Merida, Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado. (With a history in Merida spanning over three decades (1976 to now), a marriage between a Dutch-Canadian & Yucatecan leads to a successful college, children growing up and being married, literally hundreds of wonderful friends, good writing, thoughts about good writing, and personal insights. The gran plan of living a good, decent life is laid out here, if you care to find it.)
Everyone has a few more favorites, like ¿What do I do all day?