Campeche – (or) Lord Sun Sheep Tick

A three-hour bus ride from from Mérida took us to the smaller coastal city of Campeche, also a UNESCO site and described accurately in the guidebooks as a “colonial gem.” After the rigors and heat of Mérida, we immediately loved this place. Cooler, due to a terrific windstorm our first day. (Here I am, blown in with one of the 16th century pirates who regularly sacked Campeche and killed its Spanish settlers after it became a rich port exploiting the local resources – once the native Mayan were vanquished, of course).
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Quieter and safer since 1685, when King Carlos of Spain ordered a wall built around the city. Some of the ramparts remain, and workers are busy reconstructing the rest of the wall, cutting blocks of the skull-white fine limestone the city is built upon, covering everything with a thin layer of dust.
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And more recently, with the UNESCO anointment in 1999, the restoration of many of the one-story houses within the historic center, painted ice-cream tones, and the creation of several pedestrian-only streets. Ah, how I love quiet, walkable, “gawkable” streets.
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Plazas and walkways are dotted with the amazing bronze sculptures of an artist we’d never heard of, but will not soon forget, Leonora Carrington.
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Born 1917 into upper-class England, Carrington was a rebellious girl who declared herself a Surrealist by age 19, ended up with Max Ernst in Nazi France in the 1930’s, in Spain during the civil war, then in Mexico by age 25, where she joined the great Mexican artistic movement of the period: Frida + Diego, Buñuel, et al. When we saw the date on the base of one sculpture as 2010, we couldn’t believe she was still working. But she was; she only died in 2011, at 94, an iconoclast faithful to her Surrealist visions to the very end. I can’t wait to read her biography.image
imageBack to Campeche: originally a Maya city called A Kim Pech (with the wonderful translation, “Lord Sun Sheep Tick”), the city is doing it best to promote tourism, fast becoming one base of its economy, and interestingly most of the tourists are Europeans – especially French, according to conversations we heard around us. Cultural life abounds with mansions and 18th century convents restored into cultural centers, with music, dancing and readings every night. Young people are everywhere, interviewing tourists for their high school project – “What most you like about our city?” on their way to dance and music classes. I came across several excellent bookstores, which always makes me happy whether I buy or not.image
We were sorry to leave after two days but we were worried about traveling during Semana Santa, the long Easter vacation that many Mexicans stretch to ten days. So we bought bus tickets for our next destination: the highlands of Chiapas and San Cristobal de las Casas, a city Michael and I visited in the 1980s during our first years in Costa Rica. Our only choice to get there was an overnight bus trip, 12 hours that turned into 14 hours when some local indigenous communities blocked the road. Although the Zapatista movement has settled down, political turmoil remains, it seems.
More from San Cristobal soon….image

12 thoughts on “Campeche – (or) Lord Sun Sheep Tick

  1. Same here…can’t wait for more!
    I’m not sure Campeche has ever been on our list
    but you make us want to visit. Fred will run out and buy
    a guide book! Thank you! xox

  2. Thanks for the photos of Leonora Carrington’s scuptures. I read the fictionalized biography, “Leonora”, by Elena Poniatowska which is fascinating but has no illustrations. Frustrating to read about a life in which the art is central, but not have any of the art shown!

    • I’m happy to hear that book is available; I saw a note of it on Wikipedia but could find no other info. I’ll definitely track it down.

    • Hi Julie- good to hear from you! After our 14 hour bus ride, the only way to get to San Cristobal from Campeche, We’re reminded that traveling is hard work.

  3. I didn’t know Leonora Carrington did sculptures! I love her paintings so this was wonderful to see! I have never really been to Mexico but you are making it a place I’d love to visit on the one day list!

  4. The sculptures are fantastic. Love those pedestrian streets, too. I wish Cuenca could do the same (esp. Calle Larga)?

    • Yes, definitely Cuenca should create some “andadores.” We are in San Cristobal now, and the two pedestrian streets here are full of waves of people, day and night.

  5. Wonderful story about Campeche and Leonora. UNESCO cities are always the best places to visit.
    We were in Chiapas last February and loved it. Birds are fabulous , stop and listen to see them. San Cristobal de las Casas is another great city. Visit Na Balom if at all possible.

    • Yes, Chiapas is wonderful! Na Balom was the first place I visited, remembering it from our first visit here, 25 years ago. It seems the same but much else has changed. I’m trying to write a blog about San Cristobal now….

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