Friday, December 31, 2010
Meant to write more here the past few weeks but the role of Nurse Mommy to La Princesa has been all-consuming until the last few days. She's doing well and needing less attention. So with the cold weather (-4C) in Victoria this week, I find the time and the motivation to get back to the sultry heat of the Yucatan, in my mind at least.
What I remember from my first experience in Merida was a feeling like being inside a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. The tropical feeling, the sense of time slowing to a standstill in the heat. The horse-drawn calesas certainly added to the atmosphere. That timeless sense is harder to find now, almost 30 years since my first visit, in the city's centro, now full of persistent hawkers of tourist wares. But I found it in abundance when I stepped into the public library.
The library wasn't exactly easy to find. The signage isn't very prominent, and after it was first pointed out to me on a previous trip I couldn't seem to find it again.
To enter this library was like stepping back in time - most modern libraries don't have card catalogues anymore. The "silence" sign is a throwback to an outdated concept of libraries as well. Contrary to the stereotype, librarians don't go around shushing the patrons anymore. It was certainly quiet in the library on this evening, with a handful of students bent over their laptops at the tables.
In a small room at the back of the library I found something you probably won't find in any other library in the world. The "Seccion Yucateca" is dedicated solely to Yucatan authors and topics. Librarian Ana Cana works in the Yucatecan section and graciously allowed me to take her photo.
The section includes clipping books compiled by librarians on key Yucatan issues and events. Hurricanes, artists, any kind of local issue. These pre-internet clipping books are a labour of love. They take a lot of time to compile but for anyone researching one of these topics they replace impossibly long hours paging through fragile old newspapers or deteriorating microfilm reels. (Do they even have those? How do they hold up in the heat and humidity, I wonder?)
I am looking forward to spending hours in this place in the near future, improving my Spanish reading skills and learning more about local history and culture.
As I'm tinkering with this post for the 14th time (or so) before publishing it, I see that "el Gabo" himself, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is coming to Merida for a couple of days, starting January 10th. I wonder whether the place also reminds him of his own novels?