Friday, July 15, 2011

Shakira drops in

The blinds for our front windows are now installed, after several months of bare windows, and they do look nice in the pictures our architect Victor sent. It's one of those small details that preoccupy my mind beyond any real importance. When you're a worrier like me, there's always some small thing to stress about, such as the long-distance logistics of getting some chairs paid for and delivered, or getting water for a few parched plants in the back patio.

Still, it's a big relief. The house now seems more finished, and much less exposed.

Now our neighborhood is about to get a whole different kind of exposure. After months of publicity and preparations, Saturday is the big outdoor concert by Shakira. Up to 150,000 people are expected to attend. It's free, sponsored by some local business people, though you have to get tickets.

I'm not too familiar with Shakira's music, but she's a huge star, especially in Latin America. She did the 2010 official World Cup theme song, Waka Waka (This time for Africa), perhaps the pinnacle of fame for any star.

It's clear that this is a big deal for Mérida:

The free concert takes place in the old railway yards just a few blocks from our house. Shakira's impending visit has prompted some major improvements on that site, known as "La Plancha". The name apparently translates as "the Iron", though I think it means "the flats" rather than a reference to iron rails.

News stories in local media, such as this one in La Revista, describe the rehab of the railyards. The area was abandoned, overgrown, strewn with garbage. When workers started on the work they found a seriously injured man, near death, in an empty building on the site. Another story on the Sipse site says they removed 200 rail cars and 220 tons of trash in the cleanup. Here's an earlier Yucatan Times story in English. Victor says people are starting to use the new public space and it's a real improvement in the area.

The city's mayor describes the La Plancha project as part of an overall urban renewal plan for central Mérida. The Columbian superstar herself seems to be getting a lot of the credit for the transformation. It's her image on the billboard proclaiming the La Plancha renewal project, in silhouette, bent over a microphone, whipping her hair. So, thanks Shakira! I'm glad our windows are decent for your visit.


  1. 150,000 people. No riots. After our hockey snit in Vancouver last month, I'm impressed with the good behaviour of the Merida crowd.

  2. The Yucatan has the lowest murder rate in Mexico.

  3. *La planca* has some variety, when it comes to translation. I remember when I first encountered the word, in the phrase "la plancha de cambio" which means "the gear shift, or shift lever, or literally, the iron of change." But it also sounds like the English word 'plank' which is very flat, of course. And if we enter the word into google translate, we get this: 'grilled' — which is also iron, and also flat; and it is easy to image that a rail yard in Merida is such a hot place that it could quickly cook anybody who hangs out there.