Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oxkutzcab, Yucatán - Changing Times

Jane and I originally visited Oxkutzcab nearly thirty years ago when we ventured south out of Mérida on the narrow gauge railway train, one of the last operating in the world. That train has been out of service for more than twenty years now and few people even remember it.  Read about that trip and many other railroad trips on our web site under the heading; Yucatán Roadways.
In those days Oxkutzcab was a frontier town with a vast jungle extending south across the Puuc Hills and off into Central America.
One thing that has hardly changed in all those years is that it is still a frontier. We were pleasantly surprised on this return trip. Even though the area has suffered somewhat from a lack of income due to many of its citizens being expelled from the US where they had worked as undocumented workers, the city seemed to have gained a new invigorating attitude.
The returning workers brought with them money, new found skills and a desire to make Oxkutzcab into their improved home. In what seemed to be a reversal of luck these returning workers have made a positive, miraculous and uplifting change for the better.  First we look at the recently restored church.
Oxkutzcab is still the market town for area produce. The market here bustles from predawn until late night every day of the week.
So, come along with us and visit the new Oxkutzcab through captioned photos.
After our bike trip through Chumayel, Teabo, Tipikal and Mani, we spent the next two nights and days in Oxkutzcab indulging ourselves in a fun filled fact finding tour, and  rediscovering a town we thought we knew well.
The restoration of San Francisco of Oxkutzcab church was carried out in exquisite attention to detail.
This photo is from our collection and was taken several years ago before restoration. Here you have the inner court yard, unpainted, open to the sky and crumbling. The next photos are of the same yard later.

The miraculous transformation is evident and Oxkutzcab now has a real gem to be proud of. They even screened in the court yard making the birds now nest elsewhere.
Posed for post-wedding photos this young couple lavished a small fortune on flowers that filled the altar.
Mexico is on the cutting edge of new technology. According to the above sign using your cellular-phone you can dial up a number and receive a lecture in English or Spanish about the restored church, its history and significance. We tried it and it worked!
Colorful characters help make the Oxkutzcab market interesting and amusing. In the above photo Omar Antonio Barcalar, blue shirt and bushy black hair, who we met several years earlier when Jane and I took a once a day bus trip far up into the Puuc Hills and the end of the road to the little town of Yaxhachen.  Omar, of Cuban origin, has amassed a considerable amount of notoriety from publicity he received since newspaper articles were written about his extensive natural Mayan medicinal cures.
Read that story;
Jane and I have discovered that downtown Oxkutzcab has become like a huge food court from early morning till late night. Some of the most interesting things of all are the continuously changing options and diversity of culinary options that await you.
Oxkutzcab’s  market still features the local Mayan specialty foods but the newly arrived workers  returning from years of expertly gained knowledge in the US make your eating experience more international.
Miguel Pacheco spent more than twenty years of his life as a chef in the US and has brought back to Oxkutzcab the best of the best. His Italian style culinary delights have world class quality but Mexican prices. We fell in love with the place and the owner and dream of a return visit. Jane, pictured with the owner, operator and chef Miguel is in heaven savoring elegant meals especially if someone else   has scrupulously prepared them. As she sincerely said; “I will be back”.

The breakfast burrito creation that combined the best of two worlds was not only savory in the extreme but nutritious and sustaining.
Miguel made me happy. You can’t beat a creative chief who loves to satisfy, gratify and please his clients.
Café la Cocina is located on the north side of the main market on Calle 49 and the tables situated at curb side for pleasant people watching. To top it all off, the place is also bicycle friendly.
Morning, noon and night purveyors of Mayan specialty foods that change with the seasonal commodities arrive at the Oxkutzcab market and quickly sell out their inventory. Some of Yucatán’s finest delights are only available as such places. Until you have partaken of these local favorites you haven’t sampled the real Yucatán.
Tamales are a staple food  throughout Mexico and are prepared in numerous different styles. This one is called torteado (tortilla style and steam cooked within a banana leaf which it is served in). The tamales are then served and topped with as much salsa as you like. Positively delicious!
This tamale is referred to as colado. It has a lighter, fluffier and thicker covering of masa or corn meal.
At the Oxkutzcab market most tamales are filled with chicken meat. Tamales horneado, are baked and can contain either pork or chicken. For whatever it is worth Mexico claims to have more than a thousand different variations of the tamale.
Tamales served with a smile. You can have as much salsa as you like. Habanero hot sauce is optional and you apply as much as you dare.

In Oxkutzcab like all cities of Yucatán tricycle or triciclos de carga are used for transporting anything that will fit in. This sign designates exclusive parking for these people powered freight haulers, here used as taxis.

 Just one block removed from the main market this typical narrow colonial style street is a good example of the centuries old buildings that still give Yucatán its old world charm.
Street vendors sell the seasonal fresh fruits abundant in this area.
Oxkutzcab is proud of itself and this colorful display that adorns the central park plaza depicts an ancient cart. This type was used for transport over the centuries across Yucatán and is still being used in outlying districts. Heaped atop the cart are a representative of locally produced fruits and vegetables. The large red fluted clay vases are the exact same type used to transport water in years gone by.
When Jane and I first visited in out-back rural communities of Yucatán before the arrival of piped to the home water this style vase was manually lugged to and from the village well for every drop of water.
So, there you have a brief glimpse of some of Yucatán that tourists miss most.
If you are interested in an adventure that takes you out of the main-stream and want to explore some of this peaceful, quiet and fascinating world, we invite you to try taking any one of the bicycle tours we have published on our web and blog pages…enjoy!
©2011 John M. Grimsrud
Related links:
Chumayel, Teabo, Tipikal and Mani
Mani field trip starting in Oxkutzcab
To Oxkutzcab via Dzan and Mani
Our website:

No comments: