A Cultural Evening in Merida

The City of Merida certainly knows how to present itself and puts Puerto Vallarta to shame. Nearly every night there is some form of entertainment put on in one of the Squares, and the entertainment is completely free. Tonight it is a ‘Serenade” at Santa Lucia Park. The park is set up like a theatre with a stage in one corner and rows and rows of folding chairs set out in front of it.
There is also a restaurant on the square that sets out tables and chairs so that you can dine while you watch the show. The festivities start at 9pm, and we get to the restaurant shortly after 8 to make sure we get a good table. At least half of the folding chairs are already taken by people arriving early to get their seats. We are intrigued to see that while there are a lot of tourists, the majority of the people are locals.
The entertainment starts promptly at 9 and is introduced by a very natty gentleman well into retirement age, dressed in crisp white trousers, a white jacket and a white panama hat set at a very jaunty angle. From his waistband on his right side, hangs a red striped scarf that reaches to his knee. It is quite a look and he struts across the stage like a peacock. Unfortunately he is equally as proud of the sound of his own voice, as he is of his appearance, and talks incessantly while his audience fidgets and waits for the acts to begin
The first performance is a 12 piece band seated at the back of the stage and made up of local retired professional musicians . They all appear to be well past retirement age and the professional qualities they once had are diminishing. They play one song badly and at half speed, and then collapse back onto their chairs, exhausted.
They are given a five minute rest while the MC talks incessantly again, and then have to play another song while a group of folkloric dancers in wonderfully embroidered costumes walk around the front of the stage in time to the music. There really doesn’t seem to be much action in this local folkloric dancing, but what little there is they carry off with panache and style.
On stage next is a local poet who recites some of his poetry. He is also past his prime, but wears a startling deep blue velour suit to make up for it. He is reciting one of his poems that he has written specifically to be performed on stage. Unfortunately it is in four parts and we are to hear all four parts this evening. Before the end of the first part, two members of the band sitting behind him are fast asleep and in danger of falling off their chairs. His presentation is extremely theatrical and his voice lyrical, and although we understand little of what he speaks, he is fascinating to listen too.
He is followed by a large woman in a glittering bronze jacket several sizes too small, on top of a clinging black dress. Her bottom rivals Joany’s and both the jacket and the clingy dress have their work cut out covering it. She has very short arms, and holds a microphone in one of them. Her voice needs no amplification and could shatter crystal. Her short arms appear to prevent her from holding the microphone far enough away from her mouth. She obviously is going for the torch singer look and sound, but she misses as many notes as she hits. The volume is hard to tolerate and we decide to leave. Unfortunately we can still hear her voice several blocks away.
Although we were forced from the square by the torch singer, we had an enjoyable evening and are truly impressed by the City of Merida. There are not many cities in the world where you can enjoy an evening’s entertainment at no cost. And this was just one of the evenings they arrange. There are more to come.

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