When the New York Times’ T Magazine published a frothy article about Mérida today, expats rushed to defend their more down-to-earth impressions of the city.
You get the tone from its home page headline: “Mérida, Mexico, might not offer much on the outside, but a clutch of creative insiders has transformed the faded colonial town into a sophisticated escapist retreat.” Horray for the heroic outsiders who are rescuing this poor, little backwater.
And oh, the backlash.
“I have lived in Merida for many years and have no idea who these “fabulous” people are with whom the author interacted. There are thousands of ex-pats living here who live normal lives going, when they feel like it, to the symphony, art galleries, museums and dozens of other venues, many of which are free; most of which are reasonable,” said someone signing on as “Roberta.”
David Sterling, who’s cooking school has itself garnered significant media attention, was most eloquent: “Too bad the author hasn’t attended one of our many symposia on Mexican gastronomy, which attract talents from across the country and beyond, including Patricia Quintana, Enrique Olvera, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita and many others. (And Rick Bayless has been here numerous times, even once bringing his entire staff to my school). No, this is not New York or Paris where fabulous art, fashion and food can be found on any corner. And, yes, you do have to know where to look. But Mérida has abundant cultural riches – riches far more spectacular and accessible to the public than those that might be found in the hermetic mansions of the “glitterati” described in this article.”
“Sounds like she found a clique of snobby Americans who loathe anything outside of their mescal-brain-soaked clique and took their word for gospel,” wrote a reader from Puerto Villarta. He said he hadn’t been to Mérida, and that the article would have dissuaded him from visiting if it weren’t for the comments that followed. “PD” continued: “Thankfully, the Mérida locals who took the time to add their comments certainly seem to be more grounded in reality than the author and qualified to give a more accurate picture of their adopted city, which by all other accounts is a lovely, vibrant but small metropolis known for beautiful architecture and charming residents (and a sizable, lively gay community as well).”