Valladolid – A City Brimming With Charm And History!
It had been three years since we had visited the congenial city of Valladolid, Yucatan. So the kids and I were delighted to have the opportunity to join friends on a day trip to the charming, colonial city. Located two hours from Playa Del Carmen, “Pueblo Magico” as it was named in 2012, boasts stunning architecture dated back to the 1500’s. On route, we passed through Mayan pueblitas or small towns. Artisans displayed beautifully crafted ceramic and hand-woven wares under thatched-roofed palapas alongside the road. We made a quick pit stop at a honey farm and purchased some deliciously sweet honey and organic coconut body cream.
Arriving in Valladolid, it is easy to understand why this colorful city, known for its clean, safe environment and friendly people, is a popular point of interest for tourists and history buffs. The Francisco Canton Rosario Square, situated in the heart of the city, is encircled by quaint shops, enchanting hotels and restaurants nestled behind impressive sixteenth century facades.
Upon learning of some of the rich history of this Mexican city, we came to understand that it had not always garnered a reputation for peace. For many years, the area had been afflicted with disharmony and political strife. In fact, it was here where locals and Maya leaders formed a rebellion against a corrupt state government. This revolt was believed to be the spark that set aflame the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
First on our city tour was “The Neighborhood Of Santa Ana”. The park’s square was the site where the martyr Manuel Antonio Ay was hanged for conspiracy to start the Caste War in 1847. In the center of the park is the “Rotunda of the Boy Heroes,” a rounded structure with 6 pillars. The monument commemorates 6 young army cadets between the ages of 13 and 19, who bravely gave their lives defending the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City from a US army invasion. Also on the square grounds stands one of Valladolid’s 7 cathedrals exhibiting exquisite sculptures and gorgeous stained-glass windows.
Next to see was the “Convent of San Bernadino of Siena,” a monumental building constructed in the mid 1500’s over a natural cenote. Inside, behind the altar of the church is a grand retable which ornately displays nine statues of saints including Mother Teresa and the Virgin of Guadalupe. On our way to visit the back exterior of the grounds, we passed through the cloister surrounding the courtyard. This customary, monastery architectural feature was where inhabitants of the convent would walk for hours with heads bowed, in silent prayer and meditation.
An on-site museum showcased artifacts, (mainly weapons and tools) retrieved from the cenote. In the vast back garden, the kids collected oranges in the orchard, ran wild with the turkeys and peacocks, but were especially curious about the dome shaped vault built over the opening of the cenote. They were fascinated to learn how the ancient water wheel of Sisal had once operated.
After spending the morning exploring, we had stirred our appetites. For lunch, we dined in the “Meson del Marques,” a colonial mansion constructed in the 17th century and converted into a hotel and restaurant in the 1960’s. In the center of the restaurant was a tranquil courtyard surrounded on the upper level by 6 of the original rooms of the mansion. The menu offered many traditional Mexican dishes as well as local favorites. I was enticed by the poblano chile stuffed with a ground beef, almond and raisin mixture and covered in a robust, red salsa. The flowing fountains, lush courtyard and restaurant staff wearing traditional hand-woven hupils (or Mayan embroidered dresses) all contributed to the peaceful ambiance.
For dessert we decided to indulge in hand-churned ice cream from a local shop as we walked around the bustling main plaza, Parque Francisco Canton. Unfortunately, the Cathedral of San Gervasio was closed for lunch, but that did not stop us from admiring its remarkable architectural details.
Sadly, our field trip had come to end and it was time to make our way home. Being such a small city, I was surprised by how many historical sites and rich cultural attributes there were to digest. Had we stayed another day, perhaps I would have liked to swim in the awe-inspiring cenote Dzitnup, located just 7km from Valladolid. Another nearby attraction I have yet to see is the archaeological site of Ek Balam about a 15 minute drive outside the city.
So much to see, so little time! All in all, our spontaneous road trip to Valladolid was a fun-filled and memorable adventure. Most importantly, the children and I were able to experience another aspect of the diverse Mexican culture outside our sometimes sheltered, albeit heavenly beach life in Playa del Carmen.