Traditionalist groups participate during a ritual in El Meco, in the city… (Alonso Cupul / EPA )
They didn’t teach me this in journalism school, but no news gets old faster than a world that doesn’t end on cue.
In Mexico's Yucatan, the real news on Dec. 21 wasn’t the 16,000 world-enders who convened at Chichén Itzá or the thousands who flocked to Tulum and Palenque and other ancient Maya ruins for the solstice.
What trumped the end of the world — and tangled traffic all over central Merida — was a visit from Mexico’s youthful president, Enrique Peña Nieto. He came to Merida to inaugurate a dramatic new Maya museum here and to announce a new trans-Yucatan railroad that will start running in 2014.
Advance security for Peña Nieto’s visit included barricaded streets and a half-dozen army trucks full of machine gun-bearing soldiers parked in front of the main cathedral the night before.
Gun barrels and Christmas lights — that was so intriguing I almost gave up my plans to spend Dec. 21 in the ruins of Uxmal, Chichén Itzá’s major rival. In the end, I chose mysticism over politics and went to peaceful Uxmal.
When I got back to Merida late that night, the soldiers, the barricades and the president were gone, and downtown was back to Friday-night normal.
Music and laughter poured out of the little bars and restaurants; souvenir sellers were working the sidewalks. Hammocks! Panama hats! Shawls from Chiapas! People from preteens to grandparents were strolling the central square.
It all felt like a party, which was fitting.
This was the last night of two Maya calendars: The 13th baktun, which ran 400 years, and the mind-boggling cycle of the Long Count, which was within a couple of hours of completing 5,125 years.
I had a flight back to the U.S. before dawn, but the scene was so happy, I couldn’t say goodbye.
It was 1:30 Saturday morning when I finally got to bed – and 3:30 Saturday morning when I had to get up. Grogginess aside, though, my only real problem was that my camera had suddenly malfunctioned.
“I think I lost half my trip pictures,’’ I told my best friend when he picked me up at the airport at home.
“Don’t worry, sweetie,’’ he said. “It’s not the end of the world.’’
He wasn't kidding.
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