It is a clear, warm, December night in Mexico. You are sitting in the slightly decrepit Parque de Santiago in the middle of colonial Merida. The pavement glows yellow from the street lights and the air smells like tortillas. Metal chairs are set up on three sides of the main square all facing the stage where a large ten piece band is setting up. As nine o'clock approaches the chairs begin to fill with locals, all dressed with a formality that does not match their surroundings. Old friends greet each other and the atmosphere becomes dense with anticipation. That energy brings out street peddlers of all shapes and sizes, pushy little girls selling shawls and hand made bracelets, a jolly round man loaded down with bags of roasted peanuts, and a kind beautiful woman with homemade ice cream cups that keep selling out.
The restaurants that border the plaza are also a buzz, tables are pushed together with flourish so large families can sit together under the Jacaranda trees. Big bowls of lime soup and plates of cochinita pibil are produced out of an impossibly small kitchen, as the servers weave through the crowded maze of tables with efficient purpose.
It sounds like a movie set right? Why have all these people gathered with such ceremony on a random weeknight in this unassuming city park? Well to dance of course.
Every Tuesday in Merida locals, ex-pats and tourists congregate in Parque de Santiago to celebrate under the stars. The event is called Remembranzas Musicales and the dance is "danzon" a Cuban inspired rhythm that came to Mexico in the early Twentieth Century. While seventy-five percent of the dancers are well, seventy-five, it's so much fun to watch them move with incredible elegance and energy. Even if you don't know the steps, all are welcome to join in and salsa the night away under the stars.