On a 100 degree day in Merida the centro is like a fiery pit of cement. I know I went to school in heat like this when I lived here, but on this two day trip with no obligations I decided it was wiser to sit in my friend’s pool eating mangos until 4 pm, when I headed for the gulf coast.
The drive into Chicxulub makes time slow and fade. It’s a small coastal town to the right side of Progreso, the area’s main port and beach. It’s made up of the same colors as the other gulf towns I know: washed into pastels by the salt, soft pinks and blues that sit in the same color pallete as the gulf’s hazy sea foam green. When it’s not spring break or summer, movement is easy: two kids sit on the hood of a turquoise buggie looking up at the clouds, a woman in a polka dot dress on the back of a motorcycle swings her legs off the side, a couple cuddles on the hot pavement stoop outside their canary yellow house.
Los Barriles is right on the main drive across from two different taco stands that are closed on the day I’m there. It’s a long hall with orange and white columns, faded sol beer posters with white ladies in bikinis, and coconuts cascading off the bar and onto the floor.
My friend Mario has taken me here as he said he would last time I was in town, promising a place that beats whatever ceviche I’ve been eating on the Progresso wharf or whatever beach shack meal my hungover friends would take me to after an all night beach party.
It lived up to his hype. The camarones al mojo de ajo, one of my favorite (yet simplest) beachside dishes was full of caramelized flavor from the onions and garlic. The filete de pescado en cilantro, a creamy cilantro sauce balanced by the sweet plantains on the side was perfection. And the coconut water doesn’t come in a coconut because they drain multiple, giving you an entire glass full. Prices are cheap, roughly $7 per plate.
Before you leave the area, head towards the junction at the exit of another nearby town called Chelem, on the other side of Progreso. There are typically three roadside stands all serving coconut treats and cold coconuts. I bought the empanada, the crema de coco (served in a plastic cup) and my favorite, the boli, a frozen popsicle blend of milk, sugar and coconut in a plastic bag that is so frozen it’ll last an entire ride back to Merida.
Sucking a popsicle through the hole of a plastic bag brings up my favorite memories of being a college kid living in Mexico, and for many of my Merida friends it reminds them of their childhood trips to the beach. I can’t guarantee that it will do the same for you, but I can promise that it’ll keep you cool for a solid 20 minutes, which is certainly something you’ll remember.
Last three photos by the talented Mario C. Jiménez.
Calle 19, entre 18 and 16. Chixculub. About a 20 minute drive from Merida. (It’s pronounced Cheech-choo-loob)
Leaving Chelem towards Merida. Ask for the puestas de coco in Chelem.