The Yucatan. To winter-wearied North Americans, the name revives images of turquoise seas, powder-white beaches, and ancient Maya ruins. The Yucatan Peninsula is alleged to have one of the richest stores of archaeological ruins in the world and is home to the Maya Indians, the largest indigenous group in North America. The peninsula is comprised of the three states of Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo.
If tourists can pry themselves away from the beaches, a prime location for the exploration of such ruins would be the town of Izamal, “a jewel of a colonial city” in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, 70 miles from Cancun and 45 miles from the state capital, Merida. As fascinating as the ruins, are, however, the “top attraction” of Izamal, according to travel guidebooks, is the “magnificent” Franciscan convent of St. Anthony of Padua which was initiated almost five centuries ago. It was one of the first monasteries in the western hemisphere and became the centre of evangelization for the entire peninsula.
The enormous complex, consisting of church, atrium, and convent, is one of the largest of its kind in America and its atrium (with its seventy-five distinctive arches), is reputed to be the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. The entire edifice is painted a vibrant shade of yellow. The entire town, in fact, is painted in this same colour which is why it is called “The Yellow City” in travel books. “Jewel” indeed! Instead of taxis, the main mode of travel in the town for both locals and tourists are the calesas, the horse-drawn carriages, and, one notes— the horses, also, are decked out in yellow! And the pleasant metronome-like sound, clippity-clop, clippety-clop, clippity-clop, resounds through the tropical town. Cobblestone streets and colonial lampposts complete the idyllic setting.