Surprise, Uncategorized

Urban Sketching on the Maya Riviera

Playa del Carmen

Illustration: Photo of the view in the direction of the island of Cozumel from the central plaza of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, New Year’s Day 2016

On New Year’s Day 2016, temperatures here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (about an hour’s drive south of Cancun) were in the low 90’s but the heat and humidity didn’t seem to be slowing people down.  With Mexicans enjoying the day off, people were  out in large numbers by late afternoon to enjoy the beach and calm sea.

Earlier in the week, the weather was somewhat cooler with breezes, making it possible to sit at the Central Plaza in the town and enjoy a performance of the Voladores de Papantil, or the “Flyers of Papantil.”


Voladores 1



The Voladores do this performance several times a day.  Each time, an international crowd joins local residents in admiring the colorful costumes and traditional performance and music of the flying artists.


Voladores 3

Illustration: Watercolor and pen and ink by Black Elephant Blog author of the Voladores of Papantil getting ready for their flying performance from a 75 foot high pole in the central plaza of Playa del Carmen, late December 2015


Not far away are the only “free admission”  (in quotes because the ruins are located on the grounds of a gated community) ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization–at Xaman Ha.  This amazing sight comprises several complexes of small temples, structures and walls, gently shaded under the  canopies of royal palms throughout the elegant “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” of the vast Playacar condominium community adjacent to Playa del Carmen.

Xaman Ha 2

Illustration: Watercolor and pen and ink by Black Elephant Blog author of “Xaman Ha” site of Mayan structures on the grounds of Playacar, south of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, late December 2015

Back in town, the Quinta Avenida (“Fifth Avenue”)–lined with scores of restaurants and shops–bustled with tourists and locals all week, with evenings so busy that a literal sea of people moved up and down the street in both directions.  One can hear Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and English–as well as reggae and hits of the 80’s– all around you in the space of a single block here.

Fifth avenue Playa del Carmen

Illustration: Watercolor and pen and ink (Kuretake brush pen) by Black Elephant Blog author, “Waiting for Customers on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen” in late December 2015

Despite the bustle, it’s been a calm scene–with tranquil aqua blue seas nearby welcoming all to take a dip to escape the heat, and the bartenders more than ready to cut open a cold coconut for you, served with lime, –or a cold cerveza, if that’s what you prefer–for a refreshing drink when you need one (which is often in this heat)!

It’s been a great start to a new year, that’s for sure; and I hope it’s been the same for you.

Guacamaya 1

A beautiful Guacamaya at the Aviary at Xcaret in the Yucatan  (Photo:  Black Elephant Blog author)