Izamal, the Faded Glory of Mexico's Yellowest Town

16.07.20 09:16 PM By Putri

Okay guys and girls, hear this: I am not the only one who is crazy with color themes. If you happen to know me IRL, which I hope you don’t because this will be awkward, you’d know what color I like without even asking me because the color will be effortlessly shown on almost all of the stuff I own. I once surprised myself realizing that I dressed myself in a color theme inside out unintentionally, even my underwear matched with my bracelet! It felt like magic when everything just accidentally matched. But according to Nico, the cucumber cool mood buster, everything I own is in ONE COLOR THEME, everything matches color-wise. There’s no magic involved, just my crazies

IMHO, having a color theme wardrobe isn’t crazy, nor having an entire home in one color theme. What’s crazy is painting an entire village the same color like this small town in Mexico called Izamal.

Izamal is a tiny colonial town, about 70 Km from Merida, the center of Yucatan Peninsula. The city is painted yellow with white trim, the kind of color coordination you find in a boiled egg cut in half. Almost, if not all, the buildings are painted yellow, and it’s not just any yellow. Some people call it mustard yellow, egg-yolk yellow, but it’s actually a different kind of yellow, it’s Izamal yellow. 

There are some speculations on why the city is painted yellow, one of them being that Izamal was the city that the Pope John Paul visited in 1993. The city was painted yellow as an effort to make a good impression on the Pope, and it worked. That yellow tint worked so well and became the charm of the city. The city became famous and nicknamed La Pueblo Amarillo de Yucatán (the Yellow City of Yucatan).

Later in 2002, the city was given the title Pueblo Magico by the Mexican tourism board. Pueblo Magico is a prestigious title for non-bustling Mexican cities to have, it signifies that the city is legitly charming and offers a magical experience to those who visit. We could totally see why Izamal earned this title, although it seems like it has seen better days since.

Izamal is the oldest city in the peninsula and it shows. The cobblestones paths and the buildings are old but well kept. Unlike other towns we visited in Mexico, Izamal has two parks adjacent to each other in the center of the town; the Cinco de Mayo park where the gate to the convent is at, and park Itzamna. Both parks are always busy with street vendors and the locals. Although the entire city is bright yellow, you can’t help noticing that the city is semi-sleepy. It's not as advanced as Merida, and I honestly think it adds the charm to the city.

The city is a melting pot for colonial influence, ancient Maya, and modern Mexico. Cobblestone streets, colonial lamp posts and arches, and lively townsquare full of lights blend into one beautiful vintage-y scene. 
The city is considerably tiny, most travellers visit it on a day trip but we stayed one night at the oldest hotel in the city; the San Miguel Arcangel. The hotel was actually a grand mansion built in 1903, situated right in the center of the town. The hotel has a colonial atmosphere to it, blended with the comfort of la casa of someone’s abuela. 

Izamal, although small, has a diverse range of restaurants and busy street food vendors. After two weeks of eating Mexican food, I had enough of guacamole and tortilla this, tortilla that;  I needed a break.  We were just walking around at the centro when we stumbled upon a humble chinese restaurant. The first comida China we found during our trip (and we didn't even look for it). It almost felt like suddenly my prayers were heard and the gate of heaven just opened.

The restaurant is called Fusion China Thai. There’s nothing fancy about this restaurant, look-wise nor menu-wise, but it’s was enough to satisfy my cravings for rice and noodles. Like any other chinese restaurant, it offers a giant portion of food for a fraction of your money. Hallelujah!

Bitchy Resting Face alert!
The main attraction of Izamal is definitely its bright yellow convent, Convento de San Antonio Padua. The convent was built in 1533, making it one of the oldest in North America. The yellow Franciscan convent sprawled awkwardly right in the center of the town that once was the center for worshiping the Mayan sun god. It was even built from fragments of a destroyed major Mayan temple. Back then, the convent must have been the mark of Spaniard conquer of an epic proportion. Rumor has it that the atrium of the convent is so huge, it’s second in size to the Vatican enclosed by 75 sturdy pillars.
The convent front yard is open day and night, it is gorgeous at any time of the day.
 The majestic size of this convent, the unique colonial look of it, and the dramatic ramps on the side of the convent that lead to the atrium make this convent stunning and beautiful to look at, day or night.
For art lovers, Izamal also offers an interesting opportunity to learn how the local artisans make their goods. You can take the Art route where you can visit eight different local art workshops and see the artisans in action, and finish (or start) at Izamal Art Museum downtown. 
I have never seen something in one color theme in such proportions. I did wonder how the city gets everyone on board with this yellow color for all these years and does the government supply the paint and do the job, or do the locals also actively participate in keeping the city yellow. I meant to mingle with the local to find out the answer hadn't I fallen into a food coma after eating that big plates of rice and noodle... tee hee...