The eyes have it…

“I am sure many people compliment you on your eyes,” I said to a woman I met last week.

“Just as they must comment on yours,” she replied.

Between two international residents, such an exchange would sound strange, but my new acquaintance is not from the United States, Canada or a European country.

Her brightly embroidered huipil, friendly smile, and physical features type-cast her as a Yucatecan village woman, and indeed, she comes from Muna, close to Uxmal. But while most of the country’s population is dark-eyed – this lady has  striking blue eyes.

We did not have a long conversation, but I figured her family tree probably includes a few of the Casa Carlota settlers.

Casa Carlota was established during the Second Mexican Empire (1864-1867) when two Yucatecan hamlets – Santa Elena and Pustunich – received 443 German immigrants. They were farmers and artisans who came to the country at the invitation of Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian, brother of the Austrian king Franz Joseph. The emperor hoped to colonize the Yucatan with 600 European families a year.

Funding for the project did not last long because Emperor Maximilian met an early demise by firing squad. The German settlers dispersed. Some went to other Mexican cities, some to the USA, others back to Europe, and of course some stayed on.

These individuals and families quickly formed relationships with the people living in the surrounding countryside. Marriages were performed,  and many German-Maya children arrived into the world.

Readers interested in learning more about this unique period of local history can download and read this PDF containing information compiled by Alma Duran-Merk:


Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include reading, painting, cooking and travel.

6 thoughts on “The eyes have it…

  1. I didn’t realize that Santa Elena was one of the settlements for the immigrants from the HRE. Must read up about it.
    Our Asian students used to stare at my eyes because I was often the first blue-eyed person that they had ever sat down and talked to in a friendly manner. It was a bit disconcerting to begin with, with the first ‘visa kids’, but I got used to it. It was much preferable to me than the ingrained cultural habit of looking down and talking to a left shoe. We Canadians, and most northern Europeans, expect others ‘to do it our way’ and look straight at us with steady eye-contact to talk. Very difficult for many international students when they first arrive.


  2. When we went to Palenque, our guide had stunning bright blue eyes in his dark face- he said his grandmother had met an archaeologist at Palenque! He was mesmerizing, and not just for his eyes; he could spin a tale! Your eyes are just as lovely Joanna, and your storytelling is magnificent! Please Never stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these bits of history and cultural lessons! Beautiful photo too; thank you!
    I am studying Spanish and learning as much as I can before moving to Merida with my husband (from Toronto) in about a year and a half.
    Your blog is so informational and helpful, though I still have a lot of catching up to do with the older ones.
    All the best to you and Jorge on your new life as snowbirds.


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