The first thing about Valladolid is figuring out how to pronounce it. It doesn't exactly roll right off an English speaker's tongue. Phonetically, it'spronounced Va-ya-doe-leed. Say it fast 3 times and your tongue will not trip over it, and you will remember how to say it.
Founded in 1543, Valladolid was build on atop a Maya town called Zaci (or Saki in Mayan) and laid out grid fashion that is still evident today
The grid is traditionally anchored by a cathedral on one corner, municipal buildings and the zocalo. The cathedral in Valladolid was built by the Dominican Order . Not especially thrilled with most of the religious orders, the Conquistador Hernan Cortes felt the Dominicans would do a better job at converting the Mayas because of their emphasis on learning and charity, and so invited them into the conquered territories to convert, preach and minister to the indigenous.
The other traditional city center is the zocalo or main plaza, and the one in Valladolid, while small, is quite charming. In a nod to modernization, free Wi-Fi is offered and there is a steady parade of young and not so young ready to take advantage of it.
Today Valladolid is an extraordinarily clean little town painted in pastel and sorbet colors, where the natives are friendly and there are an abundance of taxis to get you where you need to go.
Valladolid is famous for 3 things, being the site of a major battle during the Caste War of Yucatan , Longaniza de Valladolid and Xtabentún. The Caste war happened a long time ago and you can read about it at the link above if you'd like. Longanzia and Xtabentún are hold overs from long ago that have survived in tact for us to enjoy today.
Longaniza is a highly seasoned pork sausage using achiote seeds, allspice, peppercorns and cloves, then formed into skinny links and smoked over wood, preferably green wood. The achiote seeds contribute to the bright red color of the sausage. If you feel like you want to try making Longaniza, check out page 269-270 in Diana Kennedy's book The Art of Mexican Cooking for complete ingredients and directions
Xtabentún is infinitely easier to say than it looks. Phonetically, this is as close as I can get you - Schtah-ben-TUNE. It's an utterly delicious liquor made from fermented honey, anise and the Xtabentún flower, which is a variety of morning glory. It also comes with a legend that puts is squarely into the realm of aphrodisiacs.
It seems that the Xtabentún flowers began growing from the grave of a Mayan woman by the name of Xkeban (Schka <long a>-ban). While she liked her neighbors they were not exactly enamored of her because she lived a life of love. Essentially she was the neighborhood hooker with a heart of gold. When she died she transformed into the tiny Xtabentún flower, the nectar of which was said to be as intoxicating as her love. While a little sweet, after only one taste it's very easy to understand why Xtabentún is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties. In the U.S. Xtabentún can be purchased at BevMo for about $36
What to do with Xtabentún?
1 shot good tequila + 1 shot Xtabentún + a good squeeze of lime = Mayan Margarita
1 shot of Xtabentún + a cup of coffee = Mayan Coffee
2 oz light rum + 1/2 to 3/4 oz Xtabentún + the juice of 1/2 a lime and 1/2 a grapefruit in a cocktail shaker with ice = the Xtabentún Daiquiri
Susanne Landa and Jim Rodrick test drove the Daiquiri recipe for me and reported that it's really delicious and helps to cut the sweetness of the Xtabentún
Valladolid surprised at how quaint and cosmopolitan it managed to be at the same time. If visiting the Mayan ruins it makes a fine home base.