If you spend any time walking around Playa del Carmen, you will surely come across marquesitas. These sweet treats are a popular Yucatan dessert, but are new to many visitors. Before diving into what they are and where to find them, let’s learn a little bit about their history!
History of Marquesitas
Like many desserts and culinary traditions around the world, there’s a great story behind the invention of marquesitas. Legend holds that the marquesita comes from the town of Merida, at a local ice cream stand called Helados Polito.
Run by Don Polo and his son Vicente, the ice cream stand was struggling a bit during winter months. Expirementing with wafers and other desserts, the marquesita began to take shape. When Dutch cheese arrived in the early 1910’s, the marquesita as we know it was born.
The dessert grew in popularity, and by the 1940’s was a commonly-found item on the streets of Merida. From there, it was only a matter of time before it spread to other cities, especially around the Yucatan.
There are different theories on the origin of the name. One theory holds that they were named after Vicente’s wife, Marquesa. Another holds that two of the regular customers were daughters of marquis, and the name was created in honor of these two young women.
What They’re All About
Marquesitas are just one of many desserts found in the Yucatan, but one that is a staple of Playa del Carmen. There are many different types of marquesitas, with various combinations of ingredients.
To start, a marquesita contains a waffle-like wafer around the outside. This is similar to a crepe, made from what is essentially pancake batter. The vendor will spread a thin layer, and press it into the grill. At this point, you are ready to add some fillings.
Traditionally, Dutch edam cheese is used on the inside, and perhaps sprinkled on top. You may also include jams, strawberries, bananas, and other sweet goodies. One of my favorites is simply banana and hazelnut spread. The fun part about them is that you can always try a new combination to find your favorite!
If you want to make your own marquesitas, you can check out our page The 8 Best Mexican Cookbooks for a wonderful Yucatec cookbook with local recipes and ideas.
Where to Find Marquesitas in Playa
You won’t find marquesitas inside the restaurants in Playa del Carmen. To get one, you’ll have to hit the streets. Marquesitas are sold from street vendor carts across town, but there are a few places you’re sure to find them on any given night.
First is Parque Porto Maya. Just a few blocks from the beach in the center of town, this is one of the easiest and most consistent places to find marquesitas in town. From 5th Avenue and Benito Juarez, just walk two blocks up Juarez to Avenida 15. On the corner, you will see a big park taking up the whole block. Marquesitas can be found on the corners of both Juarez and Calle 2 with Avenida 15.
Another place you may try for marquesitas is the Palacio Municipal. This is especially true in the evening, where almost every vendor in the park is selling some sort of dessert. The Palacio Municipal is located on Calle 8 with Avenida 20. Both of these areas are safe areas to walk around, and make it easy to grab a marquesita when you want!