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MÉRIDA                                                                                                                                                                                 Printer friendly version

 
 

Population: 705,055 inhabitants.(2005)

Language: The official language is Spanish, though a large percentage of the indigenous population (some 350,000) throughout the peninsula speak at least one of the 28 pre-Hispanic tongues. Of these, the most commonly spoken are Yucatán Maya, Quiché, Cakchiquel, Mam, Chontal, Tzotzil, Pokomchí and K'ekchí. These tongues are part of a common linguistic group (Maya), though with differences among them, and each with its own grammatical structures.

The
Yucatán is one of México's most tranquil and safest states, with a climate resembling that of Florida or Cuba. Yucatecans are good, tranquil and hospitable people who have strong roots and traditions. They take pride in their city, known as "The White City," not only for the predominance of white limestone as a building material, but because of its streets, plazas and parks that are cleaned daily. Because of its tranquility and cleanliness, Mérida has become a popular place for families from other Mexican states.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:
Mérida was originally called T´ho or Ichcansiho by the Maya inhabitants, depending on which chronicler you read. It was the principal city in the Maya province of Chacan. The first Spaniards found a large Maya commercial centre with ornate stone structures that reminded them of the Roman ruins in Spain’s city of Mérida - hence the name.

Mérida is known as the white city, its houses are white, the clothing of its people is white, its children's smiles are white, and white is the warm heart of its people. People whose lives still reflect the grandeur of their Mayan heritage. Paseo Montejo, a broad avenue boasting fantastic colonial residences, invites us to walk the city and then sit down to a bowl of lime soup, a plate of succulent cochinita pibil (regional spicy pork dish) or any of the multiple Yucatán´s dishes, among the richest and most varied in the world. Mérida is the cultural and tourist heart of the southeast. A multitude of destinations are easily reached from the city, including: Beaches, archeological zones, colonial cities, natural reserves. Mérida is both a gateway to the past and a luminous present, a place where centuries of history have been refined, waiting for discovery.

Mérida, erected on the ruins of a devastated indigenous population, is an entire compendium of conquests and isolation, of wars, but also of prosperity and wealth. The prosperity of the Colony resulted from the exploitation of the conquered people, and soon gave way to a “very Spanish” city, whose name came from reminiscences of the other Mérida that the Spaniards remembered.

The city was founded on January 6, 1542 by Fransisco de Montejo "El Mozo" (The Younger), to celebrate his victory over the Indians after 15 years of conflict. The city was built on the original indigenous city of Ichcaanzihó, also known as T´hó. The name was bestowed because “we found well-constructed buildings of stone masonry with many moldings, such as the Romans built in Mérida, Spain.” The Maya Indians were forced to dismantle their temples and palaces and use the materials to build homes, government buildings, cathedrals, and parks that they were not permitted to enjoy. Mérida became the capital and trade centre of the Peninsula, the seat of civil as well as religious authority.

Mérida enjoyed centralist urban development throughout the colony period. The indigenous groups gradually consolidated into neighborhoods because of the disproportionate growth of the Spanish population. During the 17th and 18th centuries the city established its limits by erecting seven “arches,” built by a military engineer, Manuel Jorge de Zezera. Today only three of these stand (San Juan, Dragones and Del Puente) as silent witnesses to what the city once was:.

Geographic isolation from the center of the country resulted in Yucatán's trade exchange taking other economic paths, primarily dealings held with some spots in the United States, Cuba and Europe. The wealth accumulated, but the cost of two centuries of unfair subjugation of an enslaved indigenous population led to a brutal confrontation in 1840, known as the “War of the Castes.” This war resulted in the downfall of the erstwhile strong economy of the peninsula. The precarious situation that prevailed in the wake of this war led powerful landowners to harbor ideas (thanks to geographic and political isolation) of politically separating the peninsula from the Republic, and a future annexation to a foreign state. By 1880, once the situation was overcome, the economy of the peninsula experienced a boom that returned it to the wealth it had enjoyed during the Colony.

Yucatán, including its capital city, became the leading producers of henequén at the worldwide level. Henequén is a natural fiber that is extracted from a certain type of agave, is used to manufacture rope, sacks and bags, among other items; it became the one of the cornerstones of the economy that gave Mérida the splendor it enjoyed during the latter years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century.

Mérida is a jewel in its own right, a colonial city of unparalleled beauty where that which is Spanish and that which is indigenous live in harmony and blend in every way. Mérida is also the window to the fascinating Mayan world: Mérida is the gateway to innumerable places that still reflect the pre-Hispanic past of a culture that continues to amaze Mexicans and foreigners alike.
Uxmal, Chichén-Itzá, Sayil, Kabáh, Labná and one of the more recent and spectacular finds the Ek Balam complex.

The tourism potential of Mérida is present in such a broad scope that even the most demanding of travelers will find something to suit them: Ecotourism, archeology, beaches, culture, handicrafts, nightlife, music, folklore, and so much more.

LOCATION:
The city of Mérida is the capital city for the state of Yucatán, is located in the northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula. To the north of Mérida lies the Gulf of México, to the west and southwest the state of Campeche, to the east and southeast the state of Quintana Roo.

DISTANCE IN KILOMETERS TO NEARBY CITIES AND POINTS OF INTEREST:

Campeche 164 Puerto Progreso 33 Cancún 300
Ría Lagartos 219 Celestún 90 Uxmal 78
Chichén-Itzá 121 Valladolid 160 Motul 44

OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS:
On the following holidays banks, post offices and government offices, as well as many stores, remain closed:
January 1 New Year’s Day
February 5 Day of the Constitution
March 21 Benito Juárez´s Birthday
May 1 Labor Day
May 5 Battle of Puebla
September 15 Independence Day
October 12 Columbus Day
November 20 Mexican Revolution
December 25 Christmas

OTHER NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Though not considered official holidays, the following are also important dates. Some offices and/or establishments may not open on the following:
January 6 Epiphany (King’s Day in México)
February 2 Día de la Candelaria (Religious Celebration)
March or April Easter
September 1 Presidential Address to the Nation
November 1 All Saints Day
November 2 Day of the Dead
December 12 Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe
December 1 - 24 Posadas (Religious Christmas Ritual and Party), pastorelas (Christmas plays) and other Christmas celebrations; Traditional Holidays and Festivities

CARNIVAL:
Carnival in Mérida begins 40 days before Holy Week, during the month of February. The celebrations always start on a Friday and last through Tuesday of the following week. Jaranas and other traditional dances fill the streets, hotels and homes of Mérida from dusk to dawn.

THE HANAL PIXÁN, DAY OF THE DEAD:
Here, as well as in the rest of the country, the Day of the Dead is celebrated. This celebration is known as Hanal Pixán, which means “banquet of the souls.” Families perform several ceremonies and rituals honoring their deceased relatives by arranging offerings, reciting rosaries and other prayers. It is a tradition to visit the cemeteries where the deceased relatives have been buried and take flower arrangements and candles as an offering to the dead. It is believed that the souls of those who rest in peace descend to take part of the offering and ceremony; this is known as “taking grace.”

LAS VAQUERÍAS:
Las Vaquerías are traditional festivities that take place several times a year and start in the home of the main host referred to as “diputado.” When the dances have already begun, in the form of a procession, guests and musicians (jaraneros) depart from the host’s house in search of either a silk-cotton or palm tree stick to which everyone follows the angaripola rhythm. This is later planted in the center of a bullfighting arena, which is most of the time an improvised space where the celebration takes place. Here dancers dance the traditional “Danza de las Cintas” (Dance of the Ribbons) around the sticks. The procession then dances toward a square platform with a huge decoration made with branches surrounded by chairs especially reserved for the female dancers. Meanwhile, the musicians play traditional songs like the “Torito” (Little Bull) for couples to dance to. This is where most of the celebration takes place and as soon as the musicians play the song of the “Dianas” everyone knows that this is when the party comes to an end.

TYPICAL DISHES:
Yucatán
’s culinary tradition comprises over 300 different dishes and the same number of variations of these dishes based on pork and deer meat, seasoned with various types of chilies, spices and onions. Among the most outstanding are:

  • Sopa de lima, Lime Soup: A delicious broth served with shredded chicken, fried tortilla strips and lime juice.

  • Pollo pibil, Pibil Chicken: Chicken pieces marinated in annatto, sour orange juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, then wrapped in banana leaves and baked. The same dish can be made with pork, and is called Cochinita pibil.

  • Papatzules: Tacos filled with diced hard-boiled egg and smothered in a "pepita" sauce, pureed roasted pumpkin seeds.

  • Poc-Chu: Thin slices of roasted pork, marinated in sour orange juice and served with sauce and chopped onion.

NIGHT LIFE:
Night life in Mérida unfolds to the music of troubadours, but also to the frenetic rhythms of its dance halls and discotheques, or to the noisy party atmosphere of its many restaurants, where delicious food and appetizers will give you the stamina needed to stay up. The visitor and Mérida’s nightlife are the perfect combination for an unforgettable evening.

BUILDINGS AND HISTORIC MONUMENTS:

PASEO DE MONTEJO (1542): This magnificent avenue in the center of the city allows the visitor to admire the grandeur of the homes, mansions and elegant houses of the aristocracy of the erstwhile henequén industry, all serving to grace Casa de Montejo, or the Conquistador, whose stone portal is the main monument standing of civil architecture of the mid-16th century in México. This work is the purest example of the plateresque style. The mansion was built in homage to the founder of the city: Francisco de Montejo y León, and partially inaugurated in 1904. Since that time there have been several additions: In 1926, an additional 370 meters were added and it reached the site of the Monumento a la Patria (Monument to the Nation). In 1979, construction began on another stage of the Paseo, which later became known as Prolongación de Montejo. In 1993, yet another expansion took place, and a monument was raised to Gonzalo Guerrero, deemed to be the country’s Father of Mestizaje. In all, Paseo Montejo, measures 5.438 meters with the extension.

HACIENDA YAXCOPOIL: Just minutes from the city of Mérida, this construction dates to the 17th century and it is now a museum featuring henequén and the history of the landed gentry of the times.

MUSEO DE ANTROPOLOGÍA E HISTORIA (MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY): Located on The Paseo de Montejo. Visitors can take a lengthy walk through the history of pre-Hispanic
Yucatán.

PLAZA DE LA INDEPENDENCIA (PLAZA GRANDE): The plaza is located between streets 60, 61, 62, and 63. Dating back to the time of the Colony, this plaza has been the hub of Mérida’s social life, with bullfights, carnivals and executions. Here people were punished for their idolatry or other crimes, especially the indigenous population. Such was the case of Jacinto Canek, the Indian who started the revolt against the Spanish for abusing the Mayan people. Once the rebellion was quelled, Canek was burned at the stake in Plaza Grande. He is now considered to be a hero, a symbol of indigenous dignity in the face of tyranny. Plaza Grande is a beautiful park, lined by two majestic rows of trees and surrounded by four architectural jewels: The Government Palace, the Municipal Palace, la Casa de Montejo and the Cathedral.

EL PALACIO DE GOBIERNO (GOVERNMENT PALACE) – BUILT IN 1892: This is a neoclassic construction, typical of the 19th century. The two floors are adorned with portals, interior patios and arcades. An exquisite stone and cut rock staircase and a replica of the Dolores bell in the central window are the centerpieces of the building. It was built as a residence for governors and captain generals for the province of
Yucatán. In 1883, the original building was demolished and a new one, preserving the lines of the original project, was built and concluded in 1892. On the upper floor is the Salón de Actos, where the history of Yucatán is depicted on 27 gorgeous murals painted by Fernando Castro Pacheco.

PALACIO MUNICIPAL (MUNICIPAL PALACE) – BUILT IN 1735: In 1871 the first public clock of the city of Mérida was placed on this building. National holidays were celebrated at the site (September 16, May 5) until 1892, the year when the modern Government Palace was inaugurated. Construction began in 1734. The historic importance of the building is owed to the fact that here the Independence of
Yucatán from the Spanish Crown was decided. In the town council hall here one can admire a fresco that depicts a mestizaje allegory.

LA CASA DE MONTEJO – BUILT IN 1549: Located on street 63, at streets 60 and 62. This was the home of the Conqueror of
Yucatán and founder of the city of Mérida, Francisco de Montejo, El Mozo. What is still conserved intact of this work is the façade and carved stone portico. The upper part is in the gothic Elizabethan style with a marked indigenous influence. There are two outstanding figures of warriors carved in the sober plateresque style. The balcony of the upper floor boasts the Montejo shield of arms.

LA CATEDRAL (THE CATHEDRAL) – BUILT BETWEEN 1556 - 1599: Located on Street 60 at 61 and 57-A. The towers and interior of this building are done in the Moorish architectural style, whereas the façade is pure Renaissance. The altarpieces are baroque, and the relics on the walls are witness to the historic events of Mérida’s history. Erected 19 years after Mérida was founded (1542) by decree of King Felipe II, with San Ildelfonso, Archbishop of Toledo named head of the city. The building was concluded in 1598, with other details added on at later dates. The only “civil” ornament it bears is the national emblem of México during the colonial period. The machinery of the enormous clock was made in London in 1731, though it did not keep time until 1871. Mayan columns were used to build part of the north wall of the church. The visitor can admire the beauty of the Chapel of Christ of the Blisters (1656), the baptistery and the Sagrario Chapel (1904), the sacristy and the Chapel of San José (1610), as well as the Chapel of Rosario (1610).

NATURAL ATTRACTIONS:
RÍA LAGARTOS (ANIMAL SHELTER): This Ría is a paradise for those who love the outdoors. It is a sanctuary with nearly 30,000 pink flamingos, deer, pheasant, and crocodiles, among others. It is ideal for ecotourism.

THE CAVES OF LOL-TÚN: Lol-Tún, or “place where rocks became flowers,” is partially explored and not totally lit. Its beautiful rock formations, ancient paintings and delicate pottery handicrafts are very much worth the visit.

PUERTO PROGRESO (PROGRESO PORT): Twenty minutes from Mérida are the beautiful beaches of Puerto Progreso, which besides being one of the main fishing and customs ports, has become a very popular place for its warm and peaceful waters.

SISAL (PORT): Located west of Mérida is this wonderful fishing port. Its virgin sapphire beaches, fine white sand and peaceful waves will without a doubt enchant you.

THE CELESTÚN BIOSPHERE: Located on the border of Yucatán and Campeche, 90 kilometers from Mérida, is the biosphere of Celestún, a place you must not miss. The estuary of the river is the habitat of hundreds of pink flamingos and the reproduction site of more than 70 bird species, reptiles such as black crocodiles and hawksbill turtles, plus a diversity of fish. Beautiful beaches, mangrove stands, jungles and the petrified forest of Tampetén are all part of the wonderful scenery in Celestún.

PARQUE DEL CENTENARIO (CENTENNIAL PARK): The main attraction of the park is the zoo where you can see animals like the African lion, the Bengal tiger, a red lynx, hippopotamus, the sacred papion, Niligai antelope, chimpanzees and peacocks. The zoo also exhibits black bears, spiders and green monkeys, collar wild pigs, whitetail deer, an ocelot, a puma and a tepezcuintle (spotted cavy); birds such as toucans, pheasants, Inca dove, eagles and flamingos are also part of the zoo’s exhibit. The zoo also offers an aquarium and a snake exhibit.

EL PALMAR (ECOLOGICAL RESERVE): El Palmar is one of the most important ecological reserves in Yucatán. This protected area shelters fascinating flora and fauna species and is ideal for ecotourism.

CENOTES (UNDERGROUND FRESHWATER SINKHOLES):
Yucatán
is famous for its underground crystalline rivers and sinkholes, perfect for swimming after a long hot day. Speleologists from around the world frequently visit Yucatán to study its underground caverns and cenotes. If you are the kind of person that is in search of new experiences and adventures you should visit some of Mérida’s cenotes. The most famous cenotes in and close to Mérida are:

CHIUAN: In the town of Holcá, on the way to
Chichén-Itzá, you can cool off in the fresh waters of this cenote, which is considered an oasis for all visitors. Once you are inside the cavern it is easy to forget the heat outside.

NOC-AC: After a walk on a rustic stone path to the cenote a mile away from town, the breeze and peaceful clear waters are the best excuse to swim and freshen up.

THE SACRED CENOTE AT CHICHÉN-ITZÁ:This cenote is only 90 minutes away from Mérida, close to Chichén-Itzá. It is also known as “Cenote Sagrado” (Sacred Cenote) and is one of the most important sinkholes, not only for its natural beauty but also for its ancient Mayan history.

SAMBULÁ: Located on the highway to Calcachén, this cenote is perfect for a cool dip after visiting the mysterious cavern that surrounds it.

SANHKAR: Just outside the community of Homun is the Sanhkar sinkhole, one of the cenotes you must visit. To get to this extraordinary cenote you must follow a trail that leads to a cavern with incredible stalactite and stalagmite rock formations.

X'KEKEN: Also known as “Dzitnup” in honor of the closest town near this sinkhole. This cenote enchants its visitors with the natural light that filters from the ground above it forming multicolor reflections on the cave’s walls.

XLACAH: This cenote is the home of the veleta fish, and its lush natural vegetation is highlighted by the vestiges of the ancient civilizations. This sinkhole is inside the archeological site of Dzibilchaltún, only 22 kilometers from Mérida.

XTOLOC: Xtoloc is found in Chichén-Itzá. Its original Mayan trails, which were once used by the ancient civilization to gather their fresh water supply, can be followed to reach the cenote. You must visit this archeological site and its amazing sinkhole. Just relax and enjoy the scenery.

ZACÍ: Valladolid has one of the most important cenotes of the state. Its deep, serene waters are excellent for diving. Occasionally professional divers offer an exhibition for visitors to enjoy. There are trails surrounding the sinkhole, an open theater where plays and shows are presented and a small zoo. There are several restaurants nearby where typical regional dishes are served.

ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES:
ACANCEH: This archeological site is located in the town of Acanceh, which means “the agonizing deer” or “lament” or “moaning deer” in Mayan. The two restored buildings, the Pyramid and the Stucco Palace, are on the main square of the archeological site. The buildings are dated in the early Classic period, between the 5th and 6th centuries AD, although other evidence has pointed out that habitation at this site came later, when stones were carved in Puuc style. The ancient city of Acanceh extended more than four square kilometers; around 400 buildings have been registered as belonging to this time.

AKÉ: In Mayan, Aké means “place of reeds.” As an archeological site, Aké is known for its sacbés (white roads), the characteristic megalithic-izamaleño style architecture as well as Puuc style buildings, and its sacred precincts. There are several cenotes and two water sources that resolved water supply problems in ancient times. Two concentric walls define the ancient settlement. One circumscribes the central part where monumental structures are found, while the other encloses the housing area. The central section is a main square or plaza of approximately 25,000 square meters surrounded by buildings. Structure “ONE” or “The Pilastras” (square columns) is located on the North side of the square. On the east and west sides of the square are buildings made out of elongated plant, and the south side holds many other buildings. In the center of the plaza there is a stele of rock that was once decorated with reed.

CHACMULTÚN: The name means “Red Rock Hill” and is 126 kilometers south of Mérida and only five minutes away from the town of Tekax. Most of its buildings were built on foundations of about eight meters high, which give them a powerful and superior appearance. Chacmultún is an extremely interesting area, very different from other pre-Hispanic Mayan cities for the particular red tone of its buildings. This red tone is the result of the microorganisms that live in this region and whose particles, when in contact with water and air, give the rock its special hue. The area was divided in three main parts: Chacmultún, Kabalpak and Xetpol.

CHICHÉN-ITZÁ: On the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula, 120 kilometers from Mérida is one of the most famous Mayan archeological sites: Chichén-Itzá. Chichén-Itzá was the most important regional capital of the civilization from 750 through 1200 AD, period between the Classic and Post-Classic Mesoamerican civilizations. Platforms, walls, altars, friezes, steles, columns, lintels, masks and sculptures are some of the incredible traces of the Mayan civilization that can be appreciated in Chichén-Itzá. Without a doubt, The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the outstanding buildings at this site given its impressive architecture, iconography and carvings.

DZIBILCHALTÚN: This 16 square kilometer ancient city is only ten minutes away from Mérida. In Mayan, Dzibilchaltún means, “where scriptures are carved on flat rocks” and is considered one of the oldest Mayan cities. This archeological site is famous for the Temple of the Seven Dolls where the spring and fall equinoxes can be observed. Dates for these events are March 20, 21 and 22; April 20 and September 20 and 21.

EK BALAM: Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar” or “Star of the Tiger” and distinguishes itself from other sites with its urban and architectural characteristics, like the sacbé or “white road” which gives it a touch of majesty and splendor. The main square is surrounded by hills; the large platforms are guarded by hundreds of trees, the majestic arched structures and the ball game stadium have become one with the natural environment.

KABÁH: "The hand that chisels” or “the hand of Kabal" is a state park where one can observe many structures of the Puuc Mayan splendor. Kabáh is on the lower part of a valley surrounded by medium sized hills, most of which have small temples at the top of them specifically positioned to observe the Nohpat and Uxmal, the two main buildings of the city.

KUBULÁ: Only 37 kilometers east of Tizimín, on the highway to Colonia, Yucatán, there is an exit that takes you to ranch Kulubá, where the archeological site is located. Hidden amidst abundant vegetation on the eastern side of the state, lay the architectonic vestiges of this ancient city.

LABNÁ: Found in the uitze or lomerío region. Labná or “old house” is remarkable for the arch that has been described as one of the architectonic jewels of the classic development of the Puuc.

MAYAPÁN: Kilometer 43, southeast of Mérida. There is no doubt that Mayapán was the most important place for the Mayan civilization during the 13th century. It was a gated city and had more than 4,000 buildings. As in most city-states, the buildings occupied by the priests, merchants and wise men are located on the central part of the city, around the Kukulkán Castle. Mayapán means “pendant of the Maya” or “banner of the Maya.”

XKINTOK: When one descends from the Calcehtok caverns, after five kilometers into the jungle, one can see a group of pyramids and palaces of the great Oxkintok, which means “three priests from the flint” (it can also mean “three days of burning” or “many blood parties.”) This area is famous for Satunsat, also known as “the labyrinth.” Its grand and all encompassing atmosphere is particularly reflected on the door dedicated to Xibalbá, the underworld. Such a piece makes this experience very much worthwhile.

SAYIL: “Place of ants” in Mayan, Sayil saw its peak of splendor during the late Classic period, between the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The delicate bas-reliefs, the palaces on the north and south sides, and the ball game stadium are proofs of the splendor of the Mayan culture.

UXMAL: The Puuc is the architectonic style that can be admired in Uxmal due to the construction of monumental buildings, walls and vaulted chambers covered with carved stones, geometric shapes, inserted columns, lattice work and Chaac masks. The Puuc cities are Uxmal, Kabáh, Sayil, Oxkintok, Chacmultún and Labná. The ancient Mayan city of Uxmal is located southeast of the Yucatán Peninsula, 78 kilometers from Mérida. Its main buildings are the Quadrangle of the Birds, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, The Governor’s Palace and the Prophet’s House, the latter standing 35 meters tall and overlooking the entire city.

XCAMBÓ: Located in the municipality of Dzemul, Xcambó is a curious combination of Mayan ruins, a Catholic chapel and a small fresh water spring. Xcambó is located in the tropical forest area in this marshland, just two kilometers from the coast. In Mayan language Xcambó means “place of the virgin” or “place of the waning moon.” Xcambó used to be a very important trading port and salt supplier to the Mayans during the early Classical period.

YAXUNÁ: Yaxuná or “the turquoise house” is one of the cities that used to be communicated to the city of Cobá -100 kilometers away- through the sacbé, or white road.

MUSEUMS AND ART CENTERS:
MUSEO DE ANTROPOLOGÍA E HISTORIA (MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY): Located on Paseo de Montejo, at the corner of 43rd Street, Downtown. This building dates back to the beginning of last century, its architecture French style. Originally owned by a family, member of the henequén aristocracy, it currently houses the Museum of Anthropology and History of Yucatán. On display are Olmec, Zapotec, and Mayan figurines, as well as axes made of obsidian, craniums, musical instruments, coral and turquoise necklaces, gold ornaments, tombstones and other objects that are representative of these ancient cultures.

UNIVERSIDAD AUTÓNOMA DE YUCATÁN (AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF YUCATÁN): Located at the corner of Streets 57 and 60. This building, that today houses the University, was once the headquarters of the Seminary College of San Pedro, founded in 1711, then closed in 1748. In 1751, the building became the home of the San Ildefonso Council Seminary, which disappeared in 1767 following the expulsion of the Jesuits as promulgated by Carlos III. In 1824, the Literary University was founded in the same building, where it remained until 1861. During the empire of Maximilian, the building became the headquarters for the Imperial Commissary. In 1922, the National University of the Southeast was born, which later became the University of Yucatán, in 1958. At present the central offices of the Autonomous University of Yucatán, the Central Library, sports court, video conference room, boardroom, and the university’s radio station are all housed there.

ERMITA DE SANTA ISABEL (SANTA ISABEL HERMITAGE): Located on the east side of Street 66 South. The hermitage takes its name from the mother of John the Baptist, and was built by Gaspar González de Ledezma; this gentleman was persuaded that the building of a church would earn entrance to heaven more easily than piety or devotion to a saint. Originally the church was known as the Hermitage of Our Lady of Safe Travel, given that the carriages that traveled along the royal highway of Campeche stopped over briefly at the church to supplicate the Virgin for safe travel and a happy end to an arduous trip. In addition to the church itself, visitors can relax in the beautiful botanic garden, complete with an artificial waterfall.

TEATRO PEÓN CONTRERAS: Located on 60th street between 57 and 57-A. The building is a beautiful neo-classic, French style construction, inaugurated in 1908. An impressive Carrara marble staircase dominates the vestibule. The theater owes its name to Yucatán poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, doctor and politician José Peón Contreras (1843 - 1907), one of the most renowned cultural figures ever in Yucatán. Starting in 1912, the building was used as a cinema during seasons of low live theater activity, and in 1940 was renamed the Cinema Peón Contreras; it operated as such for over 30 years, when it was ultimately closed down due to deterioration. In 1981, following an arduous recovery task, it was re-inaugurated as a theater. At present it is the most important Cultural Center of the Institute of Culture of Yucatán, with three temporary exhibit halls, restaurant, bookstore and tourist information.

MUSEO DE ARTES POPULARES (MUSEUM OF POPULAR ARTS): Located on 59th street. At this place you can admire an exhibit on Mayan art and customs, as well as a sampling of handicrafts representing the entire state of Yucatán. Also on the premises is a handicraft store where the visitor can purchase the many and varied expressions of popular Yucatán art and handicrafts.

PARQUE HIDALGO (CEPEDA PERAZA): Located on Street 60. This is the second most important public park in the city of Mérida. Construction began in 1871, and it was given the name Central Park. In 1877 the name was changed to Parque Hidalgo, in homage to Don Miguel Hidalgo. In 1896, the statue of General Cepeda Peraza was unveiled in the park; he was a hero of the Reform. The park is more commonly known under his name. This is the preferred meeting point of students. Visitors to the park can also enjoy dishes in the restaurants, or purchase different types of handicrafts made on the spot by the artisans, including necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, etc.

ATENEO DE YUCATÁN: Streets 60, 61-A and 63, Downtown. The site was originally the Episcopal Palace, but in 1915 Salvador Alvarado turned it into an athenaeum. At present it houses the collections of the City’s Contemporary Art Museum.

MUSIC, THEATER, DANCE:
Mérida offers almost daily free, open-air cultural and/or artistic performances.

  • On Mondays’ the Ballet Folklórico performs, as well as a charanga jaranera (typical music of the region), shouting out typical phrases and jokes of the Yucatán people. This takes place at the arches of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) on Calle 62, at 9 PM.

  • On Tuesdays, at the Parroquia de Santiago on Street 72, there is popular dance music playing.

  • On Wednesdays, troubadours and orators perform at the Casa de la Cultura on Street 63, at 8 PM, in addition to the Ballet Folklórico.

  • Thursdays at 9 PM people gather at the Santa Lucia Park, on Street 60, to listen to the trios, soloists and orators.

  • At the University of Yucatán on Calle 60, at the corner of 57, on Fridays there is a special event: The University Serenade.

  • Sundays at the Main Square, be sure to take in Mérida en Domingo (Mérida on Sunday), with special marimba numbers, drama, and the Ballet Folklórico del Ayuntamiento. This is an all-day event, from 9 AM to 8 PM.

USEFULL FACTS:

CURRENCY:
The official currency is the peso. There are many places in the city where you can exchange money. Banks usually have the best exchange rates and are open during the week from 9 AM to 3 or 5 PM. Exchange houses have lower exchange rates, but have better service hours. Hotels can also exchange money, but their exchange rates are generally not good.

DRINKING WATER:
All stores sell bottled water. Also safe to drink is the water in the large glass bottles found in offices and public places. It is recommended that you not drink tap water, it is not considered potable.

TIME ZONE:
Minus six hours from Greenwich (GMT). Mérida is in the same time zone as México City, central time. Throughout the entire country the daylight savings program is implemented; in summer from April through October, and in winter from November through March.

ATTIRE:
To visit the archeological sites and colonial cities, it is recommended to wear lightweight clothing and very comfortable all terrain shoes. To visit restaurants, museums and theaters casual clothing is suggested. If you are visiting during wintertime, you might want to carry a sweater or sports jacket.

ELECTRICITY:
110 volts for two-phased flat plugs. In hotels and some newer establishments three-phase electrical outlets are available.

WEATHER:
The average temperature in Mérida is 28º C. During the summer when days are hot and sunny the temperature may rise to about 37º C. From October to February the weather cools down to approximately 21º C.

BANK HOURS:
Banks open Monday through Friday between 8 and 9 AM and close between 4 and 5 PM. Some banks open on Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM.

TELEPHONE:
The area code for Mérida is 999; then dial the seven-digit phone number (that must begin with 9). If you dial from another state within the country, you must dial 01 before dialing the area code and the phone number. If you dial from abroad, you must dial 00 52 before dialing the area code and the phone number.

VACCINES:
There are no required vaccinations to visit Mérida.

TRANSPORTATION:
City buses and taxis are very common in Mérida. If you choose to ride in a taxi, we recommend reaching an agreement before getting in the taxi. Your hotel will help you if you need any assistance.

Another form of transportation in Mérida is the calesa (carriage). To ride a carriage you must go to street 61, between 58 and 60, by the Cathedral. At night, there are many calesas around the Main Square or Plaza on 60th street on Paseo de Montejo. They all follow the same route, from the Main Square to the Monumento a la Patria and back (or somewhere along the avenue). All carriages run from 8 AM to 12 AM.

THE IZAMAL TRAIN:
For those who want to do something different while visiting
Yucatán we suggest that you take the train to Izamal on a Sunday. The Izamal railway wagon can transport up to 68 passengers and leaves the Central Train Station every Sunday. To distinguish it from other trains, the Izamal train is number 6033. For the traveler’s comfort, the train is equipped with air conditioning and restrooms.

SHOPPING CENTERS:
In Mérida there are many handicraft and souvenir open-air markets. A very famous open-air market sets up every Sunday in front of the Town Hall. Here you will find all sorts of handicrafts such as sculptures, leather products, ornaments made out of seashells, pottery and traditional sweets. In addition to these markets, there are commercial establishments where you can find other handicrafts including henequén products, hammocks, guayaberas (Panama type shirts), huipiles (long embroidered over-shirts), etc.

STORE HOURS:
Shopping malls are open from 11 AM to 8 PM
Department type stores are open from 9 AM to 9 PM and downtown commercial establishments are open from 10 AM to 7 PM.
Some drug stores and small convenience stores are open 24 hours.

SPORTS:
Golf
Tennis
Diving: Progreso is a port very close to Mérida; from Progreso you can take a boat to the Alacranes reef and dive into crystal clear ocean water, where impressive underwater scenery awaits you.
Surfing: The port of Progreso offers long beaches running along either side of the port-city, an ideal spot for surfing.
Water Sports: Just a few kilometers from Mérida lays the port of Progreso, at present an important destination for those who enjoy water sports such as skiing, jet skiing, and water bikes and motorcycles.
Extreme Sports: Visit the archeological zone of
Dzibilchaltún, located 22 kilometers from Mérida; here you will find the huge cenote (sinkhole) called Xlacá. Only experienced divers should attempt exploring the deep waters of this magical place.
Fishing: Fishing lovers should visit the old port of Progreso, located just five kilometers from Mérida, or visit the small fishing community of
Celestún.

For prices, reservations, availability and bookings, please contact us at: visit@luxuriousmexico.com
 

       

Yucatan, Merida, Goverment Palace - Photo by visitmexico.com

The Goverment Palace in Mérida

Yucatan, Merida, Barrio La Errmita - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Barrio de la Ermita in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Colonial Building - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Colonial Building in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Paseo de Montejo, House of Montejo - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The House of Montejo in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Paseo de Montejo, Colonial Building - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Colonial Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Market, Textiles - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Handicrafts Market in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Horse carriage - Photo by Visitmexico.com
Horse Carriage in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Cathedral of San Idelfonso - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
The Cathedral of San Idelfonso in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Monument to the Independence  - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Plaza de la Independencia in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Jarana Dancers, Typycal dress - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Jarana in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Market, Fruit Vendors - Photo by visitmexico.com
Market in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Monument to the Independence  - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Monument to the Independence in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Place of the Independence - Photo by visitmexico.com
Plaza de la Independendia in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Market, Textiles - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Mayan Textiles in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Cathedral of San Idelfonso, Nave - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Cathedral in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Paseo de Montejo - Photo by visitmexico.com
The Paseo de Montejo in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Horse carriage - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Tour by Horse Carriage in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Market, Textiles, Huipiles - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Mayan Textiles in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Place of the Independence at night - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
Plaza de la Independencia at night in Mérida
Yucatan, Merida, Goverment Palace at night - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Yucatan
The Goverment Palace at night in Mérida