Merida, Mexico was delightful. The weather was hot and steamy. Sometimes the humidity was higher than the temperature. But the town of 892,000 was bustling both day and night. The center or centro, was definitely the most packed with tourists from all over the world as well as locals enjoying the Plaza Grande and the numerous other parks dotted throughout the city.
Life in Merida
When we weren’t out on excursions, we spent much of our days wandering the vibrant streets (calles) and enjoying the lovely evenings filled with good food and music.
Our first morning we had a delicious breakfast and coffee at Latte Quattro Sette on Calle 47, just a couple blocks from our fabulous VRBO.
Then we ventured off for a free walking tour of the historical buildings surrounding Plaza Grande. Merida’s main square is situated between what was once five Mayan temples. Many of the foundations of the current buildings still have the original stones used from the dismantled temples.
Merida was founded by Francisco Montejo, a Spaniard in 1524. Only the facade remains of his original home, and it is adorned with interesting sculptures and carvings at the entrance. Inside you’ll find a small musem replicating the European furniture brought over to fill the house, as well as a bank.
The main church on the plaza was originally used as a bunker and still has slits in the upper walls for rifles. The church was built using the stones from the temples of the conquered Mayans.
In front of the church you could almost always find a carriage ride waiting.
At the Governor’s Palace, we found extraodinary paintings by Fernando Castro Pacheco, painted in 1971. His paintings are approximately 12 ft. x 36 ft. and grace the lower walls and stairway. His focus was on the Maya and their beliefs. In the image below, you see a man rising out of an ear of corn. The Maya believed that the maize plant symbolized the creation of all life.
The conquered Mayans were treated as slaves by the Spaniards. It wasn’t until Salvador Alvarado became Governor of the Yucatan in 1915 that social emancipation was enacted. Not total freedom, but a beginning that favored education and women. Here is an image of Alvarado painted by Pacheco:
The upper hall of the Governor’s Palace is lined with large paintings from a variety of artists. These are all free to visit and the signage by each is in Spanish and English.
After a really nice (free) two hour tour, we headed to lunch and then to wander the Paseo Montejo. This wide boulevard is where the wealthy first built their homes. At the time, it was a bit on the outskirts of town, but this allowed the inhabitants to utilize a new mode of transportation – the car. Now the homes are filled with businesses and museums.
We also found a cacao museum and took a short tour learning about the cacao and how chocolate used to be made. They also showed quite a few representations of the Goddess Ixchel holding cacao. Ixchel is the only female god of the Maya.
At the far end of the Pasejo is the monument to the patriarch.
In the evenings, after a siesta and perhaps a dip in our little pool (more about our amazing VRBO coming soon), we would head out to find a new restaurant and music. We tried most of the traditional foods offered. My favorite was the Cochinita Pibil; pork with delicious sauces on a banana leaf.
On Thursday nights in Santa Lucia park, there is a serenade to the history of Mexico. After the dancers leave, the band, with four amazing guitar players, continue to enchant the crowd. Listen to the end, the man on the right really jams.
Merida is a delight and I highly recommend a visit. More info on our excursions and VRBO to come.
Adios for now,