MERIDA For clients seeking authentic Mexico, the Mayan heartland of
archaeological ruins, Colonial Cities, romantic haciendas and
distinctive cuisine is easily accessible from Merida, the capital
of Yucatan state.
Clients can see much of the Yucatan Peninsula using Merida as a
base. They can explore the region by taking a group tour or by
hiring a private car and a driver to explore the major attractions
nearby: several haciendas, archaeological sites at Chichen Itza,
Uxmal and Ek-Balam, and spotting pink flamingos at Celestun Special
Reserve National Park.
The White City, as Merida is called, boasts San Ildefonso, the
oldest cathedral in the Americas, and Paseo de Montejo, a long
boulevard with elegant French-style mansions looking like whipped
cream atop delicate pastel and white windows and doors.
The mansion builders were owners of haciendas in the Yucatan
countryside, their plantations yielding immense wealth from
henequen, sisal rope, in the latter 19th century. The best-known
mansion is the Palacio Canton, now the Regional Anthropology
Museum, which was originally built by a Yucatan state governor to
outdo all others.
After the Spanish used the ruins of a Mayan ceremonial center to
build colonial Merida, including the cathedral, in the mid-16th
century, control of the Yucatan territory remained under direct
control of Spain, with commerce flowing out from the Gulf of Mexico
directly to Europe not to Mexico City.
Sons of settlers and later children of hacienda owners traveled
to Europe for education, shopping and culture. That European
influence remains in the popular Thursday evening Yucatecan
Serenade, with storytelling, poetry recitation, music, singing and
traditional dances in Parque de Santa Lucia.
A two-hour Paseo Turistico tram tour with one stop en route
provides clients with an overview.
Most colonial-era buildings, including the cathedral, are
located on Merida’s tree-shaded major square, the Plaza Mayor. The
Casa de Montejo, Merida’s signature building with a pink facade and
elaborate carved statues around the entrance, was built by the
Yucatan’s Spanish conqueror in 1549. Next to the cathedral is Museo
Macay, a former archbishop’s palace that is one of Mexico’s best
contemporary art museums.
Take a short walk around the square and you will find the
Governor’s Palace, rebuilt in colonial style in 1892 with
modern-era murals on courtyard walls. Walls of mirrors, delicate
murals and windows create a European atmosphere for clients going
to Sunday afternoon concerts in the upstairs History Salon.
Merida’s City Hall, on the opposite side of the square from the
cathedral, is topped by another city symbol, a clock tower. Next
door is another art gallery and concert venue, the Olimpo Cultural
The Popular Art Museum and the Yucatecan Museum of Song are a
few blocks east of the Plaza Mayor.
Yucatan music is the trova, a unique adaptation of Cuban and
Columbian music and rhythms, performed by two singers and a guitar
player. The Museum of Song explains this unique art form and plays
host to frequent free concerts.
Merida’s own rhythm is slower, with warm to hot days and mild
evenings an incentive to sit a while in an outdoor cafe across from
the Plaza Major, or in one of Merida’s tree-shaded squares around
town. Informally, shops and businesses close down in the hot
afternoon, and visitors can join locals heading to a cantina for a
beer and botanas, free plates of substantial snacks guaranteed to
stave off hunger until dinner.
Dining & Shopping
Dining can be another cultural event for clients, as Yucatecan
cuisine mixes mainly Mayan ingredients with French and New Orleans
touches. Merida visitors shouldn’t resist brazo de reina, with
spinach-type leaves, pumpkin seeds, corn, tomatoes and boiled eggs
wrapped in banana leaves; puchero, the traditional chicken and pork
Sunday stew; or poc-chuc, marinated pork in bitter orange juice,
garlic, onions and spicy sauce.
The Yucatan’s high-quality hammocks, hats, and men’s shirts,
known throughout Mexico, illustrate a life-style that recognizes
the sun, heat and the need to rest comfortably. Hamacas, hammocks,
are the Yucatan’s traditional hand-woven bed, accommodated with
hooks in walls of rooms even today, for people who prefer to hang
one when they travel.
A Panama hat, the local version called a jipi, is a perfect buy
for shoppers wanting a light, white, flexible fiber hat. Dear to
all Yucatan males is the thin guayabera shirt, a Cuban style now
made locally, which fits the tropical climate of a bustling city
surrounded by steamy jungle.
Agents are offered 10% commission on rack rates or packages by
the following hotels, which add a 17% tax on all rates.
Hotel Villa Mercedes. This re-creation of an
art-nouveau-era mansion, close to the Paseo de Montejo, is filled
with stained-glass and light. There are 84 quiet rooms, including
65 standard, 16 executive, two junior suites and one master
Rates through December are $127 for a single or double standard
room and $180 for a junior suite. Through August, an executive room
package for two people and breakfast buffet is $110.
Call 011-52-999-942-9012. Web site: www.hotel
Hyatt Regency Merida. The 299-room, 18-story
hotel, a few blocks from the Paseo de Montejo, is Merida’s tallest.
The 8-year-old facility has a pool, a gym, two tennis courts, a
business center, meeting space and three executive floors.
A single or double room costs $142 through December. A Great
Deal package, through August, is $80.
Call 011-52-999-942-1234. Web site: www.hyatt.com.