In its role as the hub of Yucatán’s coastal communities, Progreso is something of a paradox. Its laid-back ambience is still appealing most of the year; many North Americans and Europeans who want to escape their chilly winters are attracted to Progreso as a place to live part-time or full-time. They like the fact that there are restaurants, hardware stores, supermarkets, and a good hospital; all essential services are there. And of course they are only a half hour drive from Mérida and all its nearby attractions. Others, however, don’t want to live in the “hustle-bustle” of this port city of 54,000 inhabitants…they prefer the smaller towns of Chelem or Telchac Puerto, or the spacious beaches of San Benito or San Bruno, and use Progreso as a place to shop or dine.
Either way, Progreso has long been a crucial link to the world. Its foundation came about due to necessity. During the height of the henequén export era, the port town of Sisal (west of Progreso) was the main cargo departure point. But the shipping industry needed a place which was closer to the capital of Mérida. In 1856, federal permission was granted to erect the new town. In 1871 it was officially founded, and in 1875 given the category of “city”.
In 1893 the lighthouse was inaugurated. It is 36 meters high, with a 700 mm. diameter lantern that turns.
In 1936 a Danish company began construction of the pier, which was completed in 1947. In 1989 nearby Yucalpetén was inaugurated as the Puerto de Abrigo (shelter port), which has full marina facilities today, and the following year the Remote Terminal was inaugurated with its 6.5 km. viaduct. All of this helped to establish Progreso as a major international shipping port for both import and export; Linea Peninsular has been operating cargo service since 1984, and its current schedule goes between Progreso and Panama City, Florida, four times a week. Progreso’s docking facilities and proximity to Mérida and the Mundo Maya has put it on the itineraries of many cruise ships as well. And the 2009 and 2012 transatlantic sailing races Solidaire du Chocolat, from France to Progreso, introduced the port to a new international audience.
The residents of Mérida also love Progreso. At Easter and in the summer months, Progreso is anything but laid-back…thousands of Meridanos flock to their homes away from home and swim, eat, drink, and dance. Before and after those busy times Progreso reverts to its other personality, peaceful but just busy enough to suit most visitors, and the homes owned by the Mérida residents are available for rent.
The beaches of Progreso are clean and the water a lovely emerald green (except at times during the winter months when the winds and tides of “nortes” stir up the water and toss seaweed on shore). There is also no undertow to speak of, which means it is a pleasure to swim there. Many of the restaurants on the seaside promenade, the “malecón”, have tables on the sand and will serve you there. What could be better than freshly grilled fish and a cold beer under a swaying palm tree…heavenly!
Click here to read a blog about Progreso Carnaval 2013, written by Kelly, a Canadian mom spending some time in Progreso with her 2 kids.
How to get there
Driving from Mérida is easy, just go north on Calle 60 or Paseo de Montejo until you reach Progreso. Public transportation is provided by Autoprogreso and operates every 10 minutes between 5 am and 10 pm, at a cost of $20 pesos one way, $36 pesos roundtrip, from their terminal on Calle 62 between 65 and 67. www.autoprogreso.com
El Corchito, an ecological preserve that has been around for over 10 years. Located just 2 KM east of the entrance to Progreso, this preserve was visited by the Governor of Yucatán recently and is starting to gain notoriety. El Corchito is operated by local fishermen who now work to nurture the mangrove swamp by reinforcing canals which improve water circulation and encourage the growth of native plants.
Just a 5-minute boat ride in one of the several lanchas (boats) takes you into the cool shadows of the mangroves where the fishermen have built palapas and picnic tables from native wood. You can swim in any of three designated fresh-water pools, sling your hammock in the shade to relax, or wander the well-kept paths to see local fish and waterfowl. If you’re really quiet, you might see a deer come to drink at one of the more isolated pools. Bring lunch and be sure to bring your camera! To reach El Corchito, turn east toward Chicxulub at the entrance to Progreso (where the Pemex station is). Go 2 KM to the second roundabout (glorieta) where you will see a sign to El Corchito. Veer to your right and continue on a few meters. You’ll see a dirt road on your right that will take you to the boat landing area. Boat rides begin at 8:30 am daily and run until dusk. Cost is $20 pesos per person for the boat ride.
Check out this catchy video!
Discos and bars in Progreso (open all year)
Eladio’s on the Malecón (daytime only)
Carta Blanca on the Malecón
Scandor on the Malecón (only open Friday and Saturday nights)
Exo (near Chicxulub, only open Friday and Saturday nights)
Discos between Progreso and Chicxulub (only open in July and August, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays)
Ro by the Sea
Centro Medico Americano
Tel. (969) 935 0951
Half block from the Main Plaza
Yucatan Vacations Car Rental
Tel. (969) 935 7440