September 15, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the Old Central Railway Station and the Rendón Peniche Sanatorium. Both these buildings are located in the northwest area of Mérida’s Centro Histórico. The completion and launch of these projects was a major win for the rail workers’ union and the socialist government within the framework of the Mexican Revolution.
The Central Railway Station was designed by the British architect Carlos S. Hall, who arrived in México at the end of the 19 century. He was so charmed by the country, especially after a stay in Puebla, that he transformed his style under the influence of colonial Mexican architecture. This is reflected in the station, which, with its commanding Neo-Colonial style, definitely became a declaration of the time’s cultural nationalism.
The Rendón Peniche Sanatorium was created to offer medical services to rail workers and their families, much like other sanatoriums around the country. A North American engineer designed it using the most recent medical advances of the start of the 20 century. In 1918, its architectural style changed abruptly when the architect Manuel Amábilis turned it into a superb Neo-Maya building.
These two buildings were the point of departure for the transformation of Mérida’s northwestern Centro Historico (which began developing with the first train station to Progreso in 1881 and the Parque de Mejorada). Actually, the licensee of this line was Mr. José Rendón Peniche – where the sanatorium gets its name from. From that point on, the area was industrialized little by little with the opening of warehouses, rope manufacturing plants, workshops, and other factories such as the Cervecería Yucateca brewery.
The sanatorium operated as such until the early 1970s and the Central Station kept its doors open until 1997. The buildings then went to the hands of the state government, who transferred them to two academic institutions. The sanatorium went to CEPHCIS-UNAM in 2005 and the Central Station to the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán in 2007. This has allowed not only for their remodeling and conservation, but has also aided in keeping these 100-year-old buildings relevant – they are, without a doubt, the great protagonists of the urban area known today as La Plancha.
Editorial by Marco Díaz Güemez
Marco Díaz Güemez is a research professor at the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán. As an artist, he was a founding member of the art collective Deisy Loría (2002) and FrontGround (2007). He is the author of the book “El arte monumental del socialismo yucateco.” He is a member of the CONACYT National Researcher System.
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