What does the future of tourism in Mérida and all over Yucatán look like? Well, frankly I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that. We guess, hope, and have our own speculative opinions, but it’s very hard to predict what human nature and the virus will decide to do next. However, as a self-proclaimed Mérida and Yucatán expert explorer, I am starting to make a mental list of places I would like to safely visit as soon as we are free to roam the streets, beaches, and cenotes of Yucatán again.
I’m someone who loves to wander the streets of any city; there is something about the pulse of a vibrant urban scene that makes me feel alive and part of a perfectly imperfect human experience. That is one of the reasons I fell in love with Mérida and basically became a perpetual tourist. I live here, work here, and play here; however, I always discover new places and new people and, as strange as it might be, even after working a 15-hour day, I feel like I’m on vacation.
This city is a wonderful mix of colonial history and modern times and you see it everywhere you go. The historic past is alive in all its majestic buildings just as much as in the mestiza walking the streets in her traditional Huipil dress. So, the first thing I will explore as we settle into life after Covid-19 quarantine is Paseo de Montejo. And that is precisely what I would suggest anyone put first on their list.
Put on some comfortable shoes and loose clothing – but something stylish because it’s your first time out exploring the new town: there will be pictures and we’ve all been wearing yoga pants for way too long. Start your stroll on Paseo de Montejo and Pérez Ponce around 7 pm, so that there is light still, but the scorching sun is slowly setting. Take a leisurely walk down the brilliant boulevard of Paseo de Montejo whose trees form an arch over the wide sidewalks. If you are lucky, you will see the bright yellow flowers of Lluvia de Oro trees or deep fuchsia blooms of bougainvilleas climbing over the fences that surround the 19th-century mansions. Walking down Paseo de Montejo starts your journey into the past when the boom of the Henequén industry made Yucatán one of the wealthiest places in the world.
There are about ten important mansions on this avenue that you can gaze at while letting your imagination soar. You’ll stroll by the Quinta Montes Molina, one of the manors that are kept in mint condition with its staircase that seductively greets you on the sidewalks calling you to go up and explore the house and grounds. A few blocks down, you will see Casa Peón de Regil which, when I first moved here 10 years ago, my young son called the “sunken” house because it looks like it has indeed sunk into the ground. It was built in 1905 in a neoclassic style by the Henequén oligarch Pedro de Regil Cámara, and it’s spectacular. It is one of the most popular houses for tourists and locals to pass by and look at.
Further down you will see the immense canary yellow Palacio Cantón, also known as the Regional Museum of History and Anthropology. This is a museum I would suggest putting on your list. It’s a fascinating building, worth paying the fee to just go in and enjoy the house. The museum is absorbing and the curators have done a fantastic job presenting Yucatán’s rich history from Maya culture to the Henequén boom. Upon resuming your walking tour, you will pass by the Casas Gemelas inaugurated in 1907. The original blueprints of these houses were brought from France. They are stunning twin mansions with intricate exterior decoration on the buildings including gargoyles and angels.
Along Paseo de Montejo you’ll find several locally owned and operated restaurants and cafés with fantastic food from gourmet burgers to fine-dining Italian, seafood, Mexican, and Korean. There are also storefronts that showcase talented Mexican designers and artisans. Some businesses are brand new and others have been in Merida for over 70 years. These businesses are staples of this marvelous avenue. I would suggest that you stop in and look around, get a feel for the people, the art and the ambiance.
The best way to get to know a new place – or discover something new about it – is by taking the time to really observe and appreciate what you see. Go in, buy yourself a beer, coffee, a piece of art. Many times, you can find the heart and soul of a city in these places, and especially after the economic crisis of Covid-19, they would all appreciate the love and support. Tourism is vital to the way this city and state will get back on its feet. Let’s try to keep that in mind when we hit the Calles of Yucatán.
Editorial by Stephanie Carmon
Editor and Creator
Photography by Ernesto Ancona and other sources for its use Yucatán Today
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