Have you ever been curious about the people who’ve had landmarks named after them in Mérida? We use their name here and there without much thought, so surely they must be people who contributed to our society. Today, I’d like to share a little bit about four of them; more to come.
If his name sounds familiar, you may have flown into or out of the local airport, or used Google Maps to get there, since it is officially the Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport. Born in Bolanchenticul (in what is now the state of Campeche), in 1799, Rejón was a Mexican lawyer and politician with a long career, recognized as the father of the writ of Amparo (a legal concept similar to Habeas Corpus used throughout Latin America and Spain to protect individual rights). After México’s independence in 1821, he served in Congress, fighting – among other things – for Tabasco’s independence from Yucatán, for the rights of workers and native people, and for the abolition of both the death penalty and the grants and pensions system (which benefited only the Spanish conquerors’ descendants). Always on the liberal and federal side of history, he opposed the designation of Agustín de Iturbide as emperor. After the First Mexican Empire fell, Crescencio Rejón defended the need for a judicial power independent from the rest of the powers.
Although he died at the scarce age of 50, throughout his life he was a congressman, senator, foreign minister (for multiple presidents), promoter of Yucatán’s constitution, and in general, a very active member of México’s political life in its early days, particularly in the years of the conflicts with the United States.
The name of this doctor and politician (Mexican, born in Guatemala) comes up every time we talk about a famous hospital in Mérida (on Circuito Colonias x Itzáes), but why is it named after him? For starters, he’s the co-founder of the School of Medicine of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. He was also among the founders of the Instituto Literario de Yucatán, besides having revamped the Escuela Normal de Profesores.
Agustín O’Horán was also involved in the Caste War. A Republican, like Rejón, he resigned as director of the San Juan de Dios Hospital (in Mejorada) during the Second Mexican Empire (Maximilian of Habsburg’s short reign). Gone those years, he served as First Advisor in the government and was temporary governor on several occasions, but left political life to devote himself fully to his work as a doctor. The General Hospital of Yucatán took his name the year he died (1884) by decree of the State Congress.
Manuel Berzunza y Berzunza
This is another name that comes up on Google Maps a lot. He opposed México’s longest-serving president, Porfirio Díaz, despite the consequences (for example, he couldn’t study Law at the Instituto Campechano), he was a local and federal congressman, temporary governor (at only 28 years old) before the more famous Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Both were actually close friends and were actually executed together (along with more people) during a coup shortly later. Loyal and well-known for his “rectitude and social sensitivity,” Manuel Berzunza was the mayor of Mérida at the time of his death.
Unfortunately, my research about his legacy was not as fruitful as I would have wanted, so I’m still wondering why the Periférico is named after him. However, according to the magazine “El corazón de Ah’Canul,” Governor Loret de Mola proposed it with the intention of “rescuing one of the historical characters linked to Carrillo Puerto from oblivion.”
Rosa Torre González
Rosa Torre González Avenue (between the La Xtabay roundabout and Hacienda Chichí Suárez) is not as well known as other landmarks on this list, but that’s because it just got its name last March. Rosa Torre was a feminist politician and teacher who lived the Mexican Revolution from her trench. In 1916, she was part of Yucatán’s First Feminist Congress, presided over the second, and in 1922, she became the first woman in México to be elected to public service by popular vote. This was 31 years before women got the right to vote in this country. Despite this milestone and her trajectory as a promoter of gender equality, for many years the year of her death was unknown; today we know the exact date: February 13, 1973.
For those interested to find out more, Rosa Torre collaborated in the Rita Cetina Gutiérrez League (which she established with Elvia Carrillo Puerto, Felipe’s sister), fighting against drugs, prostitution, alcohol, and superstition. The League gave workshops on hygiene, economics, birth control, and infant care. It’s estimated that Rosa Torre contributed to the creation of 45 feminist leagues, organizing more than 5,500 female workers.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena Cervera
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Amanda Strickland and Alicia Navarrete for use in Yucatán Today.
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