Some facts about my city:
Merida, a city of about 1 million people, is a wonderful mixture of colonial city and cosmopolitan destination. With Merida as your base, you can visit cathedrals and churches, Mayan ruins, museums, haciendas and cenotes. You'll also find movies, theaters, important hospitals, public and private schools, four universities, shopping malls with such stores as Sear's, and chain stores such as Sam's, Costco, WalMart, the French supermarket Carrefour, as well as the Mexican chains of Liverpool, Comercial Mexicana, Soriana and Sanborn's.
The Spaniard Francisco de Montejo founded Merida on January 6, 1542. When the Spaniards arrived, Merida was a large Mayan city known as T'ho, situated on what is now the Main Plaza. It was conquered by the Spaniards, who dismantled all the pyramids and used the huge stones as the foundation for the Cathedral of San Idelfonso (1556-1599), the oldest cathedral on the American continent.
The Cathedral, situated on the east side of the Plaza, is only one of Merida's many interesting sites. Directly across the Plaza is the Palacio Municipal (1735), Merida's Town Hall. On the south side is the Casa de Montejo (1542), the former home of the conqueror of Yucatan.
The Palacio de Gobierno (1892), on the north side, houses 27 murals by Fernanco Castro Pacheco illustrating the somewhat violent history of Yucatan.
One of the major influences on Yucatecan history is the henequen plant, also called sisal (for the Yucatecan city of Sisal from which shipments left the continent). This plant became known as 'green gold' or verde oro for the wealth it lavished upon the haciendados or hacienda owners in this area. In the early 20th Century, as a result of the henequen or sisal trade, Merida was the home for numerous millionaires who built their lavish homes on Paseo Montejo, and their impressive haciendas throughout the jungle surrounding Merida. A walk down Paseo Montejo is a wonderful way to view some of these mansions, many of which are completely restored, and some of whose romantic decay are food for the imagination.
For centuries, geography made it difficult for the Yucatecans to communicate with the rest of Mexico. As a result, architectural and cultural influences from Europe, the Caribbean and New Orleans were as strong or stronger in the growth of the city. To this day, the people who live here consider themselves Yucatecans first, Mexicans second. If you look carefully, you will see tshirts and bumper stickers proclaiming Orgulloso Yucateco, Yucatecan Pride.
The Yucatan is one of Mexico's most tranquil and safest states, with a climate resembles that of Florida or Cuba. Yucatecans are good, tranquil and hospitable people who have strong roots and traditions. They take pride in their city, known as "The White City", not only for the predominance of white limestone as a building material, but because of its streets, plazas and parks that are cleaned daily.
Because of its tranquility and cleanliness, Merida has become a popular place for families from other Mexican states. Many people have moved here from Mexico City, where crime, pollution and overcrowding are ever growing problems. Crime is not tolerated in Merida, and it has the distinction of the city with the lowest crime rate per capita in Mexico.