Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Merida, Mexico
Mérida, capital of the state of Yucatán, lies at the north end of a plateau of porous limestone which is well suited to the cultivation of a type of agave-yielding henequen (sisal) fibre. Before the development of man-made fibres the henequen industry brought prosperity to the town, whose trade connections linked it with Europe and particularly with France.
During this period it became known as the "ciudad blanca", the "white city", since the people of Mérida liked to dress in white and took pride in keeping their town trim and clean. Thanks to its warm and humid climate this attractive town is gay with flowers, and life goes at a leisurely pace.
How to get there
From Mexico City by air in about 1.5 hours; by rail in about 37 hours (often considerably longer); by bus in 24-28 hours.
The town was founded on January 6th 1542 by the conquistador Francisco Montejo, known as "El Mozo" (the "Boy") to distinguish him from his father, "El Adelantado" (the "Governor"). After bitter fighting with the Maya tribes the younger Montejo succeeded in conquering most of Yucatán within the following four years. Mérida was built on the site of the Maya town of Tihó, using material from the demolished temples. In the year in which it was founded the last Maya ruler of the area, Titul-Xiú, cacique or chief of Maní, surrendered to the Spaniards. A prominent role in the history of Mexico was played by the second bishop of Mérida, Diego de Landa, who tried with all the means at his disposal to eradicate the old Indian culture - burning, for example, a great number of irreplaceable Maya manuscripts written in hieroglyphics. He did, however, write a valuable "Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán", an account of the conquest of Yucatán and the civilisation of the Mayas as seen through Spanish eyes. He died in Mérida in 1579. In 1648 Mérida and Yucatán were ravaged by an epidemic of yellow fever brought by negro slaves from Africa.
During the struggle for independence from Spain Mérida and Yucatán, owing to their remoteness, played little part. There were, however, movements aimed at securing the independence of Yucatán from Mexico. In the second half of the 19th c. Yucatán was the scene of a ruthless civil war (Caste War) when the Maya tribes rebelled against Mexican rule. The peninsula was not finally pacified until the early years of the 20th c.
Unlike most other Mexican towns, Mérida has a regular layout with the streets running at right angles to one another. The streets have numbers instead of names, those running from north to south having even numbers and those going from east to west odd numbers.