Palacio de Gobierno
The current Governmental Palace was preceded by the Casas Reales or Royal Houses, which were seat to the colonial government. Administrative and government business was carried out there, but it also served as home to the Crown representatives and governors. It was named Palacio de Gobierno after the Independence. As the XIXth century came to a close the old building was destroyed and a new one was erected. It was inaugurated on September 15th, 1892. It was supposed to house all offices pertaining to the executive power. The neoclassic Palacio is two stories high and extends over a quadrangular surface of a little over 137 feet, front and depth. Inside, a central courtyard of great dimensions stands out. It also has 27 murals that were painted between 1971 and 1978 by yucatecan artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. These are distributed in both floors, in the corridors, the Salón de la Historia and the stairwell, and are considered the most important modern pictoric work in Yucatán because of their content and skill. The Governmental Palace is not only a real museum but also sums up the political life of the state.
The Palacio de Gobierno is open from 8:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., and is located at the intersection of Calle 61 and Calle 60, Downtown. There is a tourist information module at the main entrance, which is open from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., Monday through Sunday.
It was built 19 years after the founding of Mérida, in 1561, when king Felipe II requested the capital’s church be set up as cathedral and assigned to San IIdelfonso, archbishop of Toledo. It became the first cathedral in America built on solid ground. The architectural style is Moorish, for the towers and inside; the façade is Renaissance. It has baroque altarpieces on some walls. Its sober façade has a semicircular arch where the main door “Puerta del Perdón or Foregiveness Gate” is located. It is flanked by statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The clockwork for the enormous clock was built in London (1731). It told time until 1871.
Inside the Cathedral ample room is divided into three naves with coffered vaults and Gothic ornamental bows. Here stand the Capilla del Cristo de las Ampollas (1656) as well as the baptismal and the tabernacle chapel or Capilla del Sagrario (1904), the vestry and Capilla de San José (1610) and the Capilla del Rosario (1610). At the high altar the image of the Cristo de la Unidad stands out and stands tall at a little over 25 feet. It was sculpted in birch wood by the artist Ramón Lapayese del Río, who was born in Madrid. The Cathedral is located at the intersection of Calle 60 and Calle 61, Downtown.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
Originally the bishop’s palace or Palacio Episcopal, in 1915 this building was confiscated by the ruler in turn, General Salvador Alvarado, who not only began to alter the façade and interior but also ordered the demolition of both chapels that joined it to the Cathedral. Its current name comes from the literary society which met here, the “Ateneo Peninsular”.
In 1994 the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán, better known as MACAY, was installed. MACAY is one of the main promoters for the development and diffusion of contemporary art in southeast Mexico. Its high quality and prestige place it as a space of indispensable reference for artists who want to make their work known in the southern part of this country. The museum is open from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. during the week and from 10:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays. It is located on Calle 60, between 61 and 63, Downtown. The entrance is through the Pasaje a la Revolución, where installations and works of art are exhibited outdoors.
Casa de Montejo
Following his father’s orders, Francisco de Montejo y León “El Mozo” had this house built between 1543 and 1549. It was to become this conquering family’s dwelling place. Its façade, the only part of the house that hasn’t been altered, is considered the most valuable jewel of architectural Plateresque art in the country. Cut in stone, the original statues of figures and mythological beings catch the eye. The family’s impressive coat of arms stands above the central balcony. A tecnical study has uncovered that the lower part of the
portico had a European workforce behind it while the newer and higher part is more recent and was completed by the natives.
Many years ago this property was acquired by a banking institution that has invested in its upkeep. It is located on Calle 63, between 60 and 62, Downtown.
To get acquainted with Mérida you must start at the Plaza Grande. For over three centuries, the Plaza Grande (as locals call it) has been the heart where the city’s political, ecclesiastical and civilian life beats. Even though it is a silent witness to the history that has been written around it, important events have taken place at this square, such as the execution of indigenous leader Jacinto Canek and the federalist’s combats.
In 1871 the Plaza Grande was extended and improved. At that time it was the starting point for all four streetcar lines. Between 1886 and 1889 a two-storey bandstand was built in its center.
In order to get rid of the traces left by the defeated political regime the square was redesigned in 1915: the first octagonal central platform was built, binary seats were installed and
bushes were planted. Mercurial lighting was added in 1959.
Today, the Plaza de la Independencia with its S-shaped benches called confidentes (confidants) is a spatious circuit in which two rows of corpulent old laurel trees grow. By day these guardians throw their shade on the garden and shelter passers-by from the heat, but in the evenings and at night there is an atmosphere of freshness and delight under their crowns.
In the surrounding area and on the streets nearby the bustle and traffic of a modern city prevail. It’s located between calles 60, 61, 62 and 63, Downtown.
City Hall was built during Santiago Aguirre’s term in office (1734-1736). Here is where the Independence of Yucatán from Spain was decided, and where the public holidays of 16 de Septiembre and 5 de Mayo were celebrated until 1892, when the modern Governmental Palace was inaugurated. Its façade has been modified several times in the course of the years. For example, in 1871 the first clock in Mérida was placed here. The oldest coat of arms of the city, which once adorned the eastern wall of Ciudadela de San Benito, that no longer exists, is fitted on the wall by the staircase. The elevated courtyard at the back is what remains of the Mayan pyramid of Bakluum-Chaam.
In the Salón de los Cabildos there is a mural that depicts an allegory of miscegenation or métissage. This building now houses the offices of the honorable city council and city hall. Every Monday, opposite these premises, the traditional vaquería (barn dance) takes place at 9:00 P.M. It’s located on Calle 62, between 61and 63.
Centro Cultural Olimpo
The Cultural Centre as we know it today was inaugurated in 1998. It stands next to the Palacio Municipal, on the site where many years ago a colonial building also known as El Olimpo was demolished. This new building is a fine example of the remarkable adjustments made by contemporary architecture to fit in alongside older edifications located in Mérida’s Historic Center.
This Centro Cultural aims to promote a wide range of artistic and cultural expressions. It houses several exhibitionsthroughout the year. Since September 29th, 2003 it is also home to the Arcadio Poveda Ricalde Planetarium, where visitors can enjoy fascinating journeys into the Cosmos. It is also an educational institution for Astronomy and other sciences. It’s located on Calle 62, between 61 and 63, Downtown. Open from Tuesday to Sunday. Special fees are available for children
Teatro Daniel Ayala
Constructed in a big house built during the XVIIth century, this venue consisted of a foyer, orchestra seats, wing box seats made of wood and a “U” shaped gallery over the boxes. On February of 1920 it began featuring both plays and movies, but by the 1940’s it was named Cine Principal and was only used as a movie theater.
In 1973 it closed. Months later Governor Carlos Loret de Mola Mediz had the foyer and the façade renewed and turned it into the state’s Centro Cooperativo Artesanal (arts & crafts co-op).
In November of 1975, after the stage was reconstructed, it was “christened” with its current name, Daniel Ayala Pérez, after the late Yucatecan musician who was born in Abalá in 1908.
In 1976 the stage was complemented with a grid and a pit for 50 musicians. Two dressing rooms and 400 seats were also added. The venue became the state’s Centro Cultural and headquarters for the artistic groups that belonged to the recently created Cultural Office. In 1987 the property was restored once more and new services and facilities were included. Since then it is used as an artistic and cultural arena that showcases dance, theatre and music. It’s located on Calle 60, between 59 and 61, Downtown.
Located by Calle 60 by 59, it’s the second public park in Mérida. This area was first converted into a park in 1871 and named Parque Central. In 1877 it was renamed Parque Hidalgo in honor of Mexican Independence hero, Don Miguel Hidalgo, but in 1896 the statue of a Yucatecan hero was put here and since that time it is better known as Parque Cepeda Peraza. In this spot, favored by students, it is easy to feel like reading a good book under the almond trees or drinking delicious refreshments in one of the nearby restaurants. It is also possible to buy several crafts and watch the craftspeople at work.
Iglesia de la Tercera Orden
Also known as Iglesia del Jesús, this baroque church with rock scupltures that have native influence was built in the XVIIth century by the Jesuits. As with other buildings constructed at that time, Mayan remains were used. These are visible on the south side of the property. On its façade, adorned with vegetable motifs, an antique stained-glass window and two belfries catch the eye. Also worth mentioning is the lovely atrium cross elevated on a cut stone base.
The interior has marked Franciscan influence and beautiful fresco paintings depicting biblical scenes. At the back of the nave there is an exquisite wooden altar with gold inlay and a hemispherical dome with a circular drum. Decorations reach all the way up to the vaults on which flowers are painted. Located at the corner of Calle 60 and Calle 59, Downtown.
Parque de la Madre
Considered to be the first park to honor the mother figure it was formerly known as Parque Morelos and is located next to the Iglesia de la Tercera Orden. It was founded on February of 1909 by initiative of the Social Action League. The statue that adorns it is a marble reproduction of an original by André Lenoir that is located in Paris, France.
Here it is possible to enjoy a peaceful moment, buy some crafts or rest after wandering through the city. Located on Calle 60, between 57-A (Callejón del Congreso) and 59.
Teatro José Peón Contreras
This venue owes its name to Yucatecan poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, doctor and politician José Peón Contreras (1843-1907). Construction began in 1902 under the direction of Italian Enrico Deserti. It was inaugurated in 1908. In the front foyer a monumental staircase made from Carrara marble stands out. It leads to the second floor, where the concert hall and upper foyer are located. On its central dome there is a magnificent fresco painting by the also Italian Nicolás Alegretti, which is called Alegoría de las artes y de las ciencias (Allegory of Arts and Sciences).
From 1912 on it was used as a cinema when there was little theatrical activity. In 1940 it was renamed Cinema Peón Contreras and operated for over 30 years until it was so deteriorated that it had to be closed down. In 1981 it was reinaugurated as a theater. Today it is the most important cultural enclosure in the state and is home to the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra. It has three
galleries for temporary exhibitions, a restaurant, a bookshop and a tourist information module. Located on Calle 60, between 57 and 57-A.
Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
On this site Jesuits founded the Colegio de San Francisco de Javier (1618) which became the Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Javier (1624). Later, it served as birthplace for the Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso (1751). In 1767, when king Carlos II ordered Jesuits to be expelled from Spanish terrirories, this enclosure and its occupations were turned over to the Seminario Conciliar. 1824 saw the birth of the Universidad Literaria which, years later, during Maximiliano’s Empire, was turned into headquarters for the imperial commissariat. This construction’s educational mission was promoted again in 1867, when it was decreed that the State take charge of education. In 1922 Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Governor of Yucatán, created the Universidad Nacional del Sureste, now called Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.
Today, this building houses the University’s head offices, the main library, the newly renovated “Manuel Cepeda Peraza” Auditorium, dance and music rooms, the gallery for the Centro Cultural Universitario, a video room, the meeting room where the University Board convenes and UADY’s radio station. It’s located at the intersection of Calle 57 and Calle 60,
Teatro Felipe Carrillo Puerto
Inaugurated in 1958, this Art Deco building is named after the founder of the Universidad Nacional del Sureste (now Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán) and is situated next to this institution’s main building. The University’s theater company performs in this venue which holds 289 people. Domingos Universitarios (University Sundays), concerts, recitals and several cultural events take place here throughout the year. It’s located on Calle 60, between 57 and 59, Downtown.
Businessman Tufic Charruf Baduy opened this movie theater in December 9th, 1949. The first film shown was a Spanish feature called Locura de amor (Love Crazy). Cine Mérida, with its ritzy foyer, became an avant-garde venue in southeast Mexico; it was the ideal place to enjoy Mexican and International cinema.
During the 1970’s film industry crisis the theater’s 2,300 seats were empty. Finally, it closed down in 1992. After extensive remodeling carried out by the Government of the State it reopened as a venue for artistic activities on August 17th, 2000. Today, Teatro Mérida houses three state of the art venues: the Sala Principal, which holds 1,200 spectators; the Cineteca Manuel Barbachano Ponce, for 227 movie goers; and the Sala de Arte, for 101 movie fans. The best film festivals come here, including those which bring independent movies and films by famous directors. It’s located on Calle 62, between 59 and 61, Downtown.
Iglesia de Monjas
This Gothic building was built in the XVIth century to shelter a congregation of Concepcionist nuns. Its main attraction is a Moorish scenic viewpoint from which it’s possible to admire the city. The cloisters now house the Casa de Cultura (Cultural Center). The complex includes the atrium, temple and chaplain’s rooms. The temple has one nave which is covered by a barrel vault; the presbytery is covered by a sail vault. It is composed of three corridors with semicircular arches over columns. The roof is bahpec on logs. It has a wooden balustrade. It’s located between Calle 64 y 63, Downtown.
Casa de la Cultura y Casa de las Artesanías
This construction was first meant to shelter a religious congretations of nuns but it was closed in 1863. Later it became a school, the Ágora de Fonapas, and now it houses the Casa de la Cultura del Mayab. Its rooms and corridors accomodate teachers and trainers of new artists, and the main artistic manifestations are encouraged, including music, dance, theater and visual arts. The Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Yucatán, where hand-picked arts and crafts are for sale, is also in this building. It’s located on Calle 63, between 64 and 66, Downtown.