T’ho (Merida) was settled in 1842, by Fransicisco de Montejo (the younger), which his father was unable to do. As Merida grew into a succesful city, the wealthy began to fear inteference from outside forces, such as Mexico City. The hacienda owners armed their Mayan servants to protect them, and of course, it backfired. In 1847, the “war of the castes” broke out, and lasted until 1853 when the Mayans took control of the entire peninsula with exception of Merida and Campeche. They remained in control until 1901.
Driving into the city through the outskirts, you’ll notice men working horses with carts. As you get closer to the centro, the traffic gets thick and crazy with double-wide bikes, motorcycles, buses, trucks that stop in your lane with no notice to unload, horse carraiges for rides, and toxic diesel fumes. As the streets are narrow, and the buildings tall, beeping horns are amplified. Two lanes are best described as three weaving in and out, and never straight.
If staying in close proximatey to the city zocolo and centro area, you will enjoy the evenings for festivities in the parks, music, dancing in the streets, sitting on narrow balconies of coffee shops, or down in the alley where Peon Contreras has good location for beers and guacamole. (Please read reviews!) Daytime can be spent exploring historical churches, galleries, museums and of course, artesan shops, juice-stands, bakerias and grocerias. Day trips outside of the city include Dzibilchaltun, Uxmal, Mayapan and the Puuc Route, to see Mayan ruins, Celestun to see Flamingos, and Progresso to swim in the Gulf, and visit a town catering to Mexican tourists. There is a Convent route, Hacienda route, and Yaxcopil, to visit a henecken plantation museum.
I was in Merida during Carnival 1996. Over five days, different sections of the city were closed each day, so staff could enjoy celebrations.
May 3 2006: Carlos at the front desk says we’ll have a wonderful few days there, enjoying the shops, and sites. 1st corner, a salesman says “only one half hour left to shop then mercado closed for a week.” I get us lost, and we see a sports team, with parent-coaches, and approach one of them. He won’t give us directions, but insists on delivering us. He sits down at another table, and the hotel serves him a drink. He takes groups of people away to his “brothers” store. (Didn’t see that one coming!) - we get to his “brothers” store, and when we repeat that we have no money, they tell us everything will be closed for a week for “Cinqo de Mayo.” I remind them it’s only the 3rd, they insist the 4th is to get ready for the 5th. We end up across the street in another shop, and the young boy pulls out a Lplanet g-book, to show us a review (from about 1983) claiming their store is good. (LP warns about this pitch)
Next day, everything was open! Please don’t let this discourage you while you’re in Merida. The heat can be unbearable, so the games can eat away at your patience, but just relax and remember these are the ones who are unlikely to ever travel….I’m grateful.
The following year, my friend asked if we could drive directly to Merida from Cancun, and I was stunned. Most people stay in the fancy resorts, of the beach-cities. I guess we prefer inland Yucatan, due to the culture, excitement, restaurants, people, historical sites, and all the craziness one experiences when out of the "little America" areas. Hope you enjoy Merida as we always have - I love it so much, I always look at their real estate!