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"Once the agave time passed, life in Merida returned to its provincial tranquillity. Slowly Merida grew as a small and picturesque city without its desires of universality."
- Jadranka Vrsalovic

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The first "American Capital of Culture"
by Jadranka Vrsalovic, Barcelona, Spain
Apr 5, 1999

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The city together with Yucatan became independent on September 15, 1821. At that time Merida lived an epoch of peculiar splendor due to the demand of century-plant, or "green gold". In late nineteenth century, the old "haciendas" devoted their efforts to the cultivation of sugar cane, maize, and cattle ranching. Then they discovered the potential of the agave, known as "henequen" as a prime fiber ideal to produce a resistant and versatile natural fiber. The exploitation of agave brought richness and economical splendor to Yucatan. During the last years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century saw a notorious growth of the city, becoming rather European and leaving behind the dusty and neglected buildings and seeing the construction of luxurious mansions, religious buildings and other constructions that even today reflect the glory and ostentation of that time.


Once the agave time passed, life in Merida returned to its provincial tranquillity. Slowly Merida grew as a small and picturesque city without its desires of universality.

In the middle of its half a millennium and in the threshold of the twenty-first century, Merida continues to vigorously grow. If on one side the city conserves its traces and tendencies, on the other one sees modern construction, new business buildings, convention centers, hotels, and large avenues and an urban sprawl converting the city as one of the most important of the Country.

With about 800.000 inhabitants, Merida maintains a horizontal sprawl; construction does not go over two stories high, and the majority of houses have a large patio. Because the terrain is flat, the streets are numbered and it is easy to find directions. However, in the historic center in the street corners there are plaques with drawings and the name of the borough, per example, "la iguana", "el sol", "el oso", "las dos caras", or "el boxeador". The name of the corner is often the reference for people: the bus leaves from the corner of "venadito", or a person lives near "cocoyal".

Merida preserves the characteristics of each district. The center is austere and serene and of a colonial flavor. Outside the limits of the historical center is the beginning of large avenues, as the "Avenida Colon" or the "Paseo de Montejo" with French style mansions of the nineteenth century, giving to the city a senorial and distinguished character. One of the mansions is the palace Canton, which treasures a complete art collection of the ancient Mayas. In suburban north, east, and west one is faced with large majestic hotels, residential districts, large commercial centers, movie houses, exhibition galleries, shopping malls, and the convention center "Siglo XXI". Towards Progreso out in about 30 kilometers, there are equestrian clubs, a large golf club, and a modern industrial park.

In the "Paseo de Montejo" there is a recently constructed monument that deserves special attention, the "Monumento a la Patria", a notable stone sculpture of large proportions and the best work of the sculptor Romulo Rozo. The work, inaugurated in 1956 includes the shields of the States of the Republic and the image of important personalities of the Mexican history.

Venturing into the heart of the city..

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