Merida Celebrates its 470th Anniversary

Merida, the beautiful capital of the state of Yucatan is 470 years old on January 6! It is celebrating the anniversary of its foundation by Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo y Leon the Younger “El Mozo,” in 1542 amidst the ruins of a much earlier Mayan city called T’Ho. The festivities will last the whole month with the Merida City Festival, January 5 – 30.

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The fun started on January 5 with the Alborada, a strolling serenade from Santa Lucia Park to the main square with over 100 local musicians and thousands of the city’s inhabitants, culminating with the traditional Mexican birthday song Las Mañanitas at midnight and a firework display. At 8 a.m. on January 6, local people gathered before the altar in San Idelfonso Cathedral, one of the oldest in the Americas, to offer their prayers for their city.

Festival de la Ciudad, 2012
The City Festival features more than 200 events ranging from concerts, plays and ballet and dance performances to street performances, art shows, cinema, historical exhibitions and literary workshops. This is in addition to the traditional weekly musical recitals and folk ballet events staged in the city’s parks and squares. The performers come from the Yucatan, different parts of Mexico and other countries, including Spain and Cuba. On Saturday, January 28, the National Poetry Prize Merida 2012 will be awarded at the Olimpo Cultural Center in the main square.
This year holds particular significance in the Yucatan as one cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar draws to a close on December 21 and a new one begins, accordingly, many of the festival events showcase the Mayan culture this time.

The 2012 festival program is available on http://www.merida.gob.mx/festival/index.html

Merida, a City for All Seasons
With historic monuments ranging from the impressive 16th century Cathedral and a collection of colonial churches and convents to 19th century civic buildings and the palatial residences of the henequen barons along Paseo Montejo, not to mention an ever expanding collection of museums, art galleries and craft centers there’s always something to see and do in Merida, whatever the season. The cultural scene is thriving and the city is also home to the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra (2012 season begins on January 20 – June 26, to see the concert program visit: http://www.sinfonicadeyucatan.com.mx/temporada/temporadactual.html ), several theaters, dance troupes and universities with their own community programs. Be sure to take in some of the evening concerts and folk dance performances staged throughout the year, here’s a listing.

Weekly Events in Merida

Fiesta Mexicana
Live music and folk dances from Yucatan and other Mexican states, food and craft stalls and lots of ambiance.
8 p.m. to midnight, Calle 47 and Paseo Montejo

Corazon de Merida
Music, dance and open-air dining along Calle 60, the street leading north from the main square where the Church of the Third Order, Peon Contreras Theater, the University of the Yucatan and other landmarks are located.
From 9 p.m. Calle 60

Merida en Domingo
The main square and surrounding streets are closed to traffic for this popular family gala featuring live music and dance performances, trio serenades, art exhibitions, handicraft and food stands.
9 a.m. – 9 p.m., main square and Calle 60. There is also a concert at the MACAY Museum next to the Cathedral from 12 to 1 p.m., a trio serenade at Pasaje Picheta at 8 p.m. and vaqueria folk dances at 1 and 5 p.m. Ask about midday concerts of classical music at Peon Contreras Theater during the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra season.

The streets of the historic heart of Merida, Paseo Montejo and those in Barrio San Juan and to Ermita de Santa Isabel are closed during the morning along this five-kilometer bicycle route which will take you past some of the city’s most important monuments.
8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Art on Sundays
Local and foreign artists display and sell their work on Merida’s famous tree-lined boulevard.
9 a.m. Paseo Montejo

9 p.m. in front of City Hall in the main square.
Colorful traditional dances from the Yucatan, including those forming a part in village fiestas called vaquerias.

Musical Memories Big Band Concert
From 8:30 p.m., Santiago Park, Calle 59 & 72

Live music and art at the Olimpo Cultural Center.
9 p.m., main square

Santa Lucia Serenade
Concerts, traditional dances and poetry readings
9 p.m. Santa Lucía Park

Corazon de Merida
Music and open-air dining along Calle 60, the street leading north from the main square where the Church of the Third Order, Peon Contreras Theater, the University of the Yucatan and other landmarks are located.
From 9 p.m. Calle 60

Trio Serenades in the main square
9 p.m. Pasaje Picheta

Noches de Leyenda
A two-hour walking tour and theatrical experience in one, scenes from Merida’s history are reenacted in nine different settings. At this time performances are in Spanish.
8:30 p.m., tickets available in Santa Lucia Park.
A repeat performance is staged on Saturday.

Corazon de Merida
Calle 60, the street leading north from the main square is closed to traffic and local restaurants set up tables al fresco in the squares and outside Peon Contreras Theater for an evening of dining under the stars. There’s live music at different points along the route with everything from trios and jazz to salsa on the repertoire.
From 9 p.m. Calle 60

Merida Walking Tours
Explore the historic heart of Merida on a free walking tour available Monday to Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The meeting point is the City Hall Information office on the main square.


Merida - City Center

Events are subject to change; when in Merida ask for the current program.

Merida’s Trio Tradition
Wander through the streets of Merida on any given night and you’ll discover how important music is to area inhabitants, the serenades performed by guitar-strumming trios playing in the squares and serenading diners at local restaurants are the very essence of trova, the music of the Yucatan.

Don’t miss the trio concert in Santa Lucia square every Thursday at 9 p.m. If you are interested in learning more about trova music, why not visit the museum dedicated to the history of these romantic ballads and local composers, Museo de la Cancion Yucateca, Calle 57 No. 464-A x 48. Open: Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Trips to Merida


Palacio Canton, home of the Regional Museum, Paseo Montejo, Merida

Thomas More Travel offers day trips and overnight stays to Merida. If you plan to rent a car and make your own way there, Merida is 320 km/200 miles from Cancun and the drive takes around three and a half hours by car on the toll road and four hours or more depending on traffic on Highway 180. Flights also are available from Cancun.