Short History Lesson of Merida

Present day Merida was founded in 1542 by the son of Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo and named after the town in Spain from which he came. Before the arrival on the Spanish, the Maya town of T’ho stood where Merida now stands. T’ho was a bustling center of culture and the Spanish found it rich in buildings of lime-mortared stone. The Maya structures were dismantled and the same stones were used to build the cathedral and other municipal buildings.

In the 1800s Merida’s economy bloomed with haciendas cultivating henequen. Henequen, also known as Sisal was a fiber used for making rope that was referred to as Merida’s green gold, due to the money it brought to the region.

With the profits made by the export of henequen, the hacienda owners imported goods directly from Europe to Merida. Much of the architecture in the city, therefore, reflects the opulent European influence of the time, with Spanish courtyards, French doors and Italian-tiled floors.

While Merida is a city rich in traditions with gastronomy that evokes its Mayan past, a contemporary renaissance has been occurring for the last decade or so. Now home to design hotels, modern restaurants and an interesting art scene, Merida is gaining global attention as one of Mexico’s most popular cities.

Approximately 40% of the Merida’s almost 1 million strong population speak both Maya and Spanish. You might be lucky to find a friendly local who can teach you a few words in Maya.

Merida Visitor Information

Merida is one of the safest cities in Mexico, and the people are warm and friendly. While there is quite a lot of traffic, drivers are considerate and road rules are well followed. Merida is a relatively large city (12th most populous in Mexico) but it has the feel of a small close-knit community, which increases safety and friendliness. Tourist police also assist visitors in the Historic Center and can be identified by their uniforms, which are white and blue (regular police wear all blue).

Tourist information modules can be found at:

City Hall Information Center: Calle 62 between 61 and 63 in front of the city hall

Paseo de Montejo: Avenida Paseo de Montejo by Calle 33A