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Merida possesses a unique duality of old and new, perceived in its modern development and its respect for tradition. Simply walking along Merida's peaceful streets or parks is a stirring experience for its visitors.
Merida is the gateway to the invaluable historic legacy of colonialism and indigenous culture of the Yucatan Peninsula. Also known as the ''White City'', there is a lot to do and see in Merida, with its culture and tradition touching anyone who visits it. Merida offers cultural activities throughout the year, from chamber music and jazz to plays, art exhibits, and even graffiti contests. For that reason, it was named the ''The American Capital of Culture'' in the year 2000.
Merida is one of the most important cities financially and politically speaking in the southeast of Mexico.
Statistics show the quality of life here is now one of the best in the country. Located north of Yucatan State, Merida has no rivers or lakes on its surface. It has, however, countless underground rivers and cenotes (sinkholes, fresh water reservoirs) that supply the city with this vital fluid.
Meridians are proud of their city and its beautiful architecture, inspiring cuisine (one of the most acclaimed in the country) as well as the surrounding natural scenery, their graceful dances and folk music, and of course, their delicate regional costumes embroidered with colorful flowers.
Moreover, Merida is the starting point of a series of adventure journeys into Yucatan and its archaeological treasures. Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltun and other natural jewels, such as the underground cave systems Lol-tun and Balankanche, as well as numerous cenotes. These natural pools are part of the landscape, which are well worth a visit and can be found and explored throughout the state.
Merida was founded in 1542, on a Mayan dwelling, known then as T'ho, which had been long since abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived here. Soon after, the Spanish named their settlement Merida because of the similarities they found between this town and one that exists on the Iberian Peninsula, allied to the Romans in 25 B.C.
After having destroyed the Mayan city of T'ho, the Spanish used the stones from the temples to erect their European colonial style buildings, which are still standing to this day and can be visited on your walking tour of the historic downtown district of Merida.
During the first part of the 20th century, Merida experienced an economic boom, with its henequen plantations. Henequen is a tropical plant of the agave family that yields a coarse fiber used in making rope and twine. This golden age brought electricity and the trolleybus transportation system to streets Merida, which, at the time, had not even started in Mexico City yet. Merida's main street, the charming El Paseo de Montejo is filled with luxurious mansions, many of which have become government ministries, museums, banks, and private enterprises.
Museums, parks, markets, shopping malls, boutiques, handcrafts, and traditional clothing make Merida a vibrant city from dawn to dusk. In the evenings, it lights up with sidewalk cafes, fine restaurants, serenades, concerts, discos and nightclubs, all part of the charm. Enjoy riding around the downtown area in horse-drawn carriages.
All through the day, you can savor delicious specialties that have positioned Yucatan's cuisine as one of the very best in the country. Merida's cuisine is a blend of traditional Mayan cooking with European influences. Delectable dishes such as cochinita pibil, relleno negro, and sopa de lima, along with an array of appetizers including fish and seafood specialties can be found throughout Yucatan, as well as at the markets, eateries, restaurants and bars of Merida.
Music and folk dancing performances take place in restaurants, theaters, parks and public courtyards, or tour the famous Paseo de Montejo, a charming avenue that resembles the Champs Elysees in Paris. Merida has all kinds of lodging options for different budgets. It has small inns with basic amenities and quaint, quality hotels, as well as world class luxury hotels, all with warm and hospitable service.