Suppose you had a jones to retire in Mexico, wanted to do so in a city that had lots of things to do, but the idea of a city the size of Mexico City was just way too intimidating. Where would you go?

For a lot of expat wanna be’s, the answer seems to be Merida.

It’s too big to be a quaint little town, with a population of 900,000 plus and a metro area of around 1.3 million. Big enough for cultural diversity, but not stupid crowded like Mexico City at 20 million plus. Many sources name it as the safest city in Mexico, and it is well rated for quality of life and as a place to do business. The chief complaint is that it gets damned hot in the summer (average highs in the mid 90s, humidity in the 70 percentiles).

In the Merida area the Mayans had been around for a couple thousand years, culminating in a city called T’hó. Remember a couple posts back when I was talking about Campeche? Francisco de Montejo (the younger), the same Spanish dude that finished up the conquest of the Yucatan and established Campeche also captured T’hó. In 1542 he established Merida on that site, and pulled down the Mayan structures for raw materials to build up a Spanish settlement. Merida became the capital of Montejo’s regional settlements and remains the capital of the state of Yucatan to this day.

Cathedral of Merida

As for the old Mayan city, almost nothing remains, unless you consider things like the Catheral of Merida, constructed from Mayan building materials. This cathedral is considered the oldest in the America’s, and the first to be completed in the 16th century. (Construction was from 1562-1598).

Cathedral interior

For a brief period, around the turn of the 20th century, Mérida was said to house more millionaires than any other city in the world. This is thanks to the production of what our local guide called sisal [si saul], an agave based plant that provides fibers used to make rope, twine, mats, nets – you get the idea. The plantation owners got rich – at least until synthetics took over the market. Technically, they used henequen (Agave fourcroydes) rather than sisal (Agave sisalana), a close cousin. Another regional cousin, Agave tequilana, is used to make a certain liquor…

A nice place on mansion row…
… and another.

These days most of the plantations have gone to ruin, and the only folks who can keep up the mansions are the new rich and other businesses that can afford expensive toys (banks, insurance companies, etc.)

But even the lesser “mansions” are targets for gentrification.

A street in the process of gentrification

One can only assume the local Mexicans have mixed feelings about all this. You think the inflation you’re seeing is bad?

One thing that wasn’t hard to find was shopping. Street side shops displayed wares of many flavors.

Piñatas, and other party animals

But even they couldn’t hold a candle to market areas – buildings and their surroundings that were packed to the gills with kiosks, with many of the kiosks packed to the gills with a wide variety of stuff. American malls are mere posers.

Services were available as well. There wasn’t just an entire section of shoe shops, there were also cobblers who could fix your shoes on site and on demand, and probably build a pair to order. And if you weren’t happy with the work, they could arm wrestle you for a price break.

There were other things to see.

Monument to the Fatherland
Kissing chairs
Pasaje a la Revolución

And in one building, free access to a showing of Marc Chagall artworks. That guy was versatile. I recognized his name from a prior trip to Germany back in 2015, where we stumbled through a maze to find stained glass windows he’d done in the church of St. Stephan.

Here, he’s doing paintings. Watercolor, maybe? It’s a slide show. Click the arrows to navigate.

Historically, visitors to the area have been known to have a real blast. A famous one in particular, an entity of meteoric proportions went clubbing about 25 miles north of Merida by the coast, and they’re still telling stories about it 65 million years later. Yep, it was the comet that ended the dinosaurs. Chicxulub crater and a ring of cenotes are the main remaining scars from that party.

I wonder if the meteor considers itself an expat? It did retirement in a major way.


31 thoughts on “Merida

  1. Excellent album, Dave. I especially like the 2nd shot of the cathedral, almost eerie. And Chagall’s Ten Commandments, with Moses looking kind of sly, like he ditched the other Ten and is waiting to see if anyone notices. I could probably be persuaded to retire to one of those mansions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Regarding the second cathedral shot; every now and then I’ll dig into the presets collection to get out of the usual post-process flow. That one looked interesting so I milked it. (Or spooked it?) One thing I have to give to Merida, it got me away from all the Mayan ruin pictures for a change…


  2. Monument to the Fatherland is stunning.
    Great photos and interesting post. When I first read the title, thought it was Mérida in Venezuela, which I’ve travelled to, then I thought maybe Mérida in Argentina – all in a split second of course. 😉 But, I started reading and realised to discover it’s Mexico’s Merida – I’m sure there are a few…

    Expats are everywhere and some never leave, so why are they “ex-pats” and not migrants or immigrants?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The monument is impressive in real life too. Nice warm colors. Unfortunately the graffiti sticks out a bit more in color as well (and I thought the patterns would look good in B/W).

      Good question about the expats. Do they have to promise it’s only temporary?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Graffiti tends to look better in B&W as it does detract, but then again, it depends on which it is plastered.
        Well, that’s what I always thought, but when I was in Italy, there was an air of self-importance and looking down one’s nose at the locals. Not everyone of course but saw this also in Spain and SE Asia. It’s almost as if the label “expats” is better than migrant, etc….just my observation.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great photos and another interesting post that makes me want to visit the place. I suspect the Chagall watercolors reflects the presence of those millionaires, past and present. I have only seen Chagall’s work at the National Gallery in D.C. and perhaps at the Metropolitan in New York.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great shots, Dave. That really looks a place I’d like to explore. And Chagall is superb. There’s actually a little church a few miles away from us with windows he created: and

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d heard that Merida was a very cool city to visit, with a very diverse population. I can see where it would be an attractive place to retire! I do feel sorry for the locals, though, if all those new people mean that prices are being driven up beyond their means. It seems there’s a downside to almost everything…perhaps a balance can be reached?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a tough nut to crack, and one that Portland has a problem with as well. It got too popular, too much gentrification, not enough housing. Prices have gone way up and many are being priced out or becoming homeless. (On top of the crowd that would likely be homeless anyway, due to mental or social issues.) I’d say that’s our biggest problem these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. IF I ever considered being an “expat”, it wouldn’t be Merida. I lean more toward the quaint towns (little being the operative word.) Good grief even my current location is starting to get a bit more gentrified than I might prefer.
    Then again the words “damned hot in the summer” snuffed any yearnings. Though it does look like it’s reasonably close to the Gulf. Somehow your post has me wondering about hurricanes or a repeat meteor? 🥴
    Seems like there’s really no perfect place on earth, is there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Perfect” varies from one person to the next, and maybe even from one day to the next for each person. If there was a universally “perfect” place, it would likely end up too crowded…


  7. I’ve come across a good number of articles about growing dissatisfaction in Mexico with the number of people coming from El Norte: not tourists willing to spend and leave, but people suddenly able to work from “home” and re-establish that home wherever they please. One of my co-workers is from Monterrey and still has family there. He says people are beginning to see it as a weird sort of colonialism: the same people who rail against colonialist history of various sorts are moving in and acting just like — well, colonialists. What comes around, goes around, I guess.

    That cathedral is splendid; the stonework is fabulous. I’d love to see some of Chagall’s windows. A friend was able to visit Reims, and said it’s the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. When I saw the picture on the wall next to the shoe repairman, with the picture of the shoe and the word ‘calzado,’ the first thing that came to mind is that delicious treat known as a calzone. A calzone does look rather like a shoe, and sure enough: the word ‘calzone’ is Italian and is derived from the Latin word “calceus,’ or shoe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if you could consider gentrification the same as colonization if it’s in the same country?

      Chagall’s windows in St. Stephens (Manz, Germany) were spectacular – worth the effort of finding the place in the winding streets of an old European city.

      I didn’t make the connection between calzado and calzone, but yeah, a calzone does look a bit like a clown shoe (only much tastier!)


  8. An excellent introduction to Merida, Dave. I had never thought about this as a destination, but I could see myself living there. While gentrification is often viewed as a negative, especially for the locals, there is also something to be said for it if it embraces the culture of the place without damaging its essence (defined by the locals and their history), a fine line to walk. Still, your photos are mesmerizing in their beauty and history. The pictures of the cathedral are incredible, but the image of the Pasaje a la Revolución makes me want to be there :-). One positive for me, actually, is the weather, the 90-degree – 70% humidity is something I’ve experienced before and is a little energizing (granted, those were in my younger days!). Great post and photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Randall. Interestingly enough, the image of the Pasaje a la Revolución turned out much more interesting than the place itself. Nothing like high contrast B/W to create a little drama. I think I could handle mid 80s and 70%, but mid 90s? Not so much.


    1. Even so, there were quite a few days in the PNW this summer when I was very happy to have A/C. One of the things that amazes me in many of the hot climates I’ve visited is how many of the natives wear long pants.


    1. Thanks, Denise. I suspect a lot of the success of the photos on this one might be post-processing choices. I remember the first time I traveled internationally, back in 1980, being impressed with architecture, mainly due to its age and the fact it wasn’t just plain boxes with plain windows.


  9. Another great travelogue, Dave. I’d be claustrophobic in those markets. That Monument to the Fatherland is an amazing piece of architecture. Knowing that Chagall often had his wife in his works I’d say he was impressed with a certain aspect of her beauty judging by these paintings.
    Obviously Merida did not have a Historic Preservation Act in place when all those Mayan ruins were ruined.

    Liked by 1 person

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