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CULTURS NEXT EXCITING TRAVEL DESTINATION: MERIDA, YUCATAN.

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MEXICO.

The most Southern country of the North American continent is known for its popular tourist areas, beaches and fantastic food and drink. Culturs, however, prefers to get into the local scenes, tucked away spaces and little-known history of each destination we visit. With this in mind, this travel destination of Merida, Yucatan, was inspired by the hometown of our designer, Diana Vega, and her amazing family.

The Yucatán Peninsula is located in the southeastern region of Mexico, just shy of Central America. The area is steeped in tradition, architecture, Mayan history and natural wonders. Mérida is the state’s capital city and is well known for its colorful mansions and colonial buildings.

The country boasts 32 states, on which we will focus on two travel destinations: Yucatan, which is home to Merida (The Vega Family stomping grounds), a storied and historic city with simple tastes of yesteryear. A stroll through its streets evokes the calm of a quiet Sunday, while its well-worn buildings and cobblestone thoroughfares impart a peacefulness as vast as the gentle soul of its people.

We’ll take you through some of these streets, then walk you through a dinner party with traditional Yucatan foods and provide the tools to create a dinner party of your own. Traditional recipes are shared in Spanish and English thanks to Vega and her family’s matriarch (who expertly infuses a depth of love into meal preparation that each feast feeds not only their bodies but their spirits as well).

The Vega parents (L to R): Gertrudis Basto and Ruben Vega at Progresso, the only beach in Merida’s vicinity, about 20 minutes from the city. The popular locale abounds with art, fishing, beaches, shopping and surfside restaurants.

Dinner time in Merida, Yucatan is “family time” when everyone, including the family’s excitable puppies, comes together until their souls are full. Good times, love and laughter are as much “staples” as the “oooos” and “aaaaahs” that linger in the air as steam rises from freshly prepared dishes.

The next travel destination, we saunter through Jalisco in Central Mexico to walk you through the centuries-old art of tequila making – small-batch, cured and done the way they used to in the old times. We finish with downloadable templates online for you to recreate a Yucatan-inspired feast and tequila inspired or festive non-alcoholic drinks of your own.

Centote Yaxbacaltun in Merida, Yucatan.

NATURE, INSPIRED.

One of the closest of many beaches to Mérida is Playa Progreso. Throughout the Peninsula, there is a world of awe-inspiring Cenotes (pronounced Sey-note-tay), which are sinkholes formed when part of the surface layer of earth collapses. These sinkholes create underground caves with natural swimming pools that appear out of nowhere, boasting stalactites hanging from their ceilings and blue-green waters that offer a refreshing respite from the blazing sun and humid air above-ground. These subterranean wonders are said to have been sacred to the Mayans. The wondrous caves are popular destinations, with some having restaurants, hotels and parks built around them to attract citizens and tourists alike.

Mexico is known for its life-sized letters in advertising throughout its major cities. 

RICH IN MANY WAYS.

As the financial capital (as well as the state capital) and official cultural center, Mérida historically has been called the White City as a nod to its abundant white buildings and the traditional white clothes worn by inhabitants. Guayaberas are worn by men (the cotton shirts with tell-tale vertical seams are perfect for the hot, humid weather). At the same time, women sport the Yucatecan terno – traditional white dresses with extravagant embroidered flowers.

A young woman wears the Yucatecan terno – traditional white dresses with its signature of extravagantly embroidered flowers.

Walking through the Zocalo area known as Plaza Grande, one finds churches, markets, museums, restaurants and hotels. At el Barrio de Santa Ana (previously a space where artisans and laborers would meet) sits Calle 60 or 60th street, with its 400-year-old church devoted to the patrona who has the same name as the neighborhood.

Monumento a la Patria- An iconic monument along Paseo de Monteo – was sculpted by Romulo Rozo. At night, colorful light shows add even more interest.
Photo: Doni Aldine

TRAVEL DESTINATION: MERIDA, YUCATAN – PASEO MONTEJO

This massive avenue is a hallmark of Merida. Inaugurated in 1904, it is more than six kilometers long, making it one of the state’s longest streets. The name honors Francisco de Montejo, who founded Merida in 1542. A leisurely stroll along the tree-lined boulevard uncovers much of what makes the city special: Houses, monuments, stores and landmarks line both sides of this majestic six-lane main street and offer much to see and do.

French inspiration is obvious throughout the street and on the mansions that were once upper-class properties that now house restaurants, boutique hotels and museums. This colossal avenue closes its roadway for various sports, recreational and cultural activities during weekends, including concerts, races, and carnival.

Canton Palace
Photo: Doni Aldine

TRAVEL DESTINATION: MERIDA, YUCATAN – CANTON PALACE

This historic butter-yellow building was first the residence of the general Francisco Cantón, governor of Yucatán. It now is the Museo Regional de Antropología and features a permanent exhibition on pre-Hispanic Mayan society, temporary exhibitions, educational workshops and serves as a venue for cultural events.

According to Visit Mexico, the building keeps the neo-French style both on the inside and outside, with many of its decorative elements brought from Europe. In its boom years, the building was a reference to the Yucatán high society. Historians cite the wasting of resources that led descendants to bankruptcy, so they lost the palace and deeded the property to the Yucatán government.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT:

An ideal time to experience “The White City” (La Cuidad Blanca) and escape the intense heat and humidity is,

*December to February.*

The next best time is 

*March to May.*

Though the temperature starts to rise during these months and rainy days begin.

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