Colonia Mexico: A modernist survivor in the world of Yucatán architecture

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibay
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Thriving Colonia Mexico is home to a small park of the same name, cozy cafes, and multicultural restaurants — including Italian trattorias, Brazilian steakhouses, and Mexican seafood bistros. 

A neighborhood of great importance in the city, it emerged in the late 1940s, under the government of Ernesto Novelo Torres, but did not become relevant until the following decade. 

Wide streets and large trees shading the roads are common among Mérida’s oldest neighborhoods. Photo: Verónica Garibay

It was born as a project to provide the city with an area where houses could be built for the middle and working classes. In the 1950s, an unprecedented approach to designing domestic space began in Yucatán, driven by the presence of new architecture professionals.

Colonia Mexico, along with the Alemán, represent the bases of architectural modernism in Yucatán.

Colonial architecture begins to turn up in neighborhoods like the Colonia México, which began adopting the modernist new ways of the ’70s. Photo: Verónica Garibay

In 1945, the first precast concrete plant was installed in Merida, introducing a new construction system. This allowed a change in architectural design, as space measurements were determined by the size of the prefabricated structures. 

The park of la Colonia México holds a statue for Florence Terry Griswold, organizer of the first Pan American Round Table. Photo: Verónica Garibay

By 1949, concrete companies had already built a good number of houses in Colonia Mexico. As a result, there was a suppression of the ornamentation and variety of finishes on the walls. 

In the neighborhood, home proportions tend toward horizontality. They often incorporate a lighter feel in the roof or cover of the access porch, still maintaining its clear symmetrical lines. It is common to see a decrease in the diameter of the column that supports the access, in order to leave the entrance open— a novelty canceled, to some extent, decades later.

Porches of the properties are often shaded with a concrete slab, which became iconic of the style of the neighborhood. Bright colors eco the spirit of colonial areas like the Centro. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Houses are usually built leaving part of the land in front and on the sides, thus providing a high environmental quality enriched by the vegetation. This characteristic sets apart the properties from other neighborhoods in the city, particularly up north, where construction square meters are preferred.

In Yucatán Magazine: Parque De La Alemán — The bustling heart of one of Mérida’s original neighborhoods

In 1954, the Marista Brothers moved the Montejo School to neighboring Itzimná, which addressed a lack of educational facilities for the wealthy sector and helped to trigger the construction of residences for the wealthy class.

Contemporary buildings have started popping up around Colonia México. This modern take in minimalist architecture belongs to the electorate agency and sits right across the main park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

The new colonia began to be populated by the children of people who still lived in the old downtown neighborhoods or in areas not so far away, such as García Ginerés.

In other cases, entire families moved in, such as the Chapur family, who built several houses together so that the parents and children, who already had their own families, would be close by.

Popular local shops and cafés are thriving in the area. One of the most popular options is Manifesto Café, an Italian brewery just one block away from the park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

For the most part, the new residents were young married couples, already involved in the family businesses or just starting out in their professions. 

At present, the Mexico neighborhood, with all its annexes, comprises some 75 blocks. Its neighbors are: to the west, Colonia Buenavista; to the north, San Antonio Cinta III; to the east, Felipe Carrillo Puerto; and to the south, Itzimná.

Schools, churches, shops, and services are all within the few streets that make up the Colonia México. Its living heart, as is the story with many of Mérida’s oldest neighborhoods, continues to be the main park, of the same name. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Many of the people who arrived in the new colony owned businesses, companies, and industries that began to emerge with the incipient diversification of the local economy after the collapse of the henequen industry.

Thus, Colonia Mexico became witness to a rapidly changing society, with an emerging bourgeois class.

In Yucatán Magazine: Casa Hannah: A stylish gem in García Ginerés for US$180,000

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