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Monday, February 6, 2023

Ermita Park– The start of the original road to Campeche

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
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.

La Ermita de Santa Isabel, in Mérida’s San Sebastián neighborhood, looks straight out of a soap opera. This recovered temple is the crowning jewel of the park of the same name, the beating heart of San Sebastian.

Students and walkers stand under the shadows of the Ermita park trees. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Its yellow church, French cobblestone streets, and botanical garden are testimony of the passing of time throughout the capital. Visited by locals at the end of the Biciruta every Sunday, the park gathers the culture and history experienced in its surrounding streets.

Decorations are still up over the park and church. The Ermita is often adorned during Day of the dead. Photo: Verónica Garibay

The main square of the neighborhood was remodeled a few years ago and has since enhanced the beauty that characterizes this place. 

The yellow temple was named Santa Isabel in homage to the mother of San Juan Bautista. Although the date of its foundation is not known with precision, the inscription over the main door marks 1748.

Local folklore tells that tourists often pay their respects to the temple after visiting the city. Photo: Verónica Garibay

It was built by Gaspar González de Ledezma (XVII century) with the manifestation that the construction of a temple was more valid than piety and devotion to a saint, to gain entrance to heaven.

The Santa Isabel temple finished around 1748. Photo: Verónica Garibay

This site also came to be known as “Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje” (Our Lady of the Good Journey) due to its location on the side of the royal road that led to Campeche and other communities. Nowadays, it is customary for travelers to come to give thanks when they visit Mérida.

The church is small but cozy. On the right side of the building, one finds access to its botanical garden. The site is famously used for gatherings and open-aired events all throughout the years, especially during Day of the Dead festivities.

The botanical garden is closed during the week, but is sometimes open during the weekends, for Sunday’s biciruta. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Once you visit the chapel you can walk through the surrounding streets, especially the one behind the church. If you follow the French cobblestone path you will see restored houses from the colonial era. Most of them have their facades remodeled and colorful but without structural changes for the preservation of each one.

Many government offices are within the area. The Mayan language academy sits straight across the main park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Although the neighborhood was formerly known to be one of the furthest ones from the Centro, it has gained lots of attention in the past couple of years.

Newer businesses attracting international attention have started popping up around the park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Modern businesses and developments have started popping up around the park, and boutique rentals and services have appeared in its surrounding streets. One of them is Casa Vagantes, who has recently installed a new location in the area.

Returning to the park, its kiosk and gardens are the ideal places to enjoy a snack.

The kiosk is often protagonist of the celebrations held in the park. During the Hanal Pixan, altars are displayed inside. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Two blocks from the Ermita church you will find the San Sebastian Park, where you can find typical regional snacks every night: salbutes, panuchos, turkey broths, and such.

Colorful streets and homes surround the main square of the neighborhood. In some streets and corners, one finds murals, illustrations, and vendors. Photo: Verónica Garibay

However, it is not uncommon to find a marquesita stand or a hotdog cart right in the park during the afternoon. Whether you visit after a long day of biking or during a larger event, it is a must on your Mérida passport.

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