Few cities in Mexico can compete with Mérida for the sheer amount of archaeological remains.
Many of the grand pyramids and temples that once stood in what today is Mérida have succumbed to the ravages of time and pillaging. However, there are still a great many sites to explore in Yucatán’s capital city.
One of the largest concentrations of Prehispanic archaeology in Mérida can be found in the settlement known as Chen Hó — often described as one of the area’s oldest elite suburbs of Maya antiquity.
But like today, large civic and ceremonial centers don’t exist in isolation. Smaller surrounding communities to house and feed the principal settlement are indispensable.
Near Chen Hó are several examples of structures that likely existed in mainly agricultural settings used to store crops and house their own workers and elites.
One of the best examples of these support settlements can be visited at the archaeological site known as El Cerrito, which translates in Spanish as “a little hill.”
At El Cerrito, it is possible to observe two structures of considerable size atop a large artificial platform, which suggests that these constructions likely fulfilled multiple roles, including a ritual/ceremonial purpose.
The largest structure atop the artificial platform is a pseudo pyramid with a series of broad and long steps leading to its summit. Looking closely, it’s possible to see the remains of stucco and some red paint, hinting at what it must have looked like in its prime.
The second structure atop the artificial platform demonstrates features that suggest it was likely a residence, though, at times, it may have also been used to store crops such as maize and squash.
Another interesting feature of El Cerrito is its Puuc architecture, which is most prominently on display on the facade of the second structures surviving decor.
Though the Puuc architecture of El Cerrito indicates the site as seen today was constructed sometime in the 6th century onward, archaeological research suggests that this location and perhaps even its artificial platform date to the 1st century BCE.
To the south of El Cerrito are the remains of a settlement known as Misne, which appears to have been similar but has yet to be restored.
The extensive damage to Misne is likely the result of pillaging during the construction of the nearby hacienda of the same name.
Slightly to the west of Misne are the remains of an urban archaeological site known as Las Tumbas.
As its name suggests, Las Tumbas gets its name from the fact that during excavations, archeologists discovered the bodies of several elite members of Prehispanic society adorned with jade that was imported from the Mayan highlands in what today is Guatemala.
It is far more likely than not that this complex was surrounded by other structures, perhaps even a ceremonial center, but the damage to the area is far too extensive to ever be certain.
If you go
All of the sites in this article are open to the public 24/7, as they are within municipal parks.
Though they are all close to each other, moving around in a car is still the best way to experience them, unless on a “winter’s day” on foot or bicycle — which actually sounds like fun. Just be careful at intersections.