Mérida, Yucatán — Under the noon sun, young students occupy benches in the shade given by a few palm trees at Parque La Ermita.
Down the street, sun is so intense that the neighbors only look out the doors and windows of their houses and the bravest venture to nearby shops.
This corner of Mérida immediately captures the attention of those who visit it. The area, in the southern part of the Centro, is known for its colorful houses and old casonas, its cobblestone streets, its church and its tranquility. It’s as if La Ermita were miles from the city.
As with other old neighborhoods, such as Santa Ana, Santiago, Santa Lucia and La Mejorada, La Ermita has many foreign residents who have selected Mérida as a new or second home, renovating old mansions and adapting to the life of the community.
In a profile of the neighborhood, Diario de Yucatán writes that it is no longer strange for locals to watch Americans and Canadians ride their bicycles or walk down its streets, go to the market or participate in traditional events and parties.
Calles 66 and 64, south of Santiago and San Juan, have the most expats. Some of them have opened small art galleries or other businesses.
The park, the church and the San Juan Arch in the north end and the Hermitage of Santa Isabel in the south, forge an urban entity that offers authentic attractions for tourists and for the inhabitants of the entire city for its colonial charm.
Parque Velázquez — the official name of the Parque San Juan — leads directly to La Ermita, starting from the Arco de San Juan, through Calle 64 and 64-A, paved with French cobblestone in the second year of the administration of Gov. Luis Torres Mesías in 1965.
Power lines have been buried under many of its streets. allowing unobstructed views of the neighborhood’s lovely facades.
La Ermita is anchored by the park and by its church, built by D. Gaspar González de Ledesma in 1748. After the completion of the Camino Real in 1790, La Ermita was viewed as the jumping-off-point for the long and potentially perilous journey through the coastal jungle to Campeche. A gate leads into a cool, shady botanical garden.
Although it is usually called Ermita de Santa Isabel, the site is also known as Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje, or Our Lady of the Good Journey.
Sources: Diario de Yucatán, Jim & Carole’s Mexico Adventure, Wikipedia