Mérida, Yucatán — About 150 English-speaking passengers presented their tickets at the old railroad station on Saturday. They didn’t board a train.
They took an imaginary trip to the past – learning about the neighborhood’s once-central role in Yucatán’s lucrative henequen era. And then they headed into the future, learning about the Central Park that neighbors have been campaigning to see at the La Plancha district.
The tour was organized by Gran Parque La Plancha A.C. and sponsored by Parques de Mexico and Yucatán Expat Life.
Tours of the former station included various talks on ecological issues, history and architecture.
Visitors learned about the old station, built between 1913 and 1920 by the English architect Charles J.S. Hall, and is considered perhaps the only example in Mérida of the neocolonial style promoted by the government at the time.
This building was restored by the state government in 2007 and is now the seat of a state-run art school.
The tour began at 8:30 a.m. after the visitors were registered and formed groups of 10 to 15 people with a translator. Dr. Marco Aurelio Díaz Güémez guided them through the old station.
The talks were offered in the various rooms of the central building.
In Room 1, Dr. Díaz Güémez spoke about “The Train Era.” In Room 2, Dr. Gonzalo Navarrete Muñoz spoke about “The Green Gold of Yucatan” and in Room 3, Dr. Marco Tulio Peraza Guzmán and Luis Romahn explained the Gran Parque La Plancha concept promoted by neighbors and academics to transform the 60-acre field behind them into a public park.
“Three Generations on the Railroad” was the talk that awaited them in room 4, in charge of the Engineer Roger Emilio Gómez Chimal.
To complete the tour, visitors were guided to the nearby Railway Museum, the former Sanctuary Rendón Peniche and Parque La Mejorada.
Felix Rubio Villanueva, member of the Gran Parque La Plancha civil association board, and Gabriela Novelo Ávila, who collaborated on the project with Jack Robinson and Catherine Rael, told Diario de ¥ucatán that one objective is to show the foreign community the architecture, history and wealth of the city.
Robinson and Rael, who arrived here from San Francisco, were the first foreigners to take up residence in the La Plancha neighborhood. Rael estimates about 200 expats now live in the area, according to Diario.
The vast majority of more than 150 attendees — 50 more than expected to show up — are residents of the area who felt that the project would contribute ecological and cultural benefits while keeping its history alive.
Proponents call the park a potential “green lung” where young and old can meet for exercise, take a walk or just relax with family and friends. The site is a rarity for the crowded Centro — a massive open space. Between Calles 55 and 43, and Calles 48 and 46, the site would appear perfectly positioned to become a forested park with walking paths, botanical and community gardens, playing fields, and a bicycle lane.
The federally owned parcel is tied up in a dispute between the government and a concession holder.