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Merida lost 35% of its historic buildings in the last decade

Arrival of foreigners is reversing the trend, says new president of Ayerac

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Ruins are still common in Merida’s historic center. Photo: Sipse

Merida, Yucatan — The city lost over a third of its historic buildings in the last 10 years, said Barbara Escamilla Ojeda, the new president of the Yucatecan Association of Conservation Specialists Civic Association (Ayerac).

Merida’s Historic Center is one of the biggest in Latin America, surpassed only by Mexico City and Havana, Cuba. It is a 3.5-mile area anchored by the Plaza Grande, the main square. Merida’s Centro Historico contains about 20,000 properties with historical value, of which between 3,000-4,000 are ruins, according to one survey.

But losing 35% of its historic homes in the last 10 years is a stunning statistic.

Escamilla Ojeda admitted that rescuing large houses from rotting away is complicated when the owners have little interest or resources to restore them.

However, she said the arrival of foreigners to the center of Merida has reversed the decades-long trend. They have greater purchasing power and interest in rescuing sites that they consider to be of great cultural and historical value, said Escamilla Ojeda.

She estimated that between 15 and 20 of the buildings in Merida’s Historic Center, whose facades have collapsed in recent years, can be incorporated into the municipal restoration plan that has brightened streetscapes for years.

The new leader pledged to continue to work toward conservation and dissemination of Merida’s cultural heritage, as it has since its foundation 10 years ago.

The group aided the restoration of the arches of the Historic Center of the city, has mounted temporary exhibitions and organized guided tours of the General Cemetery.

“We will continue with courses and workshops in schools so that, from an early age, people are made aware of the importance of care and conservation of our cultural heritage,” she concluded.

With information from La Jornada Maya

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