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Parque de la Madre: Small Centro park turned feminist icon

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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.

The Parque Morelos, now mainly known as Parque de la Madre – mother’s park, shelters a replica of Charles Lenoir’s sculpture “Maternite.” 

Parque de la Madre, located on Calle 60, right after Teatro Peón Contreras. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Located on Calle 60, between 57-A and 59, it is a meeting ground between two of the most important theaters in the city: José Peón Contreras and Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

Plaque outside of Teatro Peón Contreras, next to the Mother’s Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Sitting only a couple of blocks away from Mérida’s main square, it has borne witness to many changes, advancements, and important events in Yucatecan history.

Theater Felipe Carrillo Puerto, right in front of Mother’s Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

In 1909, a group of Yucatecan intellectuals created the “Liga de Acción Social” — a cultural and social group. They soon developed close ties with the state government, developed programs and reforms intending to develop the city’s educational and labor fronts. They also became “keepers” of Yucatán’s culture and values.

Church of the Third Order, next to the Mother’s Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

In 1927, they proposed the establishment of the Mother’s Day celebration in Mérida, echoing the initiative of Ana María Jarvis in the United States. But it has been noted that their promotion came as a response to the feminist wave that originated in the state, thanks to the work of icons such as Rita Cetina Gutiérrez and Elvia Carrillo Puerto.

In an event that changed the perception of women in Mexico, 1916 saw the birth of the first feminist legislature in the country. In it, men and women interested in family planning and reproductive rights began offering workshops on venereal diseases and legal issues.

As a response, conservative groups promoted the creation of a day that celebrated the traditional view of motherhood, and in 1922 the Mexican government established May 10 as the national mother’s day.

In 1928, after the movement took on in the rest of the country, the league — with the support of the state, commissioned André Lenoir, son of Charles Lenoir, a replica of his piece “Maternité” made out of Carrara marble. 

Mother’s statue, a replica of Charles Lenoir’s “Maternite”, is in the center of Parque Morelos, commonly known as Mother’s Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

The figures of the sculpture represent a daily household activity: a mother preparing to bathe her baby while she contemplates her other son, who takes his brother’s hand and leans over for a kiss on the cheek. 

The construction of the pedestal supporting the piece was chiseled in stones from Ticul by the Tomassi López brothers, Leopoldo and Alfonso, both Yucatecan artists. 

Teatro Peón Contreras, viewed from Calle 60, before Mother’s park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

On one side of the pedestal is a marble slab which reads: “This monument was erected in homage to mothers by public subscription at the initiative of the Liga de Acción Social, who donated it to the city of Mérida on October 12, 1928.”

Below this legend, another one in French translated reads: “Reproduction of the original model belonging to the city of Paris.”

The monument was inaugurated in a multitudinous ceremony, which summoned the state’s main authorities as well as thousands of Meridanos – among them more than 2,000 children.

Sideview of Teatro Peón Contreras, right next to the Mother’s Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Just as the ambiance of the park has changed through time, so has the symbolism of the mother’s statue. For the past couple of years, it has been appropriated by feminist groups in different manifestations. For them, it is now a symbol of the segment of the women’s liberation movement that originated in the state.

Parque Morelos on a shadowy afternoon. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Today, the park has become an icon of the city. Its unbeatable location, next to one of the city’s most important theaters, opposite the Palacio de la Música and near restaurants and cafés, has turned into a must-see to anyone walking around the Centro.

Its many benches welcome tourists and locals alike, and it is often a crowded meeting ground after a play or a show. On the day-to-day, artists and street vendors usually gather in front of the statue and the surrounding benches. Painters, cartoonists, craftsmen — and the obligatory marquestia and esquite stands, are all present throughout the day. 

In front of the park, cafés and restaurants advertise events for possible visitors. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Before the pandemic, Calle 60 was closed on weekend nights, and restaurants and bars would place tables on the street and organize live entertainment for their customers. Today, the rate of walkers is slowly building back, as events and businesses start to open up. 

Regardless of the meaning one places behind the monument, this little corner of Mérida holds in it, and around itself, many years of history.

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