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Friday, May 20, 2022

Parque Hidalgo: French aesthetic and history in a Mérida park

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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.

As a public space lover, I would include the long corridor of parks along Calle 60 to my must-visit list for anyone discovering Mérida. 

We’ve already covered many famous parks in the city, starting with Santa Ana, passing Santa Lucía and the Parque de la Madre

Intersection of Calle 60 and Calle 59, where Parque Hidalgo sits. Photo: Verónica Garibay

But just a couple meters away from this new-wave feminist space, you find the French-inspired Parque Hidalgo. 

This park sits at the intersection of Calle 60 and 59 and has existed since the city was first laid out. Its first recorded name was Plazuela de Jesús due to its proximity to the Jesuit temple to its east.

Monument to Manuel Cepeda Peraza, in the middle of Hidalgo Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

According to archaeologist Manuel Cirerol Sansores, the name Hidalgo emerged around 1847, when the Guerra de Castas began. A group of indigenous people hid in a barrack next to the present-day Daniel Ayala Theater. They were called Hidalgos, which in heraldry is the lowest degree of nobility. As many of their activities took place in this park, it began to be known as Hidalgo’s Park until it became Hidalgo Park.

Behind the trees, the facade of the “Gran Hotel”, built in the late XX century. Photo: Verónica Garibay

As time went by, the French aesthetic adopted in the country during El Porfiriato arrived in Mérida. This picturesque style influenced many iconic buildings in the center of the city, some of which were built in this park. 

Facade of “Hotel Mansión Mérida” in the southern face of the Park. Photo: Verónica Garibay

In the 20th century, the Gran Hotel was built on the south side of the square, which was the first to function as a hotel with all the luxuries of the time. To this day, the hotel contains bronzes, lamps, and furniture from the Belle Époque. 

Entrance to the “Gran Hotel.” Photo: Verónica Garibay

To its left sits the Fantasio Theater, which opened in 1952 and saw the emergence of some of the most important regional actors. 

At the center of the park, we find a stepped monument to Yucatecan Manuel Cepeda Peraza, founder of the State’s Literary Institute. In 1869, a decree was approved to erect a monument in memory of the republican hero.

Detail of the plaque on the Manuel Cepeda Peraza monument. Photo: Verónica Garibay

Since then, every March 3, the city holds a tribute to the general in this spot.

Towers of the Church “Rectoría Jesús de la Tercera Órden”, in front of the east face of the park. Facade of the “Gran Hotel”, built in the late XX century. Photo: Verónica Garibay

To the east was the home of Rodrigo Flores de Aldana, governor of Yucatán in 1662 — the first two-story building in the city.

Peek of the building once belonging to Rodrigo Flores de Aldana. Photo: Verónica Garibay

An interesting detail a tourist guide shared with me is that when facing the south wall of the Jesuit church you can appreciate the solid construction of the temple, which includes several stones from the Mayan buildings of ancient T’oh— the Mayan name for what today is the city of Mérida.

Detail of the stones seen in the southern wall of the church. Towards the center-right, we can see a stone with a Mayan design. Photo: Verónica Garibay

This city’s corner became the favorite of many students thanks to its proximity to the state’s university and the Literary Institute. But today it is still one of the most visited parks in the area as it is within walking distance of the Plaza Grande and a meeting ground between many artistic and cultural institutions. 

With its vast history and stunning views, it is definitely worth a stop on any given stroll along Calle 60.

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