One thing lockdown has taught me is how important public spaces are.
In cosmopolitan cities like Mérida, parks are a great place to enjoy the shade under great trees and share a loaf of francés (a baguette) with the pigeons.
Walking around Centro we find many parks and public spaces to explore, and I’ve gladly taken the task of visiting, photographing, and researching them. The first of this series is El Parque de Santa Ana.
This park is a local favorite for its iconic marquesitas, quiet benches, and upbeat festivals, which all take part in the main explanada, or open-air plaza of the park.
In 1726, Gov. Antonio de Figueroa y Silva ordered the construction of a street from the Episcopal Palace — adjacent to the Cathedral of San Ildefonso — which gave continuity to the road that, until then, finished in the Santa Lucía neighborhood.
The project integrated Santa Ana into the historic center of Mérida, which meant a radical change that accelerated its development.
If you’ve known the area for a while, you would agree that it can feel like the border zone between the older Mérida and the more modern city up north. Today, the park and neighborhood of Santa Ana are on the corner of Calle 60 and 47 and include a church and a public market that go by the same name.
Shielded from the chaos of the Centro, the park is an oasis of quiet in the very center of the city. A once residential area, today it is full of stalls, shops, and vendors. Just across the street, shops and contemporary art galleries bring a touch of modernity to the plaza’s classic aesthetic.
On arrival, one is greeted by a shopping corridor selling local treats and artesanías. Next to it, we find the Mercado de Santa Ana, where traditional Yucatecan snacks are sold alongside aguas frescas — freshly squeezed juices and infusions.
In 1909, Santa Ana plaza was host to a speech by Francisco Madero, the famous revolutionary. For this reason, the plaza was formally christened Plaza de la Revolución. Though in all honesty, everybody refers to it as Plaza de Santa Ana.
In the center of the square, we find a monument to Andrés Quintana Roo, a lawyer, poet and politician, deputy and co-signer of Mexico’s Act of Independence.
If you walk across the plaza you will find your way to Santa Ana church. The building has a simple facade made entirely of stone and is topped by an iron cross and two pyramid-shaped bell towers at each end. Residents of the area like to brag that the old bell of the parish church has the best sound in the city.
The streets surrounding the park are busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, which creates an even larger contrast with the peaceful feeling one gets when visiting.
Homes of colorful facades, narrow streets, and smiling locals bring cheerfulness to a place that is quintessentially Mérida. Walk around, take a seat at a confidente chair, and enjoy an agua de lima in one of the city’s loveliest parks.