Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Home of the first cathedral finished in the Americas

santiago church merida yucatan mexico

Above, Bells at the Top of the Facade of the Santiago Church in Merida

Under supervision of Spanish architects, Mayan laborers began building the Cathedral of Merida in 1562 with stones pillaged from one of their own temples. The cathedral was finished before the close of the 16th century and dedicated to the new outpost’s patron saint, San Ildefonso of Toledo (607-667).

As Ildefonso was conducting Mass in his role of Bishop of Toledo, Spain, brilliant light suddenly illuminated the entire church. Many of the celebrants fled in fear, but those who remained witnessed the Virgin Mary herself descend and enthrone herself at the altar. Grateful for his devotion and defense of her purity, she even gifted him with a splendid vestment, a chasuble, from her own son’s wardrobe. His association with the miraculous illumination must provide Merida with extra excuses to set off fireworks on his feast day, January 23.

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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Cuisine branches out beyond the expected

Above, Grilled Pulpo and Camarones at Peruano in Merida

It seems way too long since the blog offered any nourishment. This first restaurant post from Merida has little to do with traditional dishes of the Yucatan (Don’t worry, we’ll serve you some of those soon.).

Since the most recent food post was from Italy, we’ll begin the transition with a visit to an Italian enoteca – Oliva. Having been spoiled so recently, we hesitated to try this high-end Italian in Merida. We were richly rewarded though. Lamb ragu, cauliflower risotto and a beautifully delivered filet of sea bass all measured up to Italy. Of course, Oliva had me hooked with a special starring one of my favorite foods in the world – soft-shelled crab.
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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Colonial casa filled with mythical creatures

jacobo and maria angeles

Above collaboration: Photograph by Fernando Armenghol enhanced with oil and gouache by Jacobo and Maria Angeles of San Martin Ticaljete, Oaxaca

The façade of Casa de Montejo on Merida’s Plaza Grande is striking with its sculpted conquistadors armed with halberd axes dwarfing figures below representing those they conquered. The mansion dates from 1540 and was built on land Spain awarded to Francisco de Montejo (1479-1553) for his role in subjugating the Yucatan. The prominent residence was remodeled multiple times through the centuries and was purchased and restored by Citibanamex in 1981. The main portion of the casa is a cultural museum, with the bank tucking its operations tastefully off the back patio. Continue reading “Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Colonial casa filled with mythical creatures”