Are you looking for an exciting place to explore while in Mérida? Look no further than the Santa Lucia Neighborhood! Located in the heart of Mérida, the Santa Lucia Neighborhood is a great place to experience Mexican culture and local life. With its vibrant streets, diverse restaurants, and unique shops, it’s easy to see why the Santa Lucia Neighborhood is one of the most popular areas of Mérida. Here are the top reasons to visit the Santa Lucia Neighborhood in Mérida.
Santa Lucia Church
The patron saint of Santa Lucia dates to the 4th century. A bright-eyed young woman was born in Italy. As was common at that time, a dowry was given to her husband upon their marriage. Before the wedding, her fiancé asked her to denounce her faith. Because she did not do this, she was arrested, tortured, and blinded. The etymology of her name is “lux” (Latin) translated to light. She is known as the patron saint of the blind.
Dating back to the founding of the city, Santa Lucia was home to one of the first churches built in Merida in 1542. The closest Colonia north of Plaza Grande, Santa Lucia plays an important role in the history of Mérida. When Franciscan missionaries claimed jurisdiction over the Maya, they forbade civil authorities from forcing them into labor. Instead, they imported slave labor from Cuba and other Caribbean islands.
The History of Santa Lucia Neighborhood
Santa Lucia was the neighborhood designated for the black and mulatto slaves. This was the part of town where they lived, worshiped, and celebrated. One of the few cultural permissions granted in the Santa Lucia neighborhood was the playing of drums. It was not uncommon to hear singing and the soft drumbeats wafting through the neighborhood streets.
In 1804, Governor Perez Valdelomar initiated the construction of the plaza that faces Santa Lucia Church. It was his intention to beautify the state capital by transforming the “foul and disgusting pigsty” of Santa Lucia.
The Beginnings of Santa Lucia Park
Much turmoil resulted from construction of the plaza and the relocation of the residents of Santa Lucia. They were met with discrimination in other neighborhoods. Some had to endure long commutes back to attend mass at Santa Lucia once they relocated. They were forbidden to enter the main cathedral, San Ildefonso.
Fearing an uprising, Governor Perez Valdelomar made it clear that any civil disobedience would be met with a ban on playing drums. However, as part of the project, the cemetery was demolished. It was never explained why or where the dead would be moved. This was seen as an act of desecration. Drums beat in protest and several groups started engaging in practices that eventually became Santeria.
Between April and June of 1867, Santa Lucia was one of the last scenes of bloody combats during the final days of the conquistadors.
After this, further restoration commenced of the park including the market (now the location of distinctive restaurants), lighting, a monument to Colonel Sebastian Molas, and the truncated obelisk.
Santa Lucia Market
As time passed, Santa Lucia became an area of trade and commerce. The central market of Mérida was located in Santa Lucia during the 20th century, attracting vendors from different regions of the Yucatan Peninsula. This market was the heart of Santa Lucia’s commercial activity, making it an important economic center in the city.
One of the characters in the Santa Lucia market was a food vendor called El Chino Mateo from southern China. He was very kind.
Unfortunately, he went bankrupt due to his generous nature with the poor children in the area. One of the hacenderos provided a job for him but it made him very sad. When asked what the problem was, he stated, “I can’t live without Santa Lucia!” If you have the chance to spend more time in this area, you may feel the same way as Santa Lucía has become one of Mérida’s most iconic parks.
Recent Restoration of Santa Lucia Park
In the late 20th century, the government undertook a restoration project, revitalizing the neighborhood’s cultural identity. Interestingly, the park you see today is a relatively recent development from 2010. Designed after the French tete-a-tete chairs, the “tu y yo” chair or kissing chair provided a way courting couples could maintain eye contact while being discreet and “decent”.
Today, Santa Lucia is a beautiful blend of history, art, culture, and architecture, making it an attractive destination for tourists and locals alike. Its historical significance, unique Afro-Mexican heritage, and its bustling commercial activity are just some of the reasons to visit Santa Lucia neighborhood in Mérida.
Santa Lucia Serenata
One of the cultural highlights of Santa Lucia is the weekly Serenata. Experience live music and dance performances in a festive atmosphere.
- Yucatecan Serenade – Calle 60 y 55
Every Thursday, from 9:00 to 10:00 pm, the Serenata is an open-air event with live music, local history: exhibiting traditional costumes and dancing since 1965.
Santa Lucia Recommended Restaurants
Sempere – Calle 62 # 479 x 55 y 57, 2nd floor
- A speakeasy-type literary cafe in Centro with a cool vibe. Upstairs close to the new Chaya Maya restaurant in Centro.
Pita – Calle 55 #496
- Mediterranean food with a colonial touch. Great enviroment to enjoy delicious food with vegetarian options.
MUGY – Calle 62 #466 x 55 y 57
- Every day at 3:00 pm, the chef removes cochinita pibil from the ground. Enjoy your sample!
Avec Amor – Santa Lucia Park
- Yucatecan & French fusion in a beautiful atmosphere in Santa Lucia Park in Centro. They have lunch specials & oustanding cocktails.
Soberana – Santa Lucia Park
- Great location in Santa Lucia Park with international & local favorites.
Carboni – Calle 64 #470
- Authentic Italian food with homemade pastas & sauces. Desserts & wine list are fabulous. Family owned restaurant with a beatiful patio.
Casa Yucatán – Calle 60 #445 x 49 y 51
- Multi-awarded & internationally recognized for his work in promoting Mexican cuisine, Executive Chef Ernesto Cab prepares local dishes with contemporary touches. ” So subtle & exquisite that they will enhance the meaning of Yucatecan food in the foreign palate…& will offer a whole new experience…” (AND WE AGREE!
Santa Lucia Nightlife
- Super chill spot behind the busy Santa Lucia park with capacity for only 20 patrons. “Malahat” was the name of a large lumber schooner from Vancouver, BC. Famous for rum-running on the US Pacific Coast between 1920 & 1933, she was known as “the Queen of Rum Row” because she was never intercepted by the Coast Guard. Malahat carries many varieties of distilled & fermented liquors, many of which are not available anywhere else in México. Advance RSVP required. Go to Apoala restaurant & someone there will take you to this hidden location.
La Bianca Tropical
- A tropical spot in the heart of the city to enjoy good vibes , a great menu, craft cocktails, live music, dancing, & dance lessons.
Despite the changing demographics and functions, the neighborhood of Santa Lucia remained one of Mérida’s most important cultural centers, known for its vibrant arts and cultural scene. Known for its colonial-style architecture, quaint parks, and colorful streets home to many art galleries and craft shops.
The people of Santa Lucia are warm and welcoming, with a strong sense of community and pride in their neighborhood. They often hold street fairs and community events, where visitors can mingle with locals and experience the lively atmosphere. Overall, the cultural offerings of Santa Lucia make it a must-visit neighborhood in Mérida, whether you are interested in music, dance, art, history, or simply want to soak up the vibrant local culture.