Merida is the cultural and financial capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as the capital city of the state of Yucatan.
Merida was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo, a Spanish Conquistador. It was built on the site of the Maya city of T'ho hills, which had been a center of Mayan culture and activity for centuries. Because of this, many historians consider Merida the oldest continually-occupied city in the Americas. Many of new city's buildings were constructed using stones expropriated from the Mayan ruins and some of those stones can still be seen today in the walls of Merida's main cathedral.
Called "the white city" because of the limestone construction of many of its buildings, Mérida is beautiful, clean and safe. It has a European air about it, perhaps because it is closer to the cosmopolitan culture of the Caribbean islands than to Mexico City. Being located inland, it was not subject to attack by pirates or foreign invaders, so it lacks the fortifications typical of many Mexican cities. Its central area was built with stones recovered from Mayan temples which the Spaniards destroyed. It has a beautiful Plaza Mayor (zócalo), bordered by government buildings and one of North America's oldest cathedrals (late 1500s), but unlike many Latin cities this is a landscaped and peaceful place for family relaxation, rather than one for official functions.
Unlike some Mexican cities where tourism is the main business, Mérida relies on poultry and hog farming in the surrounding area, textiles, light industry, museums, universities, and craft markets.
In 2000 it was officially designated "Cultural Capital of the Americas". Fiercely proud of their heritage, the residents consider it the cultural centre of the Mayan world, and usually call it "Mérida, Yucatan", without mentioning Mexico at all.
Merida is an inviting place to visit. In the past, it has only been a stopover on the way to the magnificent Maya ruins. Lately, more and more people have discovered what a great treasure the city is. Merida is a city rich in Mayan folklore and colonial history; a city of contrasting sights, cultural blends, and a warm friendly people.
Various tours, to suit every wallet or time-frame, to the most famous of all the Maya ruins.