Originally a large tract of virgin land on the outskirts of Merida in the 1500’s the Santa Lucia Parque was home to one of the first churches built in Merida, the Church of Santa Lucia was built for the use of the slaves who had been brought from Africa. The commoners of Merida and area were interred in the atrium of the church. At the start of the 19th century, the Governer at the time decided that since the city had grown it was time to expand and they converted the land to the Parque de Santa Lucia.
The Parque is now a favourite place for Meridanos and expat alike. Full of little boutiques and restaurants and one heavenly chocolate store the quiet restful nature of the little parque draws many wandering the colonial streets of Mexico to relax and people watch.
Across from the parque there are several speciality shops and restaurants including ki’Xocolatl a sustainable chocolate business that began several years ago by two Belgian chocolatiers the Mathieu Brothers. Chocolate is sacred to the Mayans and the company maintains a fair trade business that has grown to include a Chocolate Museum. They grow their own cacao trees, their own spices and make their superb chocolate which is for sale in the shop.
A lovely boutique just off the Parque that sells handmade in Mexico items. From throws woven in Chiapas to huilpiles and handwoven baskets and much more. Prices are not cheap, but also not ridiculously expensive either and the money does go directly to the artisans.
There is often live entertainment in the parque. From the Yucatecan “Jarana” dancers accompanied by an orchestra. The musicians, singers and dancing “mestizos”, decked out in their colorful costumes begin the show at 9 PM.
Santa Lucia is not just a parque but it is a very exclusive neighbourhood and shopping area. There are houses to rent in the area and some lovely old colonial hotels. There is Jarana dancing, Trove Music and many other events held in the parque on a regular basis.
You can also find some of Merida’s finest dining in the Santa Lucia Parque. From Apoala which has as its slogan a“Passion for Mexican Flavors”. Sarah Arnaud and her brother Carlos who own the restaurant have created a fusion of their home state Oaxaca with Yucatecan ingredients and have created some genius dishes. The restaurant is also famous for its Mezcal collection which includes over 30 varieties. The name Apoala comes from the Náhuatl language and refers to the mythic tree from which the first man and woman were born of the Mixtec people of Oaxaca.
Merida was also where I had the best meal of my trip in Mexico. La Chaya Maya, opened only a year ago, and is now considered one of the best restaurants in the region. This gorgeous colonial villa has been completely restored and now hosts one of the best restaurants for authentic Yucatecan cuisine in Merida. You will see a lovely antique carriage in the middle of a beautiful courtyard that sits at the centre of the restaurant. The staff is dressed in traditional huipiles that are beautifully embroidered and you will notice a small table of women making fresh tortillas to be served in the restaurant.
We tried some absolutely delicious Panuchos which are corn tortillas that are split and stuffed with a black bean paste, they are then deep fried and topped with shredded chicken, tomato, lettuce, pickled red onions and avocado. Try the house specialty, Los Tres Mosqueteros, or The Three Musketeers, which combines three classic Yucatecan dishes: relleno negro (a black sauce made from burnt chiles and spices) over pork; papadzul (an egg dish); and pipián (a sauce with a pumpkin seed base) over turkey.
Merida is a first class city and the delights of the Santa Lucia Parque is not to be missed.
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