Museums in Merida—A Visitors Guide

As the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán and home to over 970,000 people, the city of Mérida, just half an hour from Hacienda Petac, is the peninsula’s cultural fulcrum. Long time home to museums, galleries and theaters, the city’s denotation as “Cultural Capital of the Americas” in 2000 worked to further encourage the celebration of Yucatecan history and culture. Below find our guide to some of the most impressive cultural attractions that Mérida has to offer.


1. MACAY (The Contemporary Art Museum Ateneo of Yucatán)


Housed in what was once the city’s armory, this post-colonial collection of art features the permanent exhibits of three local artists, temporary exhibits that change every 3-4 months, and an outdoor sculpture garden. Considered a cultural nucleus of the city, MACAY publishes a newsletter, features both a radio and a television program, and hosts educational workshops for kids throughout the year.

Free Admission

Location: Pasaje de la Revolución entre 58 y 60. Mérida


2. Galería Mérida


The largest private gallery in the city, Galería Mérida was founded by two artists –a Mérida local and an American ex-pat – and is dedicated exclusively to showcasing local contemporary and fine artists.

Location: Calle 59 #452A x 54 y 52, El Centro Histórico, Mérida


3. Mérida City Museum


A beautifully curated, three story museum in what was once the Federal Post Office, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mérida, has four official historians – elected for life – on staff to help guide visitors. Permanent exhibitions, and galleries such as the “Mayan Room” and the “Spanish Conquest Room” display artifacts from throughout the city’s history.

Location: Calle 56 entre Calles 65 & 67, El Centro, Mérida


4. Governor’s Palace


Featuring the work of celebrated Mérida artist Fernando Castro Pacheco, this turn of the century palace tells the often harrowing story of the city’s history through a series of the artist’s murals. 

Free Admission

Location: Palacio Gobierno61, Centro, Mérida


5. The Yucatan Music Museum


Music, an ever-important part of Yucatecan culture, is celebrated in the Museum de la Canción, through exhibitions, instruments, workshops, and outdoor concerts in the courtyard. The museum is not particularly English-speaking tourist friendly, but when have language barriers ever impeded a person’s love for music?

Location: 57 468, Centro, 97000 Mérida


6. Yucatan Museum of Anthropology

 Not only a stunning nod to Baroque-Mannerist architecture from the turn of the century, this museum showcases jewelry, pottery, masks, stone carvings, bones and skulls from the history of man on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Location: Paseo de Montejo and Calle 43, Mérida


7. La Perifería


A little gallery and performance space founded and run by young Yucatecan artists, “The Periphery” is dedicated to the documentation, investigation and promotion of the area’s burgeoning art scene. 

Location: Calle 54 #468 entre 53 y 55, Mérida


8. Olimpo Cultural Center


The city’s cultural center, the Olimpo is one part theater, one part museum, and one part planetarium. The historic building – in and of itself a destination – features film festivals, concerts, conferences, and dance performances throughout the year.

Location: Corner of Calle 62 & 61 Centro Historico, Mérida 

LEAVE A COMMENT Yucatán Food Recipes: Panuchos

This classic Yucatecan snack can be found at restaurants and street vendors all around our area. Our favorites, though, are the ones we make ourselves. Here at Hacienda Petac we begin the cooking process by puffing up our homemade tortillas and filling them with little pockets of black beans. Read on to find out the rest of our recipe.

Ingredients: (for four)

½ kilo masa

¼ large white cabbage very finely chopped

1 red onion finely sliced and soaked in juice of a sour orange

1 plum tomato finely sliced in strips – discard the seeds and pulp

5 leaves of fresh lettuce

½ large white cucumber  (if not available, can substitute green) seeded and sliced and cut in half moon slices.

½ achiote grilled chicken – shred the meat

1 avocado

1 cup of black bean sauce



Make fresh corn tortillas with masa and water. When they puff up, slit them open and fill with a teaspoon of the black bean sauce. Then fry them in hot oil until they are golden brown. Drain them and set aside.


Once all the tortillas are fried you can assemble the panuchos. Spread out the tortillas on a clean surface covered with paper towels. Layer them. First put down a piece of lettuce, then a spoonful of the finely chopped cabbage. Next, add a slice of cucumber, then a tomato strip, followed by a generous spoonful of shredded chicken and a bit of the finely sliced pickled red onion.  Crown with a thin slice of avocado.


Serve on a platter accompanied with guacamole and tortilla chips.

Lounge in Mayan Hammocks (and Learn More About Their History)

Considered a cultural and economic essential throughout Mexico, the Mayan hammock was first developed almost a thousand years ago in the Caribbean and brought to the Yucatan peninsula by Spanish colonists. Initially made from woven tree bark and natural fibers, hammocks were airy in the humid climate, elevated from insects and critters on the ground below, and easily transportable; they offered a pragmatic and comfortable way to sleep.


Adapted by the Maya, hammocks soon came to be crafted from henequen, the agave-derived fiber that made the Yucatan famous for rope production and was once our own primary product here at Hacienda Petac.


Still made predominantly in the city of Mérida, the capital of the Yucatan, hammock production accounts for a major source of income for the entire region, and is, in fact, second only to tourism. The practicality of the hammock’s design and the durability of the product – many hammocks are now made from cotton or even nylon – make them a staple in most homes in the area. Even the most majestic Yucatecan homes feature hammocks for elegant relaxation.


As both a domestic object and one very popular with travelers, hammocks have become a canvas with which to demonstrate Mayan artistry, color palettes and designs. Hammock making is a proud trade, a family specialty, and, as most are still handmade, no two hammocks are ever exactly alike. Many still feature the original sprang-woven pattern, with interlocking parallel threads that are static in one direction but elastic in the other so that the hammock fibers hug the contours of the body.


In 2011, a Swiss research team published a study positing that the swinging motion of a hammock helps synchronize our brain waves, which makes us fall asleep faster and, in fact, achieve a deeper state of sleep and calm. Here at Hacienda Petac, we haven’t done any official research on the subject, but we can attest to just how lovely an afternoon spent lounging in one of our poolside hammocks is. You bring your favorite book; we’ll supply your favorite cocktail. Let the leisure ensue.

Food for the Souls: the Celebration of Hanal Pixan

AMayan celebration of the famous Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Hanal Pixan is a time for family and friends to honor the memories of their deceased ancestors. Over the first two days of November, spirits are believed to return to the earth for a celebration of food, drink, and prayer. Their graves are decorated with gifts and fruit and altars are prepared with photographs, the iconic Mexican sugar skulls, and colorful flowers.

In Mayan tradition, death comes in waves. The first death is, of course, a literal one and comes the moment that the human body ceases to function. A second death occurs with burial as the body is returned to the earth. Hanal Pixan is considered so important, though, because of the third kind of death: the end that comes when a person is no longer remembered or thought of by those still living. The stories and dances, poems and prayers that are characteristic of these days are meant to preserve the memory of those deceased, to help their spirits have some kind of immortality.


The first day of Hanal Pixan is devoted to the souls of lost children. Graves are covered with toys and sweets, honeycombs and fruits. Next to pictures and braided marigolds family members heap papayas, mandarins, jicamas, and homemade tamales. The second day, then, is reserved for the souls of the adults. Gifts are offered, favorite meals are prepared, and drinks and chocolates are placed on graves and altars as homage. Mukbil Pollo (“chicken to be put in the ground”) is the traditional chicken and pork dish of the holiday and shows just how much a tool of nostalgia food is in Mayan culture. The tamale-like pie is cooked underground in ovens known as pibs, in the very earth in which the visiting ancestors’ bodies have been buried. Through this meal, the connection between past and present is preserved. Mukbil Pollo is traditionally served with spiced hot chocolate, helpings of which are also left on altars as appreciative offerings.


At the end of the holiday, the visiting spirits are believed to make their way back to the earth until the following year. Locals place candles on their windowsills and throughout the streets in a tradition known as the Bix to help guide them safely back.

Learn How to Make a Pinata and Find Out the History Behind Them

Although originally believed to be of Chinese origin, the tradition of breaking open decorated clay pots to reveal tokens of good luck gained popularity in Europe in the 1300s in the form of the Italian pignatta. These “fragile pots,” known as piñas in Spain (“pineapples,” for the shape of the clay pot base) were quickly adapted from the Mandarin New Year observance and adopted into Catholic tradition as an integral part of the celebration of Lent.


Two hundred years later, Spanish missionaries used the tradition to engage the indigenous people of North America and attract them to Catholicism. The Aztecs already had a similar practice in the worship of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, in which they filled clay pots with small treasures and decorated them with colored feathers. Hoisted up over the temple and then broken open, the little gifts fell to the feet of the figure of Huitzilopochtli as offerings. A Mayan version, more for sport, involved being blindfolded while trying to hit a pot suspended by string.


The Catholic missionaries took these Mayan and Aztec practices and redefined them as tools in religious instruction. The new piñatas, called canteros (temptations) were covered in ostentatious decoration and used to represent Satan – notorious for attracting people with beguiling and beautiful masks. No longer just a clay pot, they were fashioned with seven points, to represent each of the seven deadly sins, or pecados. Filled inside with fruits and sweets, they symbolized the temptation of sinful pleasures that the blindfolded – and blindly faithful – participant was meant to fight against. Once the person swinging at the piñata was able to break it open, encouraged by crowds and songs, the treats would rain down on the participants, illustrating the ultimate lesson – that faith would always be rewarded.


Over the years, the religious symbolism waned, and the piñata became more of a celebratory staple of birthdays and Christmas parties. In the markets near Hacienda Petac you can still find the clay pots used to make traditional piñatas, but below are modified instructions, which are most similar to the way we teach our youngest guests to make piñatas here at the Hacienda!



Below You will Learn How to Make a Piñata!


The materials you will need:

–       flour and water to make paper mâché paste

–       salt

–       vegetable oil

–       balloons

–       strips of newspaper

–       strips of white paper (or paper towels)

–       paint

–       tissue paper, crepe paper, ribbon, etc



  1. Making piñatas can be a mess! Cover the table with plastic or extra newspaper and wear old clothes for this project.
  2. First you will need the paper mâché paste. Mix one part flour, two parts water together until the consistency is like glue. (Alternately, for a stronger fixative, you can mix one part flour to five parts water and boil it for a few minutes. Let it cool, then add a bit of salt to help avoid mold.)
  3. Once you have decided on the shape of your piñata, blow up the balloon (or balloons) to create the structure of the piñata. Of course, if you are using more than one balloon, you will have to tape or glue them together. Once you have the basic structure, spray the balloon with some vegetable oil to help prevent the balloon from sticking to the newspaper when it is ultimately popped.
  4. Dip strips of newspaper into the paper mâché paste and place them on the surface of the balloon in overlapping layers. Lay some on diagonally, some vertically, and continue until the balloon is completely covered. Don’t forget to leave a small space near the top. This is where you’ll pop the balloon from and how you’ll put treats in the piñata later on!
  5. Now, you must wait for it to dry. Here is where patience comes in. The first layer of paper mâché must be completely dry before you add any more. Let it sit overnight; it may take a full 24 hours.
  6. Once it has dried, repeat the same layering process, being certain to alternate the direction of the strips of paper. Let the second layer dry.
  7. For the third layer, repeat the same process, but with strips of white paper, not the newspaper strips. This is just to make decorating and painting easier.
  8. Once the third layer has dried, you can pop the interior balloon, and remove it from the space you left at the top of the piñata.
  9. Decorate your piñata as you wish! Paint, tinsel, crepe paper, streamers, whatever you would like!
  10. Once the decorative part has dried, you can fill your piñata with little toys and candies. To hang it, make a few holes near the top and thread strong string through the holes. Tape may help secure it. Hang from someplace high and let the fun begin!

Season of Los Gremios History and 2012 Schedule

September 27th marks the beginning of Merida’s Season of Los Gremios, the spiritual – and spirited – time for the city’s gremios, or guilds, to give their thanks.


The annual tradition dates back to 1654 when a fire in the neighboring village of Ichmul destroyed everything except the local cathedral’s wooden Christ figure. Although slightly blistered and damaged, the figure of Christ was relocated to the cathedral in Merida’s centro. Considered a protector of the city’s citizens ever since, the “Christ of the Blisters” is paid homage every year throughout three weeks of celebration by the city’s proverbial butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

The holiday is structured so that the members of each gremio, or guild, have two reserved days in which to publicly give their respective thanks. Beginning on September 27th and ending on October 17, each syndicate’s pilgrimage begins at the cathedral with a noon mass, and ends the next day after another early morning mass. Once one gremio has left the cathedral, another group of workers enters for their own noon mass. While book-ended by humble prayer, the celebratory day in between for each group is replete with music and dance, costumes and color, and the underlying hint of competition as each trade tries to outdo the others for best show. As the season continues, the processions become an increasingly raucous affair.

Ultimately, at the close of three weeks, the Christ of the Blisters is paraded throughout the cathedral, more thanks are given, and the entire city turns to a final revelry of fireworks, food and festivals, or ferias.


Look below for a calendar of each guild’s procession:



27 Construction workers

28 Small business owners

29 Devotees of Christ

30 Mirror, aluminum and glass workers



1 Shoemakers

2 Seamstresses and embroiderers

3 Taxi drivers

4 Painters

5 Mechanics and ironworkers

6 Carpenters

7 Ladies

8 Business owners and hacienda owners

9 Shop owners

10 Shop owners and workers

11 Teachers and students

12 Bakers

13 Trainworkers

14 Trinket stall owners and employees

15 Professionals

16 Market stall workers

About Hacienda Petac

Hacienda Petac is one of the most extraordinary vacation experiences in the world. A Premier Class Resort, this historic estate near Mérida, Yucatán offers five-star luxury to just one group at a time.

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