5 Things to Know Before You Go: Mérida

March 15, 2019
Emma StiefelExplore

This article is part of a series exploring the locations Year On fellows venture to during the Explore phase of the program. Matteo Travers, the Year On community coordinator in Mérida, shared tips for how fellows and other visitors can best prepare for their time in Mexico.

Photo: Noonch, Creative Commons 2.0 license

1. Food:

The Yucatan peninsula, the part of Mexico where Méridais located, is known for its pork. An especially popular dish is cochinita pibil, or pulled pork that is marinated in citrus juice, seasoned with an orange spice called annatto, and then slow roasted — if the meat is cooked traditionally, it will be wrapped in a banana leaf and buried in the ground with coals. Despite its meat-centric cuisine, however, Mérida also has many vegetarian restaurants. Most local food involves some sort of spicy sauce, many of which are made from Habanero peppers, so Matteo advises you to “enjoy with caution!”

Photo: Alexandra Gómez Jaimes, Creative Commons 2.0 license

2. Weather:

Mérida is hottest from June to August, so you’ll have the good fortune of arriving just as the city is beginning to cool down — though “cool down” is relative. The city will still be warm, and Matteo said that “you tend to see people taking advantage of the pleasant weather, walking around downtown in the evenings and going out more.” Mérida experiences intermittent rain during this season.

3. What to Pack:

Despite the warm weather, people in Mérida tend to dress formally (read: warmly) during the day, though many wear shorter, more casual clothes in the evening. You’d benefit from bringing a variety of clothing options, including raincoats or umbrellas for when it pours. Don’t worry if they forget something at home, because Mérida has two Walmarts, a Costco, and many other stores where familiar products can be purchased. You may also want to bring resources for learning Spanish, as Mérida is a great place to practice the language.

4. What to do for Fun:

Matteo said that “there is truly something for everyone in Mérida — know what you like, and explore it to the max here.” As a large city, Mérida has everything from parks to poetry readings to language exchange meetups. Some locals go out to salsa clubs on the weekends, while others may relax in a hammock. Local tourist attractions include cenotes, or sinkholes, and Mayan ruins. Past Year On fellows visited Chichen Itzá, an ancient Mayan city, and the Zací cenote, a great place for swimming.

5. What to be Mindful of:

Matteo said that “Yucatecans are very friendly and Mérida is a city with a burgeoning wealth of urban scenes.” He especially encouraged fellows to try to learn Spanish, which would allow you to make local friends and truly immerse in the city. Mexicans also tend to be more outgoing and familial than Americans, a difference that may challenge you if you have a more reserved personality.

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