Sunday, November 6, 2011

Getting around the neighborhood

Usually when I tell people the neighborhood we're in, I get a blank response. Even people who've lived in Mérida a long time have never heard of it. Chen Bech, also spelled as Chem Bech. The house was advertised as being in Mejorada, which is better known but still not very familiar to a lot of people. I am still not sure if Chem Bech is truly part of Mejorada, or if it is in Chuminopolis, or is a separate place of its own.

I can't feel too smug about my own knowledge of the neighborhood. I hadn't heard of it either, until house-hunting a couple of years ago brought me to this place. And until now there hasn't been much time to check out the neighborhood much, with all the renovations and other things to do.

On this trip I decided to make it a priority to get off my own beaten path to the usual destinations. Some mornings, before light, I'd strap on the sneakers and go for a little run down the side streets to the north and east of our house. It's always striking to see how early people start their days here. At 6:15 and 6:30 in the morning they're leaving the house, kids in their school uniforms, adults carrying their work things. Most of the houses are modest, but there are some grand old colonials.

I follow the rhythmic thrum of machinery up one street and come upon a factory. A big one. "Hilos Agricolas de Yucatan". Here's what I learn about it online
"Hilos Agricolas de Yucatan" grows hemp, manufactures hemp yarn and other products of sisal fibers. It history dates from the eighteenth century, producing such items as beds and sacs, to the present days, in 1993 that was acquired by the state government of Yucatan."
A corner of the henequen factory.
Who knew that this link to the region's history was sitting on the edge of the neighborhood? Well, everyone who lives around here, I suppose. Heading east I pass a disused soccer pitch and then in the distance, people in white are streaming towards a large building complex. Medical staff, starting the day shift at the public  IMSS hospital. I'm told it's the biggest public hospital in the city. I didn't know it was so close to us. On the street fronting the hospital is a busy commercial strip, including at least a couple of Chinese restaurants, numerous copy and office supply stores, tacos and other handy shops.

Elsewhere on my explorations by bike and on foot I have found a campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in the stately complex that used to be a sanitorium.

 Next to it is a park with free wifi. The park is named Articulo 123 and it features a statue to an unknown (to me) historic figure. Need to study up on my Mexican history! Across the road from the park and UNAM campus is a railway museum with numerous rusted-out rail cars standing, half obscured, in tall weeds. At least one of them reminds me exactly of the train in some old half-forgotten photo with Pancho Villa or some other revolutionaries. I couldn't come up with the photo to refresh my memory in a quick online search. But it makes me want to visit the museum and find out more about where these relics came from.

 I like our neighborhood.

What is Articulo 123 and who is Hector Victoria Aguilar?


  1. Where you live is a great neighborhood. We live kinda on the fringes in south Merida and love it.

  2. We missed you at the conference. Maybe next year ( possibly in Cancún)?

    I like going off the beaten path as well. Plan to do some of that this week.
    I really like your great 'header' photo - it brought a smile to my face.

  3. I like Chen Bech too. There are lots of really lovely families, big yards and interesting workshops and tradespeople. I bet you've made some interesting discoveries, like the ones you wrote about today... Keep those stories coming.

  4. Thanks Sara and Ty. I am a bit familiar with your neighborhood too and loved staying near there a couple of years ago - I have such vivid memories and images of the sounds and scenes of daily life there.

    John and Alan, next year I will not miss the blogfest. Meanwhile I hope to meet you in "meatspace" (as opposed to cyberspace) before then if travel schedules permit. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the girls sitting outside the old house. Such an ancient tableau - except the laptop.
    Thanks, Joanna, for your encouragement. I also appreciated Jorge's observation that it's a very typical Yucatecan neighborhood. I have been trying to take note of the interesting woodwork and other enterprises for future reference.

  5. Hola Sara and Ty, YES , yes to Chen Bech! We will be retiring from Atlanta, Ga to the neighborhood very soon at Calle 57 x 34&36. We love the area. Our architects, Cervera Sanchez, are working on detail drawings now for a complete renovation. We would love to connect with you all. We will be in Merida Nov 13-21. Are you all there during that time? Others we might connect with? Keep posting. We like your blog.
    Wes & Lola
    Email -

  6. Thank you Debbie for educating people on the joys of the neighborhoods to the East. We have a house even farther East in Esperanza, Calle 57A x 28 y 26. We love the tranquility and true neighborhood feel. Once you start to explore there is a lot to be discovered. One is the flea market on Tuesdays and Fridays, Calle 59 x 16 and a very popular local outdoor restaurant, Sope Huach, Calle 59 x 28.

    Maybe we should start a support group for those living East of Centro.


  7. Hi Wes and Lola, welcome to the neighborhood. I'm sorry we'll miss you this time but I look forward to seeing you soon and hearing all about your plans and your new home. I'd be pleased to share any helpful tips I've learned so far. I know our neighbors will be pleased to meet you too.

    Laurel, Sope Huach is on my list of places to try in the neighborhood. And I am overdue for a flea market crawl. I like the idea of getting together with others from "el misterioso oriente" of Merida.

  8. Chem Bech is in Centro but would not have originally have been part of Mejorada. It is a Mayan area of town, whereas Mejorada was a Spanish-Meztizo area way back in the day, with Chem Bech outside the old city walls.

    Chuminopolis is farther east, past about Calle 30 or so with irregular borders. Chuminopolis is relatively new, consisting of land sold off for houses by the designer of the Paseo de Montejo in the 1900s.

    El Olvido - the forgotten - was his house and you can learn his name at the monument at Calle 57 & 20. (I can't tell you everything, can I?)

    At Calle 27 & 20 (only a tiny 1/2 block from 57 & 20), there is a precious chapel maintained by the family. Hurricane Isadoro toppled the spire and the family repaired the church before their own house (across the street).

    I'm sorry I cannot remember exactly which bird, but Chem Bech is the name of a small bird. The more Mayan the Merida person you are talking with, the more likely they'll know where Chem Bech is found.

  9. Thanks for the history, YucatanMan. I wonder whether the Dragones and El Puente arches are the dividing line for Mejorada and Chem Bech? I had wondered about the story behind the grand home at 57 x 20.

  10. We also have a home east of Centro and found the prices for homes more affordable for us. We like the neighborhood and easy access to Centro.