Today’s orientation exercise was to explore neighbouring Barrio Santiago, located to the west of the Plaza Grande and a short walk from Santa Lucia.
Santiago is rather different from Santa Lucia in that it has wider, paved streets, is less touristy (not that the other barrios are that touristy) and has the odd modern building, dare I say ‘high-rise’, popping up every now and again, including an Art Deco cinema, a funky hotel and some office buildings. Well, when I say high-rise, I’m talking about a building that’s marginally higher than the surrounding pastel-coloured casas, so perhaps 4-5 levels.
The main square in Santiago is wide and elegant with a playful central fountain that when we were there this morning, had the cutest kid getting absolutely drenched as he played fully-clothed in the water. I took one look at Dad and he just shrugged saying “¿Que puedo hacer?”.
Santiago is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Mérida and the first indigenous village that the conquistadors encountered when entering the Maya city of T’hó and of course it was they who decided on the new name of Santiago, Saint James being Patron Saint of Spain. Santiago has an imposing white stuccoed church, the main white-washed templo reinforced by 15 buttresses. But like most churches in Mérida it has a rather plain interior, in part due its once rich decoration having been stripped away during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th Century.
Just off the square is the local Mercado Municipal No2 Santos de Gollado which houses, amongst other local eateries, Taqueria La Lupita, famous for its Yucatecan street food such as Cochinita Pibil (my favourite), Lechon Horneado, Relleno Negro and Pavo Asada. Mouth-wateringly delicious!
Santos de Gollado is an altogether smaller and calmer proposition than Mercado Lucas de Gálvez – far less chaotic and far more intimate. Produce is in one small central hall with taqueria stalls occupying the external colonnade. It has a quiet country-town vibe to it despite being in the city and for me, a much easier and pleasant way to get our fresh fruit and veggies. This will be our local.