García Ginerés is one of Mérida’s oldest neighborhoods outside the downtown core. For the past couple of decades, Mérida’s younger generations have dismissed it as antiquated and boring, but this perception is starting to change.
During the late 19th century, the area that would become García Ginerés was covered in henequen plantations, fruit trees, and abandoned fields. In those days, the area was known as San Cosme, but would soon be rechristened as García Ginerés. Mérida’s emerging neighborhood was founded by Cuban immigrant, architect, and property developer Joaquín Marcial García Ginerés.
By 1904 residents of what we now come to think of as downtown Mérida began to trickle into García Ginerés. Several of these early residents included the descendants of German, French, and Austrian government officials who had arrived in Yucatán in the 1860s during the time of the Second Mexican Empire and the reign of Maximilian.
One of the main draws of García Ginerés was its well-designed grid system, complete with wide streets and avenues, perfect for fancy new automobiles. Several of the area’s most iconic homes and monuments were designed by the Colombian architect Rómulo Rozo — famous for projects such as the Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Montejo. Rozo is also remembered for spearheading the architectural style known as Deco Maya. This style fuses Art Deco with a heavy influence of Neo-Mayan architecture and iconography.
In the 1970s, when my mother moved to Mérida from Vancouver to marry my father, García Ginerés was already home to a small international community made up of mostly Americans. These days the neighborhood is chock-full of residents from Canada, Europe, and the United States, as well as Latin American countries.
“Streets here are breezy and wide but are full of potholes. The thing I most enjoy is that I have nine places to get coffee with friends within a 10-minute walk,” says George McClellan, a Texas native who has lived in García Ginerés for 12 years.
Given that García Ginerés is located just to the north of Mérida’s Centro, getting downtown is a breeze, either by car, public transit, or even on foot, if you are up to it. The neighborhood also offers easy access to several traffic arteries, making travel to the city’s north fairly easy. There are several public and private kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in the area. If you are looking to learn Spanish, you are also in luck as there are several reputable language schools in the area. However, for higher education, you will likely need to look further afield.
When I think of García Ginerés, one of the first things that come to mind is its lovely and calm streets framed by trees big and small — some of which pre-date the neighborhood itself.
García Ginerés hosts Mérida’s Slow Food Market and boasts several lovely parks, including what many consider to be the beating heart of the neighborhood, el Parque de las Américas.
This park is divided into four blocks and is bisected from west to east by Avenida Colon. The park is famous for its Deco Maya fountain, amphitheater, Jose Martí library, and a Children’s park which doubles as a kindergarten during the morning hours.
García Ginerés is also well known for being particularly quiet. The downside of this tranquility is the fact that the area does not have as many restaurants or bars as other comparable parts of town. But the restaurants it does have, tend to be fairly good. Some favorites include the Panuchos at Loncheria La Lupita and the Tamales Horneados from Uno de Los Tres Hermanos — just don’t forget to order extra tomato sauce. The area is also home to several family-owned businesses such as butchers, fruit shops, and bakeries.
“It’s wonderful to be so close to the slow food market. The Pimiento Rojos restaurant on the corner of Colon is just fantastic and serves a wonderful breakfast,” says Nancy Walters, an international resident from Portland, who has lived in Mérida for 13 years.
As many of the area’s second generation of residents began to pass away in the 1980s and ’90s, many homes remained empty. This was mainly due to the fact that the heirs of these properties considered García Ginerés to be too old fashioned, and preferred to live in the newly trendy north of town.
Over the last decade or so, many homes in García Ginerés have been fixed up after having been unoccupied for years. This “rediscovery” of the area has seen home prices begin to soar, although it is still possible to find some pretty good deals. Large homes with five or more bedrooms start at around 10 million pesos or $US500,000 while smaller “fixer-uppers” can be had for as little as 2.5 million pesos or $US125,000.
Having grown up in García Ginerés, it is hard for me to be completely objective. Decades worths of memories and nostalgia color my impressions. But despite all of this, I am firm in my opinion that the neighborhood is one of the most pleasant in all of Mérida — unless you fancy yourself a party animal.