Living in North Merida
Editor's Note: Everyone we meet comes to Merida for their own reasons. And one of the wonderful things about Merida and the Yucatan is the wide range of places and people that you can find here... there is something for everyone, it seems! In this article, a couple of expatriates from Texas put into words why they love the part of Merida where they have chosen to live. Do you live somewhere else, and love that as much? Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us why!
Merida's Best Kept Secret
When we started thinking about retirement, there were a lot of places that came to mind. We considered the places for the rich and famous... the kind of places you read about but most of us could never afford. In the past few years, we have been hearing more and more about places that the average hard-working person actually can afford and one of them is closer than you might think. The city of Merida, capital of Yucatan has made it to the top of several retirement and vacation home lists. More times than not, the article or video only talks about the 'historic center' or the centro historico. You know the type of article... talking about how Merida is filled with colonial homes just waiting to be returned to their original glory. As we know, those claims are true, and the centro is filled with beautiful renovated colonials, as well as many colonials still waiting to return to glory. But there is a secret about Merida, the City of Peace. The centro is not the only wonderful place to live here... the north/northeast section of Merida is a place where the living is easy and the prices are great!
Leroy is a former public school band director in Houston, Texas and faculty member of the University of Houston School of Music. After retirement, he dedicated his time to composition and has become an internationally-known composer nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and the recipient of several national and international awards. Cay taught journalism in the Texas public school system, worked for Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Research Center in Austin, was editor of an international music journal, and for 15 years worked as an administrator at the University of Houston.
We are like many other working-class Americans. We were both public school teachers, we owned a small business, and when we got closer to retirement, we started looking for a place with a good quality of life where we could live well on our retirement income.
Like a lot of North Americans we know here, we came to Merida on a short vacation and fell in love with the city. When we returned six months later, we bought a house. As we have gotten to know our neighbors and other expatriates in Yucatan, we have discovered that this was really not all that uncommon. Many others like us have discovered the beautiful weather, beaches, gardens, and houses that often sell for a fraction of the cost of what you would have to pay for anything similar in the United States.
Many of our friends chose to live in the historic center, but we decided to look at the north side of Merida. What we found were several residential areas (called colonias or fraccionamientos, the equivalent of neighborhoods) with beautiful houses that reminded us of Santa Fe or other vibrant suburban areas in the southwestern USA. We found every conceivable style of architecture for Merida, from Spanish hacienda style, to southwestern and contemporary.
We realize that this part of town does not appeal to everyone, but we have been more than satisfied with our decision. We want to share a few of our reasons why we love living on the north side of the Ciudad Blanca.
Convenience, Just Like Back Home
Convenience! Merida is growing very quickly and much of it is growing to the north/northeast. Because of this, there is a greater availability and accessibility of goods and services. We believe that being retired should bring with it a level of convenience and ease of living. Shopping on the north side offers retail stores such as Home Depot, Costco, Sam's Club, Office Depot, etc. that we North Americans know and trust. This area of Merida features planned areas of growth and development to fit the needs of an educated and informed shopper.
Fifteen years ago, the housing market for foreigners appeared to be exclusively in the centro (downtown). Fifteen years ago, development on Prolongacion Montejo pretty much stopped at the Gran Plaza. Ten years ago, Altabrisa Mall and Las Galerias (or City Center and Macroplaza, for that matter) did not even exist. If you had a house in Cholul or La Ceiba, you felt like you lived in the country, far away from everything. In less than a decade, the north/northeast parts of Merida have exploded with housing, shopping, and entertainment venues, complete with wide boulevards, avenues, spacious lots, totally free parking when shopping or eating out, big beautiful trees and lots of parks.
Practicality and convenience were at the top of our retirement list! As we have gotten older, we have found that it is the little things in life that often have the biggest effect on our attitude. We love getting in our car and driving a couple of minutes on a nice wide boulevard to a store or a restaurant, having plenty of parking and easy access. We like convenience.
The finest medical and dental care in this part of the country is located in the north. Merida has several fine medical facilities but only one hospital that is fully certified to treat the President of the United States of America and that is Star Medica Hospital. Also on the north is the new Federal high specialty hospital and one of the finest cancer treatment centers in the country. One of our favorite dentists is located in Altabrisa. Maybe the fact that he had an office in Houston, Texas for more than 15 years has influenced our decision as well, but it probably also influenced his decision to locate in the north. I always feel more comfortable talking about dental and medical issues in English and every doctor we have seen at Star Medica Hospital has spoken English. I have not found this to always be true in other parts of the city.
Many of the best entertainment venues are located in the north. The new Maya Museum is there, as is the Coliseo, the ice skating rink, various golf courses and a number of high-quality movie theaters. The Via Montejo development complex will soon begin construction and the largest Costco in Mexico will open in the Spring of 2015, all in the north of Merida. Did I mention the golf courses being on the north side? The two big country clubs in Merida also have excellent tennis courts and swimming pools!
As for concerts and events that take place in the centro at one of the four concert halls, we have been able to enjoy those as well. We have found it is between a 15- to 20-minute drive from the north/northeast at peak driving times. We have left our home on some Sunday mornings to go to the Symphony Orchestra of Yucatan and we are parked and entering the concert hall in an amazing 12 minutes! Also, if we want to go in the other direction to enjoy the Yucatan Gulf Coast, with the wonderful new road to Progreso, it is a pleasurable drive on a four-lane highway to the beach.
Restaurants in North Merida
Many new restaurants featuring a wide variety of cuisine have opened in the north that offer more than the usual tourist fare. We love eating out and a variety of restaurants is at the top of our list of things we miss about the USA, and especially Houston. For many years here in Merida, you would be hard pressed to find any place to eat real Chinese food and now we have two of the best just a few minutes from our home in Montecristo. Great seafood, Lebanese, Thai, vegetarian or even vegan dishes are no longer difficult to find in Merida, but you will have to come to the north side of the city for such variety! We have found that the restaurant options in north Merida are beginning to cater to the discriminating palates of a growing middle class, as opposed to restaurants in the centro, which still focus mainly on tourists and traditional Yucateco cuisine.
North Merida Real Estate
In the northern area of Merida, residential developments have been planned and built since the late sixties and early seventies, continuing to this day. The residential areas are built with more parking, faster circulation, and easier access for automobiles. The homes are newer and the infrastructure available is newer and in better condition. Things like water lines, septic systems, street drainage, the electrical grid, cables for high-speed Internet access, etc. are relative new and up-to-date. This all translates for us to more leisure time to enjoy life (and play golf!). Newer homes have been built as free-standing structures, mostly, and many of those free-standing homes are on large lots (allowing for more landscaping options and shade trees to help cut down on electric bills). Many of the houses also have large pools and yards with more visually-aesthetic openness. And if you like living in a high-rise, condo, or an upscale apartment, those ONLY exist in the north.
Close to the Beach
Safety and tranquility are extremely important to us. If you are considering retirement to Merida, you probably already know that Merida has the lowest crime rate of any city of its size in all of North America. The neighborhoods in the north/northeast have lower crime rates than other areas of Merida, so that makes them doubly safe. Because of the types of businesses and property values in the north, we believe there is a greater and more professional police presence there as well. When we looked for and eventually found our perfect home, safety and tranquility had to be part of the package, and after living here for a few years, we have not been disappointed.
Of course, there's the sun and fun factor. If you love to walk or lay on the beach, swim in the ocean, or just enjoy fishing or boating, living in the north of Merida puts you just about twenty-five minutes or less from the water! When we were looking for that perfect place to retire, living close to the beach was an important factor. Now, we keep a sailboat in Progreso. We love waking up, hopping in the car and finding ourselves on the boat in just a matter of minutes. Quality time! Isn't that what retirement should be about? Isn't that what LIVING should be about?
We think retirement should be about enjoying the rest of your life. And living on the north side, as one of our Yucatecan friends once told us, just "makes life easier."
Dr. Osmon says that if you want more information on Merida's best-kept secret, contact him at email@example.com
Lea boster 4 years ago
We now live in Miraflores , Lima Peru. We love it here and moved here because of many factors. One being that we don't need a car! We walk to everything. All shopping, medical needs, ect. We never want or intend to ever buy a car. We love Merida and are considering a second home there. What is the best area for walking to restaurants, stores, everything?
Elizabeth Card 6 years ago
Lived in Mexico City for 30 years, as well as the rest of Latin America. Married a Texan and 30 years living in the US, it is time to go back to Mexico and Merida has always been in the back of my mind. I enjoy reading your articles and the comments from your readers. I know we like Condo living and I will determine, what area of the city, when we visit in February 2017.
Alan Clare 4 years ago
I am just about to start exploring for a new retirement venue and since I can't buy in India , a memorable trip through Mexico12 years ago comes to mind and I would be pleased to hear from other people with experience of embracing other cultures.
My spoken Spanish is mediocre but my partner is from Madrid.
I am wanting to hear about a pleasant local residential barrio where we can rent and travel out from. Outside of the centro and please please a distance from 'Cost Co' and the like. We are market shoppers and very much believe for us to enjoy life in a host country that we should contribute back.
I must be honest and declare that we are selling up in Paraguay to finance this move. Experience hasn't been 100% there and of course its land locked.
Hope to hear.
MG 7 years ago
Florence I totally agree with you. Some people feel they can just go to another country and keep speaking English and never ever make an effort to learn the language. They should really just go back to the US and stop colonizing Mexico and criticizing everything. If you want to live in Mexico then learn Spanish, respect the Mexican culture and stop expecting everything to be like the US.
Florence Coutts 7 years ago
I will never understand why Americans feel they are justified in going to foreign countries and expecting North American stores, doctors, dentists and conveniences. And many never learn the local language and stick to the expat community. Why don't you just stay in the U.S. if that is what you want ?
Working Gringa 7 years ago
Florence, it does seem true that some Americans (and Canadians, I might add...) do not seem to blend into the Yucatecan culture or appreciate it as much as some of us would like. Why do they come if they don't love the culture? Often they are coming because it is cheaper to live here, or someone recommended it to them, or they saw it on television. We used to be upset about this sort of thing too, but we have learned that most expatriates who come and don't like it here, leave sooner than later. And some of them might start out that way, but learn eventually to appreciate where they are.
Greg Hitr 8 years ago
Great article. I am planning my first visit and looking for suggestions on driving to Merida. I live in Pennsylvania and am willing to enter Mexico at any crossing. Thank you for any suggestions
Rodney Hoffman 8 years ago
Just curious: What's the data source for "Merida has the lowest crime rate of any city of its size in all of North America" ? Thanks.
Hedy 8 years ago
We looked for a house in Merida for 5 years before we bought one. Perhaps it was that the centro always seemed too noisy for us. It was when we discovered the "near north" colonias and a mid-century modern house that we finally bought a home in Merida. We are a 20-25 minute walk to the centro or a 5 minute bus ride, a block from the fabulous and much-used Estadio Salvador Alvarado for our daily exercise yet minutes to the north supermarkets, Home Depot and restaurants mentioned in the article. We are in an all Mexican neighborhood where we must use Spanish to speak to our neighbors so the immersion is immediate.
Eduardo 8 years ago
Great article. My sons and I were in Merida just a couple of weeks ago and I have been looking at properties both in the Centro and North Merida. I really enjoyed your insight and will keep it in mind when it comes time to purchase. Thanks.
Victor Arzate 8 years ago
I live in Hong Kong in the Country in an Old Village with a Garden. I have no interest in High Rises, nor Golfing. I am an Artist/Designer who first started going to Yucatan in the Sixties. I still have an appreciation for the Old Colonial Architecture and plan to retire in Merida later this year. I have my own business in Hong Kong which my Son and his wife now run, giving me time to edge into my retirement. As I love my work, I plan to set up an enterprise in Merida. Also, I was born in America with a 600 Family History in Mexico, so I am comfortable speaking both English and Spanish, plus some French. There is more to tell. If anyone is interested, please feel free to contact me at my personal E-mail address which is firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at www.vadiltd.com I will be eighty years old in two years and plan to visit Merida via Vladivostok, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Russia, Paris, Cannes,France Bilbao, Spain before going onto Merida for about two months. I look forward to hearing from any of you. regards, your future neighbor, Victor Arzate
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