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Thursday, July 7, 2022
Home Travel An unexpected find in Merida's historic center

An unexpected find in Merida’s historic center



In an effort to bring you some new voices on Ottsworld, here’s a guest post from traveler Vicki Hill. Vicki is a good friend of mine who traveled with me to Merida Mexico. It was her first trip to Mexico and her excitement for the culture was contagious. Like the great curious traveler she is, she accidentally found one of the coolest and little known stories in Merida, so I asked her to write about it! All opinions, experiences and photos here are hers. – Sherry


On my first day in Mexico, I walked alone through the narrow streets of Merida’s historic center and happily took in all the new places and sounds. There were so many! Brightly painted boxy houses – pink, blue, green and yellow – built so close together, but mixed with bakeries, taquerias, small convenience stores and shops. I watched motorcycles, buses, pickups, small cars and bicycles fly past on uneven brick streets. And I passed by so many friendly welcoming smiles and greetings from the locals.

But on that very first step to the square, my eyes noticed a dark red and white stone slab; mounted high on the corner of a building. I quickly crossed the street, noticed the Spanish word for the picture engraved on the stone and took a picture. It would become my crazy obsession for the duration of my time in Merida. My traveling companions can testify that I always shouted, “Hey, I’ll catch up,” as I hurried across the streets to every corner where I spotted these carved plates. I was so curious to learn from them.

We had a wonderful tour with Raul van Tours by locals on our third day in Merida. And I could not wait to ask him about these fascinating pieces of art glued to so many corners. He called them Stone Slabs.

Find your way in the Merida Historic Center

When the Spaniards conquered the former Mayan city of T’ho, they structured all the streets into a perfect square grid. Not with any names, just numbers — North to South even numbers; East-to-West street labeled with odd numbers.

So, the angle you wanted to find or meet may be at 65 & 42. It may seem pretty easy to navigate now, but it was confusing for many back then in the newly built city. To help those who do not understand or could not read, they would use corner landmarks to describe where a specific place is — such as “near the bronze statue” or “near the two-faced mural,” and so on.

things to do in Merida

Angles are Key

Corner store owners have started naming their businesses after people, places, events or animals to make it easier to navigate the city. And before long, business owners were looking for corner buildings because they were easy to locate.

But over time, many of these corner landmarks have disappeared. Then the city government started making the stone slabs of red and white plaster and placing them on corners all over the city. Some of the plates are very old, and some are more recent, but both old and new keep the history of the city corners alive. And, it turns out, every board has a story, event, or legend behind it … or has had one. It was hard to find a lot of information about these little pieces of art, but here’s a small taste of their history.


Read more about our journey and get a complete list of
Local things to do in Merida Mexico


Historical corner markers

On the corner of Los Dos Camellos ”(the two camels) is the story of a Lebanese immigrant who brought some (male and female) camels here in the hope that they would reproduce, but without success.

merida klip street memorial plaque

Merida Stone Pictures Tell a Story

“El Polvorín” (powder keg) is where an explosion took place in a gunpowder warehouse.

The legend of the “La Tucha” (a monkey) is that a beautiful young rich girl was turned into a monkey because she was too rude.

And on the corner of “El Loro” (the parrot) is the story of two old ladies who owned a blind parrot. When it died, the woman replaced it with a parrot image. So, everyone was referring to ‘the corner of the parrot’.

And the one memorial plaque (& statue) I could find unsuccessful (but it was not without trying!) Is the story of “El Elefante” (the elephant). Dates from the 1830s and is an elephant statue on top of a roof that was placed by the business owner to make its place stand out. The sign is from an elephant and that’s the name of the corner.

merida historic center stone slabs

Some plates are named after local trees such as “El Tamarindo” (the tamarind), “El Limón” (the lime) or “El Almendro” (the almond). There are many plates with animal pictures like “El Venadito” (the little deer), “El Pato” (the duck), “Los Dos Toros” (the two bulls). Some reflect the weather like “El Huracán” (the hurricane), “El Ciclón” (the cyclone).

The Unknown Stories – A Reason to Go Back to Merida

merida historical rock plate

But there are many for which I got names, but no stories and I would like to know their history: “El Chévere” (The cool guy), “El Salto de la Pulga” (The leap of the flea), “El Besito “(The Little Kiss),” El Mono Suelto “(The Free Monkey),” La Chaparrita “(the short woman), and” El Imposible “(the impossible).

But the one that stopped us all was “El Autogiro” (the helicopter). This one can not be very old and I want to know his story!

klip plate merida

In my research, I have found that the number of plates ranges from 170 to over 600 — I would think the first number is closer; the historical center is not that big. They are not on every corner, but as I walked and walked through my week in Merida, my eyes were always drawn to the corners, looking for signs.

I finally took pictures of 33 stone slabs … right above my head, usually taken in a hurry and some at night. It was definitely an unexpected part of my trip to Mexico, but one I really enjoyed, and it was fun to find out more about this part of Merida’s history.


About the author:
Vicki Hill is an avid solo camper and hiker. She shared her wonderful car camping tips in this article – How to Solo Car Camp – here at Ottsworld. And you can see her on the Jump Podcast here. In addition, you can follow her travel journal – Trip Scribbles and @ vik.hill on Instagram

things to do in Merida Mexico
Vicki and Sherry in Merida





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