A Guide to Mérida: Mexico’s Craft-Lover’s Heaven
Discover Mérida’s Greatest Local Craft Shops and Art Galleries
When it comes to Mexican crafts or, as they are called in Spanish, artesanías, most people would immediately think of the State of Oaxaca and its capital Oaxaca City as its focal point. There is however an equally vibrant center of artisanal crafts in Mérida, the capital of the State of Yucatán, a province more often associated with the dreamy beaches of Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Twice American Capital of Culture in 2000 and 2017, Mérida is a uniquely-placed center for Mexican arts and crafts, boasting a millennia-old history. A colonial city founded by Francisco de Montejo y León in 1542, it was actually built on top of the Mayan city T’ho, which used to be a thriving center for Mayan culture, rivaling nearby Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.
Nowadays, broad plazas and long palm tree-lined avenues stretch across the city, while the narrow streets of the center feature typically pastel-colored low-rise houses, and host a myriad of local shops and artisans’ workshops where you can find the best craftwork from the Yucatán peninsula and beyond.
Photos by: Steph Carmon @midcitybeat
A good way to start is to visit the beautiful Museo de Arte Popular, which features an extensive permanent collection of traditional crafts from around Mexico, including textiles, pottery, stoneware, woodwork, glasswork, and miniatures.
After a morning of inspiration roaming the halls of the museum, head to the Casa de la Cultura, AKA Casa de las Artesanías, a government-run shop in Calle 63, where prices tend to be fixed and wares are generally good quality. Since 1978, they’ve been promoting and developing artisans from around the State of Yucatán, to make sure centuries-old practices remain alive and are exposed to ever wider markets.
For more high-end Mexican art, head to Calle 60 and surroundings, where a few galleries and craft shops showcase the best work from contemporary Mexican artists.
For all things textiles and hammocks, our very own partner Taller Maya on Calle 60 is the place to go. Their products are all made from artisans’ collectives and family-run businesses, who all work at dignified wages following fair trade practices.
Fundación de Artistas is a nonprofit organization on Cale 55. Opened in February 2015, the foundation was created with the purpose of establishing a center for the arts in the Yucatan Peninsula. The foundation provides a space for artistic souls of all disciplines to showcase their original artwork and promotes education and awareness of art through community-based education initiatives. The space is beautiful and rustic with a lovely terrace and cafeteria. Walk in for some inspiration, calming energies and delicious coffee.
Photos: @Fundación de Artistas
Nahualli Gallery on Calle 60, has been giving space to lesser-known contemporary artists such as Abel Vázquez and Melva Medina since 2005. A truly inspirational place, they’ve made it their mission to be “creative at all costs” and discover the occult, the hidden, the profound — as nahualli signifies in prehispanic Mexican.
Photos: @Nahualli Gallery
Even though its main focus is accommodation, Hotel Medio Mundo actually comes with raving reviews of its gift shop, which stocks a wide variety of high-quality Mexican folk art, including black clay pottery from Oaxaca City, prehispanic pottery from Michoacan, and textiles from Chiapas.
For a more informal craft shopping experience don’t miss the Noche Mexicana, an open-air market happening in Paseo de Montejo every Saturday night, with local handicrafts and delicious traditional Mexican street food.
And while we all wait to be able to visit in person again, why not check out our very own collection of beautiful handmade Mexican crafts?