Merida is the capital and largest city of the state of Yucatan. The city, with a population of over 700,000, is located in the northwestern part of the state.
The city was founded in 1542 by Spanish explorer Francisco de Montejo, It was built on the ancient Maya city of T’ho, a former center of Maya culture and activity for centuries. For this reason, many historians consider Merida the oldest occupied city in the Americas.
In the early 1900s, Merida saw an increase in wealth due to the trade of henequen, a fiber used to produce rope. Grand estates were built in town by the growing upperclass, many of which have been restored to their former glory.
Today, Merida is a cultural center with many museums, art galleries, restaurants, movie theaters and shops. Merida honors its colonial heritage with public performances of traditional music and dance.