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March 4, 2006
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:: Plaza Mayor ::

Any exploration of M?rida begins naturally in the Plaza Mayor . The hub of the city's life, it's ringed by some of M's oldest buildings, dominated by the Cathedral of San Idelfonso (daily 6am-noon & 5-8pm), built in the second half of the sixteenth century. Although most of its valuables were looted in the Revolution, the Cristo de las Ampillas (Christ of the Blisters), in a chapel to the left of the main altar, remains worth seeing. This statue was carved, according to legend, from a tree in the village of Ichmul that burned for a whole night without showing the least sign of damage; later, the parish church at Ichmul burned down and the statue again survived, though blackened and blistered. The image is the focal point of a local fiesta at the beginning of October. Beside the cathedral, separated from it by the Pasaje San Alvarado, the old bishop's palace has been converted into shops and offices.

Next door to the cathedral is the Museo MACAY , (Museo de Arte Contemper?neo Yucat?n: daily except Tues 10am-6pm; US$2, free on Sun), the finest art museum in the state, with permanent displays of the work of internationally acclaimed Yucatecan artists such as Fernando Castro Pacheco, Gabriel Ram?rez Aznar and Fernando Garc?a Ponce. Temporary exhibitions often include ceramics from around the region, Yucatecan embroidery and metallic art. On the south side of the plaza stands the Casa de Montejo , a palace built in 1549 by Francisco de Montejo himself and inhabited until 1980 by his descendants. It now belongs to Banamex, and most of the interior is used as offices and thus closed to the public: the facade is richly decorated in the Plateresque style, and above the doorway conquistadors are depicted trampling savages underfoot. The Palacio Municipal , on the third side, is another impressive piece of sixteenth-century design with a fine clock tower, but the nineteenth-century Palacio de Gobierno (daily 8am-10pm), completing the square, is more interesting to visit. Inside, murals depict the history of the Yucat?n and, on the first floor, there's a small historical chamber devoted to the same subject.

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