The parish of Santiago

By Gonzalo Navarrete Muñoz
Translation by: Mary Maas

The parish of Santiago, which supported the neighbourhood of the same name, dates from 1637, having been rebuilt in 1883.

The chapel of the Holy Christ of the Transfiguration is located in this church, and in respect to this, there is a plaque that reads “This chapel, first of the city of Mérida in which the Holy Sacrament of the mass was offered, was destroyed in the times of political unrest in 1916, and rebuilt in 1925, thanks to the charity of Señora Juana María Palma de López. In honor of our Lady and in memory of her husband, the Spanish gentleman Emilio Rodrigo. Pray for them.”

Santiago has a captivating richness: it was the neighbourhood of the Indians, that of Jacinto Canek, Jacinto Uc de the Saints, who was born in the neighbourhood of San Román in Campeche, but came as a child to Mérida, where he apparently studied with the Franciscans, finally working as a baker.

There are two legends that surround Jacinto Canek and the acts of Cisteil, which included the grave crime of murder of white men: Jacinto enjoyed alcoholic drinks, celebrating in the village, and these celebrations led to the tragic, bloody acts, something not at all strange. Seen in this way, Jacinto Canek was a drunk, who become involved in a serious quarrel, not in service to any idea, since he didn’t have any.

In contrast, the captain general Crespo y Honorato had some backward and cruel ideas in relation to the governing of the Province; from them came the public torture to which Jacinto and his supporters were subjected, to horrify the defenceless inhabitants of Santiago. The clumsy conduct of Crespo y Honorato made him worthy of severe, and curious, reprimands from various higher authorities.

The other legend turns the acts of Jacinto Canek into a precursor of the War of the Castes, and he is, in this sense, the leader of a cause; this furthers the aesthetic image that Abreu Gómez has offered us, and sustains the thesis of the heroic stature of Jacinto Canek.

From don Eligio Ancona Castillio we have vague references to the “road of Santa Catarina”, that led to actual ruins of a church with this name. It’s agreed that this is the same route that Calle 59 now takes from the intersection with Calle 72 to its intersection with Calle 94.

Calle 59, in the section from Calle 62 to Calle 70, was called the Royal Road of Santiago and in it was found a church, now vanished, which in its day called The Church of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Santiago was celebrated in city life because the Royal Road to Sisal, the great port of Yucatán before Progreso, left from it; because its fiestas of the Cross, and later its July fairs, all merited a volume (the historians tell us about the astonishing effervescence that the fiesta of Santiago created in the city, its disappearance is lamentable); and there is more: the legendary Circus Theatre that meant so much in the history of the city, of the Apollo movie theatre, today converted into the Rex theatre.

The area had three schools, with long traditions: the Colegio Americano, the school Nicolás Bravo, and the school Vicente Guerrero. It’s hardly necessary to point out that all of the old neighbourhoods of Mérida had their church, of course, their schools, their drugstores and movie theaters, and their various scattered spaces, not to mention the residents that gave them character throughout the epochs.