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All about Iglesia de Santa Lucía in Mérida, Mexico

Updated: April 6, 2024

Main Category: Parks & Churches

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Author: Tobias

Iglesia de Santa Lucía is a small, somewhat hidden church next to the Parque de Santa Lucía from the 16th century. Iglesia de Santa Lucía in Mérida, Mexico is about 1.4km away from Casa Loltún. It is located in the city center of Mérida. You walk a bit longer, but you can easily get there on foot.

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Address:

Iglesia de Santa Lucía, Calle 60 502, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexiko

Website:

Category:

Parks and Churches

Phone:

+52 999 923 1056

Distance:

1.4km from Casa Loltún

Travel Time:

Within the city

Admission:

No entry fee

Price Level:

-

Since:

1575

Google Rating:

average rating is 4.7 out of 5, based on 314 votes, Ratings

Opening Hours:

• Monday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
• Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
• Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
• Thursday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
• Friday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
• Saturday: Closed
• Sunday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM

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Iglesia de Santa Lucía

Iglesia de Santa Lucía is a small church next to the Parque de Santa Lucía. The main square (Plaza Grande) is only three blocks away. The church stands in a shady courtyard, half hidden by the large trees. If you're not paying attention, you'll walk past and not even notice it.


However, this is no coincidence; the church was not intended to be immediately visible to casual passers-by, as it was mainly mulattos and people of color who lived in Santa Lucia and went to church there (they were not allowed to enter the Catedral de Mérida on the main square).


The parish church of slaves


For decades, the people of color who were brought to Mérida for forced labor outnumbered the whites in Mérida. The Franciscan missionaries had jurisdiction over the Maya and forbade the Maya for forced labor.


Due to the shortage of labour, people of colour and mulattoes from Cuba and other Caribbean islands were brought to Mérida. Santa Lucia thus became the parish church of slaves and servants.


Construction


The construction of the church was completed in 1575, making it one of the oldest churches in Merida. The first thing you notice is its beautiful dark red color, although the church, like most churches in Mérida, is quite simple.


The southern part of the atrium of the church used to serve also as the first cemetery in Mérida and was used as such until 1821. In fact, the shady courtyard you see today was the first burial place for the city's slaves and mixed-race population.


There used to be a monastery at the back, which has now been converted into a hotel. Since the church is surrounded by tall trees, you will hardly find a photo in which it can be seen in its entirety.


Inside the church
Inside the church

Who was Saint Lucía?


Lucia - born around 283 in Syracuse, Italy and died in 304 - is an early Christian martyr. She is venerated in the Catholic as a saint. Her name Lucia means "the shining one", from the Latin lux "light". Her mother wanted to marry her, but Lucia had vowed her virginity for Christ's sake.


A legend says that Lucia sent in her desperation her torn out eyes to her fiancé, whereupon the Mother of God gave her back even more beautiful eyes. Her rejected bridegroom then accused her, whereupon she was tortured and finally executed.


The canonized Saint Lucía is today the patron saint of the blind, the poor, sick children and cities. The festival of Santa Lucía is celebrated on December 13th.


The drumming of the slave spirits


When Governor Pérez Valdelomar began renovating Santa Lucía in the 19th century, the residents (colored people and mulatto) were very worried as they were supposed to move to other parts of the city. Fearing a riot, Governor Pérez Valdelomar made it clear that any unrest would be punished with a ban on public drumming.


Drumming and singing African songs was one of the few forms of cultural expression allowed in the neighborhood of Santa Lucía. It was not uncommon to hear the melodies of West Africa wafting through the neighborhood streets in the evenings.


A man from Santa Lucía, Martin Bonaficio, was sent to mediate. He was brought to Mérida as a servant, but was granted his freedom and was respected by the slaves and whites alike. He succeeded in getting the governor to withdraw the threat of the drum ban. The only protests against the governor occurred when the cemetery was cleared and no one said where the remains were taken.


This was seen as an act of desecration, so the West African drums rang out in anger and songs were sung to draw attention to the desecration. It is said that the ground around the church was saturated with blood, which is why it still has a rusty color today.


And it is said that when the church of Santa Lucía was painted white, blood flowed from the stone walls, which is why the church was painted red.


Drumming of the slave spirits
Drumming of the slave spirits

Martin Bonafacio promised that the drums of Africa would be heard in Santa Lucía forever and that he would make sure it stayed that way. In the summer months, when Mérida is almost deserted, the faint echoes of distant drums can still be heard today and there are reports of deep drum rhythms wafting through the streets in the afternoons.


Many claim that it is the souls of the tortured slaves who defiantly play their drums to drown out Governor Pérez Valdelomar's cries from hell. Some also claim to see the ghost of Martin Bonafacio tending the grounds around the church and sweeping away the leaves in the courtyard.


When you see the apparition of a 19th-century black man in the church courtyard or hear the gentle sound of drums, remember the history that lies at your feet.

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