Mérida mā´rēᵺä [key], city (1990 pop. 523,422), capital of Yucatán state, SE Mexico. It is the chief commercial, communications, and cultural center of the Yucatán peninsula. Founded (1542) by Francisco de Montejo, the younger, on the site of a ruined Mayan city, Mérida has many fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture, notably the 16th-century cathedral. Rooftop windmills, characteristic of this region, are used to pump water from underground wells and streams. The limited nature of the soil has made Mérida commercially dependent upon the large crops of henequen (see sisal hemp) from the surrounding region, and on tourists visiting nearby Mayan ruins, notably Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.
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