Profs stick up for pedestrians and preservation in the Centro

A relatively quiet moment on Calle 63, between 60 and 58, just off the Plaza Grande in Mérida's Centro Historico. Photo: Getty
A relatively quiet moment on Calle 63 just off the Plaza Grande in Mérida’s Centro Historico. Photo: Getty

Mérida, Yucatán — More space for walking, less for driving.

That summarizes the philosophy of a retired UNAM professor in a final round of sessions on how to sustain the Centro Histórico.

Historic centers must have public spaces so that people can live together, move freely and safely. Less space should be allocated to cars and public transport because the pedestrian should be a priority, said Xavier Cortés Rocha, Doctor of Architecture and professor emeritus of the Faculty of Architecture at UNAM.

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It is not that trucks have to be removed from the Centro, more space should be allocated to pedestrians, said Cortés Rocha. Pedestrians deserve to walk without fear of getting hit by a speeding car, bus or truck, he said on the last day of a seminar that examined the topic.

In his lecture, “Public Space, Area of ​​Vitality in Historic Centers,” he pointed out that the aforementioned concepts have not been applied here. He blamed a lack of will on the part of authorities as well as a lack of demand from society.

Trucks come and go at will, Cortés Rocha complained. Service vehicles should be given limited access to the Centro. They have to circulate where it suits the inhabitants, not the truckers, he asserted.

“Merida is a magnificent city featuring fantastic buildings, some in good condition and others totally neglected, and it is such a pity to see that some of the houses in the downtown area are literally falling apart, when the state capital could be a world heritage site.

“Yucatecans need to protect their patrimony,” said another speaker, Dr. Alma Pineda Almanza, from the University of Guanajuato.

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It is a shame to see how beautiful houses along Avenida Colón and Paseo de Montejo are totally destroyed, said Pineda Almanza. The mansions date from the 16th to early 20th century.

“Mérida boasts a significantly important heritage of the 20th century that has to be recovered because it is very pure and original. Fortunately, it is still there, but it is deteriorating, and we have to do something about it,” she said.

Hopefully the people of Yucatán will not leave their Historic Center, which is one of the serious problems that other cities in Mexico have regarding their historic downtown areas.

Regarding the idea of limiting vehicular traffic in the Centro Histórico, Pineda Almanza noted that many cities have turned their downtown areas into a pedestrian zone, precisely to preserve its historical monuments.

“This situation requires a study of use, origin-destination, an evaluation of mobility and urban transportation. Big passenger buses and cargo trucks should be kept out of the Historic Center, and these must be substituted by smaller modern and less polluting vehicles,” she said.

“Mérida’s downtown buildings must be used in order to be preserved, that is the first principle. We know that the old henequen haciendas can not be inhabited again, but they have been given a different use, and the same thing has to be done in the Centro. If people leave the Historical Center, it dies. Buildings have to be restored and occupied, either with commercial or housing use,” concluded Alma Pineda.

Source: Diario de Yucatán

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