For the last few years, San Sebastian and Ermita are seeing a revival among expatriates, as these areas have been the target of much beautification by the city of Merida. The stunning church in San Sebastian still stands, flanked on two sides by a shady park and a sports area with a large fenced field for baseball and soccer, as well as a much-used basketball court and a brand new ‘exercise’ court. On the Calle 75 side of the church are government offices that used to be a police station. It is said that the metal fence surrounding the courtyard was built with the muzzles of rifles repurposed after the Mexican Revolution (check it out for yourself next time you’re there…). Extranjeros are moving into the area, attracted by the large plots of land available for lower prices than similar ones uptown in Santa Ana or Santiago, as well as for the authentic neighborhood feel. The park in front of Ermita’s church was also renovated a few years ago with a new playground, Wi-Fi connections and computer docking stations. The streets around Ermita have been reset and repaved with the original bricks.
San Sebastian boasts a food market, with fruit and vegetable stalls, butchers and cocinas economicas on both sides of Calle 70, where dining on Yucatecan food under the stars is a local pasttime. These particular restaurants are very popular with local Meridanos from other parts of the city and are quite busy on weekend nights. There are public and private schools around the park, an Extra convenience store and one of Merida’s favorite antique stores at the corner of Calle 72 and Calle 75. San Sebastian is known for its fairs, and throughout much of the year, booths with penny arcades are set up around the park, sometimes joined by ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds. The first two weeks of August are especially busy here, when it seems like half of Merida comes down to enjoy San Sebastian’s famous fería, complete with voladores (homemade bottle rockets), papier maché bulls and music.