Since the program’s beginning in 1962, Mexico has always been integral to the IUHPFL. The program in Mexico began in Oaxaca, but moved to Monterrey after two years. After a few years in Monterrey the program moved to San Luis Potosí where it remained for many years. In 2011, the program, in collaboration with the Institue for Study Abroad at Butler University (IFSA-Butler), moved from San Luis Potosí to Mérida to ensure a safe study abroad. The IUHPFL has been working in collaboration with IFSA-Butler since then. IFSA-Butler was founded in 1988 and launched its first program in Mérida, Mexico in 2004.
Summer of 2015, Mérida incorporated community engagement activities into the Mexico program’s model for the first time ever working with a Mayan community on three Saturdays during the program. Traditionally, the Mayan empire was located in the eastern third of the Yucatan peninsula and peaked during the sixth century C.E. While the decline of the empire is unknown, there are still six million Mayans in the area that are unified by their common culture - this makes the Mayans the largest indigenous group north of Peru. The pyramids common to the peninsula, designed orantely and without the use of metal tools, used to be the sites of politics and rituals. Today, groups have multiple dialects of their native language, although most are also bilingual with Spanish. The Mayans have maintained numerous traditions - most still engage in corn or coffee farming and sell traditionally woven textiles.
Mérida is located in the Yucatán peninsula, a region of Mexico that remains isolated and safe from drug cartel violence. In January of 2011, the United Nations awarded Mérida a banner of peace, as the city was named one of the 100 “cities of peace” in the world. Mérida has also been heralded as the safest city in Mexico and is a desirable location for U.S. retirees.
Mérida, which means Modern Maya, is located about 22 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. As the capital and largest city of the Mexican state Yucatán, it is home to more than 950,000 citizens.
Mérida offers impressive colonial architecture, often built with ancient Mayan stones, and has one of the largest historical town centers in the Americas. Until the mid-19th century, it was a walled city and to this day, visitors can find some of the original gates. As a cultural hub, home to the oldest cathedral in North America, it offers museums, galleries, restaurants, movie theatres and shopping. Music and dance, like in other parts of Mexico, play a large part in daily life.
The area’s weather is considered tropical, hot and humid, with average temperatures of 91 degrees F. The region’s food is heavily influenced by Mayan and Caribbean culture.