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The Beach City of Progreso

Just 30 minutes due north of Merida lies the port city of Progreso. Progreso has been Merida’s gateway to the sea for centuries, taking the place of Sisal as the key import/export location for Merida when it was determined, in the mid 1800’s, that Merida needed a port that was closer and more accessible. As a result of that switch and its subsequent incorporation as a town in 1871, today Progreso is a booming and growing city, and Sisal is a sleepy seaside town.

Contributing to Progreso’s growth in the 21st Century is the cruise ship industry. Cruise ships were docking and unloading thousands of passengers weekly before the swine flu scare devastated the Mexican tourism industry. Today, in late 2010, tourism is coming back and cruise ships are returning to Progreso, bringing tourism dollars to the town. Tourists from the cruise ships mostly stick to the beach for food, drink and some sunshine… or they are whisked off to nearby Mayan archeological zones like Uxmal.

Progreso is a popular place with expats looking to start a new life on the beach, either as a place to buy a home or as the city center that where they shop, eat, bank and visit with friends. If you are importing household goods or a car, chances are your goods will pass through Progreso, which boasts a five-mile long dock and extensive port facilities. Progreso is the hub city for many of the smaller towns along the coast, providing a center of commerce for people living in Chelem, Chuburna, Uaymitun, Chicxulub, San Bruno and other small towns along the coast.

The cultural life of Progreso centers around the new Mercado (just a few blocks inland from the beach) and the malecon, that stretch of beach, sidewalk and street that runs along the water for about ten blocks. Private homes come right up to the beach on either side of the malecon, which is lined mostly with restaurants, stores, hotels and, during the summer, a festive fair.

Progreso is not just an waterfront extension of the capital city of Merida, but has become a growing, thriving town in its own right. It is a great place to visit for a seaside lunch if you live inland, or a place to live if you crave a seaside life.