Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida, Venezuela, is the capital of the municipality of Libertador and the state of Mérida, and is one of the principal cities of the Venezuelan Andes. It was founded in 1558, forming part of Nueva Granada, but later became part of the Captaincy General of Venezuela, and played an active role in the War of Independence.
Mérida has more than 200,000 inhabitants and a metropolitan area containing some 350,000 people. It is the main center for education and tourism in western Venezuela, the home of the prestigious University of the Andes, and the location of the highest and second longest aerial tramway in the world.
Mérida is at an altitude of approximately 1,600 meters (5,249 ft). The city sits on a plain in the valley of the Chama river, which runs from one end to the other. The backdrop of Mérida's skyline is the country's highest summit, Pico Bolívar.
Mérida was founded by Juan Rodríguez Suárez on October 9 1558 in one of the Pamplonian mining expeditions he led. He named the city after his birthplace, Mérida. The first settlement of Mérida was not the current one but 30 km to the south, in Xamú, where today stands Lagunillas. Nevertheless, Rodríguez Suárez had to move the settlement in November 1559 to nearby El Punto (presently the Zumba area of Mérida), because of constant confrontations with the native neighbours.
Rodríguez Suárez's foundation had not been authorized by the New Granadian Authorities, so in 1560 they sent Juan de Maldonado to arrest Juan Rodríguez and regularize the new city. On June 24 Maldonado moved Mérida to its present location on the plateau and rechristened it as Santiago de los Caballeros. The city then came to be governed by the corregimiento of Tunja until 1607, when it became itself a corregimiento of the Audiencia of Santa Fe.
In 1622, Mérida became the capital of the Governorate of Mérida, whose chief official established his residence there. The city and territory were part of New Granada until 1777, when it was integrated into the Captaincy of Venezuela .
The word Mérida comes from the term emerita, Latin voice whose meaning is pertaining to one who has merit and emeritus, which is the city name's real ethymologic origin, because other acception of the term in Latin was related with the soldiers who were licensed from the army. So Mérida City, present capital of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, has this origin: the name of Emerita Augusta means that it was a city founded in Augustus's times with army licensed soldiers, who settled in an existing town in exchange for giving the category of roman citizens to the old inhabitants. Besides, in Spanish and also in English, the word emeritus means retired ("Profesor Emérito" and "Emeritus Professor" mean retired professor). As time passes on, this name mutated until becoming Mérida, losing the initial "E" and changing the "t" for a "d", although other derivations as "meritory" or "em"eritus had maintained a similar form to the Latin word. And other common feature between the Spanish and the Venezuelan Méridas is that in both cities there is a tributary of the main river with the name Albarregas. The residents of Mérida, Venezuela, are called Merideños, while the inhabitants of Mérida, Spain, are Emeritenses, and those of a third Mérida in Mexico are referred to as Meridanos.
Nowadays, although to a lesser extent than to the larger urban centers of the country, politics have an important role among the general population, although the most important government positions such as that of the mayor and governor are held by members of the official party, the Fifth Republic Movement. Nevertheless, given the great concentration among students and the importance of the Universidad de Los Andes in local development, the positions of University Director and President of the Student Body of the University of The Andes are of great importance within the local political scene and are currently occupied by people of the opposing party in the first case and the official party in the second, in contrast to the positions of Mayor and Governor. Nevertheless, due to the recent suspension of the elections for President of the University Student Body, the city has seen an intense wave of protests that have left more than a dozen wounded.
In the 2004 Venezuelan recall referendum, the city of Mérida voted against the overall trend, as least 60% of voters opposed the continuation of President Hugo Chávez's mandate. By contrast, the majority of the rest of the population of the state of Mérida voted in favour of Chávez.
The city is located in the center of the Venezuelan Andes, in a wide plain in the valley of the Chama river, between the Sierra Nevada de Mérida to the southeast and the Sierra La Culata to the northwest. The old quarter of the city is on the alluvial plain known as Tatuy.
Mérida has four principal rivers, and various smaller streams in the less urbanized parts of the city—these have a significant water flow only in times of heavy precipitation. The most important river is the Chama, followed by the Albarregas, which cross the plain and divide it into two parts: the Banda Occidental (west bank) and the Banda Oriental (east bank). These two rivers run from one end of the city to the other. The other two principal rivers, the Mucujún and the Milla, flow into the Chama and Albarregas. In the lower part of the city is found the La Rosa lagoon, one of some 200 lagoons in the state of Mérida.
In the center of the city the terrain, located on a plain, is almost flat. Nonetheless, there is an average incline of 3 to 7 degrees, which causes a difference in altitude between the high and low parts of the city of more than 400 m, the average being 1,630 m above sea level at the Plaza Bolívar. However, the areas surrounding the city are rough and uneven, situated in the valleys formed by the Chama and Albarregas rivers and the Sierra Nevada and Sierra de La Culata ranges.
The valley in which the city is located was formed approximately 40 to 60 million years ago with the creation of the Venezuelan Andes and its continuous erosion by the area's water systems. Its soils consist of alluvial sediment and clay. Below the city runs the major tectonic fault in the western part of the country, the Boconó fault, which forms part of the South American Plate.
The vegetation in the interior of the city consists of medium to tall trees, and ferns (Pteridophyte), located mainly near the basin of the Albarregas river. On the outskirts of Mérida, one finds non-urbanized areas, where sub-mountainous and seasonal jungle vegetation predominates. On the other hand, vast coniferous forests extend toward the south, where they were planted some years ago. Toward the north and east, one finds cloud forests.
Though pollution has caused a rise in temperatures, this has been less, in relative terms, than in other important cities in Venezuela, with readings that vary between 18 °C and 24°C, with an overall average of 22°C. Precipitation is of medium intensity during the rainy season, from April to November.
Venezuela is situated in an inter-tropical zone, so that there is very little temperature variance over the course of a year. The same is true in Mérida—the temperatures recorded in August are normally comparable to those measured under comparable conditions in broad daylight in January.
On the other hand, given Mérida's location in the interior of the country, far from the maritime coasts and the influence of the ocean, and its high altitude, the temperature variance over the course of a day is relatively high. Between day and night a difference of more than 10°C can be observed; this difference sometimes reaches more than 20°C. The maxima are reached during the day, and are usually around 25°C, but on rare occasions exceed 30°C. The lower limit of daytime temperatures tends to be around 20°C.
|Average temperature (°C)||17.8||18.4||19.0||19.2||19.5||19.2||19.0||19.3||19.4||19.0||18.5||18.0||18.9|
Because of its location on a plateau, in a small valley, covering an area of some 10 to 15 km in length and between 1 and 3 km wide, the city now lacks additional space for urban development. Though its polygonal area covers some 60 km², the city occupies a little over 25 km², and the rest consists of less developed zones or areas of uneven terrain, such as mountains or hillsides.
For this reason, the city layout is unorganized, oriented only by the traffic axes constructed in decades past. The layout of the city center or "Old Quarter" is in the Spanish Colonial style, consisting of eight major avenues running East-West and forty streets running North-South, creating blocks of 50 to 100 m per side.
Historically, Mérida has been characterized by less pronounced differences between socio-economic classes and for its high quality of life. Recent years, however, owing to the economic situation confronting the country, have seen a significant increase in slums in the hills and outskirts of the city.
The southeastern part of the city, historically the headquarters of the large Haciendas that produced sugar cane, has for several decades undergone major urban development, consisting principally of single-family dwellings, and has grown almost to the point of joining with the city of Ejido, a bedroom community. Ejido currently extends to within less than 2 km of the border of Mérida, and the two cities are linked by a large avenue that goes from the neighbourhoods of downtown Mérida to the outskirts of Ejido. At this point, it turns into a highway, running to the city of El Vigía, thereby uniting Mérida's metropolitan area.
Despite the limited space available for development, Mérida has the largest proportion of green areas per capita in Venezuela, thanks to its many squares and public parks, the one surrounding the river Albarregas being particularly noteworthy. The School of Architecture of the University of the Andes puts into practice diverse proposals for creating areas protected from urban development, thereby reducing the impact of population growth on the environment.
Belensate: Predominantly a higher-class neighbourhood, it contains the largest and most luxurious houses in the city. Casco Central: It comprises the historic city center. It is the main commercial, cultural, and urban area, containing most museums, libraries, churches, and retail shopping stores in Mérida.Chama: It is a residential area for the middle class located in the vicinity of the Chama river. It is the lowest altitude neighbourhood in the city, situated about 200 m lower than downtown. It will be connected to Casco Central via a funicular as part of the Mérida Trolleybus project.Humboldt: It is a populated neighbourhood to the southwest of the city, with increasing commercial development in recent years.La Hechicera: Located at the northern end of the city, it contains the scientific and engineering buildings of the ULA, as well as the zoo and the botanical garden.La Parroquia: This is the current name of the village formerly known as La Punta. It shares similarities with the Casco Central, with residential and commercial zones intermingled. It contains the second Bolívar Square in the city, as well as large public high schools and sporting facilities, such as the Metropolitan Stadium and the sport complex Cinco Águilas Blancas.La Pedregosa: It is a long neighborhood located in the valley of La Pedregosa creek. It is mainly a residential zone. Although connected to the city, it is far enough from it that its development has increased in the last decades due to the availability of suitable real estate.Los Curos: This is a popular neighborhood, almost exclusively residential, though it houses one of the only industrial zones in the city.Pie del Llano: Situated in the middle of the city, it surrounds the airport and local branches of a number of government offices, as well as the city Mayor's office. It is a commercial and residential neighborhood with plenty of public parks.Avenida 16/Campo de Oro/Santa Juana: It is a middle class neighborhood located in the geographical center of the city. It borders the Tatuy mesa, which houses a number of car dealers and auto shops and, above all, the largest hospital of the city, the IHULA (Instituto Autónomo Hospital Universitario de los Andes)
Finally, it should be noted that the municipality is divided (for political purposes) into parishes; thirteen of the municipality's fifteen parishes are within the city.
According to the last census, performed in 2001, Mérida's population was of 204,879 inhabitants. This value does not include the population omitted by the survey, which was estimated to be about 6% nationwide. However, Mérida's metropolitan (greater) area, which includes the neighboring cities of Tabay and Ejido, houses over 300,000 inhabitants.
In 2006, assuming the usual natural level of growth in the area (between 2.1% and 3% annually), the population reached 230,000 inhabitants, while the metropolitan area would have reached 350,000, thanks to the high growth rate in the city of Ejido, which is one of the largest of the Andes area. Other estimates indicate that the actual population of the city has now reached about 250,000 inhabitants and that the metropolitan area has 350,000 inhabitants..
The population of Mérida is relatively homogeneous. There is, however, a large community of foreigners, resulting from the inter- and intra-continental migratory patterns of past eras. Among these there are significant groups of Italians, Portuguese, and Colombians. According to the 1990 census, a little over 4% of the population–some 7,406 inhabitants–is of foreign origin.
The city's economy has been evolving and transforming since the beginning of the 20th century. Traditionally, agriculture formed the most significant part of economic activity in Mérida, which was the distribution center for agricultural goods in the state. Furthermore, large sugar cane haciendas were located nearby; their income led to the construction of a central sugar refinery in which all of Mérida's sugar cane was processed. This refinery was eventually abandoned and has now been converted into a museum. With the construction of Mérida Cable Car, the trans-Andes highway, and the city's airport, the city's economy evolved, with the tertiary services sector—especially tourism—displacing the primary agricultural sector.
Tourism, dubbed the "green industry", is the principal source of income in the city, and one of the most flourishing industries. Touristic activity benefits from the potential offered by the Andes mountains surrounding the city, and from the city's own parks, museums, and plazas, among other features. In addition, in recent years, owing to the creation of the only free cultural, scientific, and technological zone in the country, the city has begun to develop in the field of technology, thanks also to the support of the University in this matter.
The city of Mérida now stands out at the national level for its low cost of living and its high (relative to cost of living) per capita income of $4,381, ninth among Venezuelan cities. The service sector contributes a large percentage of the state's income. In Mérida 82,537 people are economically active, of whom 6.67% are unemployed..
During the colonial era and long after independence, the city was isolated from other parts of the country because of the lack of transportation routes to the outside world. Midway through the 19th century, the first highway was built, linking the city with the rest of the country, thereby facilitating access and vehicular traffic. After this point other routes were planned, but lack of maintenance and the nature of the terrain have caused significant interruptions in land traffic between Mérida and the rest of the country.
The airport was built in 1956, on the former grounds of a slaughterhouse. Commercial air service is currently provided by two airlines. There is also an area for private aviation, which receives various types of private flights as well as air ambulance flights, and the delivery of parcels and other valuables.
Two national highways connect Mérida with other cities in Venezuela. The first is Troncal 7 or the Trans-Andes Highway, which runs to the city of Valera. This highway crosses the Andes by way of the valley of the Chama River, and, arriving at the region of Apartaderos, is crossed by Local 1. Finally, following the course of the Santo Domingo River, it arrives at the city of Barinas. The other national highway is the so-called Carretera La Variante. Upon arriving at the Estanques region it becomes Local 8 or Autopista Rafael Caldera. La Variante connects Mérida with El Vigía, and in turn, with the Pan-American Highway, thereby giving the city a connection with Colombia and with other impotant destinations, such as San Cristóbal and Maracaibo.
In addition to the national highways, three alternative routes exit the city of Mérida. The first, called the Vía del Valle (Valley Road) links the city with the north, to various communities in the valley of the Culata, in the municipality of Santos Marquina. The second is an alternative route to the city of Ejido and other communities such as Jají and La Azulita; it is also a tourism route, with various lookout points facing Mérida in its initial section. A third minor route, used exclusively by rural vehicles, connects the city with the community of Los Nevados and with the Sierra Nevada National Park.
The city relies on a vast system of urban and interurban bus routes which connect the city with its metropolitan area. The routes traverse the various avenues of the city and cover a large percentage of the city's area. Mérida has one of Venezuela's best public transit systems; nevertheless, the system has become overwhelmed by increasing demand, and may be beginning to collapse. Among the existing routes, the route from the center of the city of Ejido to the center of the city of Mérida stands out, with a volume of thousands of passengers daily.
The bus routes are serviced by private companies, the majority of which are cooperatives or driver's associations, following the private model practiced in most of the cities in Venezuela. However, the prices charged are regulated by the city and supervised by the municipal organization for metropolitan transport. As is the practice throughout the country, the public transport system has special fares for senior citizens, and a student pass providing some of the lowest costs in the country.
After years of study, the construction of a non-polluting mass transit system was proposed; the trolley bus was chosen as the most appropriate means of transport. Construction of the Trolebús de Mérida started near the end of the 1990s. The first line was inaugurated on June 18, 2007, with 14 of 33 proposed stations completed. This route serves Ejido and Mérida. The second line is in the planning stages and is expected to be 12 km long with 3 common stations alongside or crossing route 1. Route 3, the funicular route, is a 3 km long route that will connect the community of Chama to a Mérida trolleybus station. Once construction is completed, Mérida will be the first city in Latin America with under 500,000 inhabitants to have a mass transit system. The existing bus lines will be reorganized into 47 or so feeder routes, in order to provide better public transit to less serviced areas.
Merida contains numerous historical squares, colonial houses, churches, and government buildings that make up most of its sightseeing spots. Moreover, the educational development of the city due, for the most part, to its university (ULA) has contributed to the creation of museums, libraries, and centers for scientific research, such as the Center for Astronomy Research (CIDA), located a few kilometers from the city in the mountains near Apartaderos.
Mérida is famous nationwide for its great number of parks and squares, providing its inhabitants with access to nature. There are, at least, a dozen squares and two dozen parks, some of which are described below.
Boulevard de los Pintores (Painters' Boulevard): On this street painters congregate in order to create, exhibit, and sell their works. Aquarium Garden: This aquarium exhibits both fresh and salt water fish. It also has collections relating to Mérida's rural past.Beethoven Park: Located in front of the Museum of Modern Art in the northern area of the city, this pretty park has a clock on the ground, whose numbers are flowerpots, and large mechanical carillon clock with wooden elves that play melodies from the famous German composer. Mérida Botanical Garden: This was the first botanical garden in the city. It is located in the extreme north of the city and has about 40 hectares under cultivation. Parque Domingo Peña: Also called Paseo de la Feria or Parque de los Conquistadores, consists of an avenue with a lookout point facing the Sierra Nevada. Student celebrations and get-togethers often take place here. Parque Metropolitano Albarregas: This park is the largest in the city, 22 km long and 612 hectares in area. It is located on the bank of the Albarregas River, and contains play areas for children and a sculpture museum. Parque Ciudad de los Niños (Children's City Park): A large children's park, which models the shape of the city on a smaller scale. Parque de las Cinco Repúblicas (Park of the Five Republics): A park that is the home of the Bolívar Column, a monument dedicated to Simón Bolívar. This was the first sculpture constructed to honor Bolívar, in 1842. It was commissioned by the then-governor of the province, Gabriel Picón. It was erected to commemorate the moving of Bolívar's remains to the Panteón Nacional in Caracas, from their previous resting place in the city of Santa Marta, Colombia, where Bolívar had been buried following his death in 1830. The monument consists of a pillar on which sits Bolívar's face in bronze. Parque del Ejército (Park of the Army): A small park, located in the south of the city, commemorating Venezuela's army. It has green areas, a fountain, and models of military tanks. Parque La Isla (Island Park): Situated in the former location of a coffee plantation of the same name, the park was built in 1960 partly as an underwater park, and is 3.5 hectares in area. Its infrastructure is reminiscent to that of an island, offering kids play grounds, trails, and athletic courts. The park houses the largest convention center in the city, as well as the headquarters of Corpoandes (a government-run corporation that promotes development in the Andes region), facilities for cultivating orchids, and a museum dedicated to beekeeping. Parque Las tres Méridas (Three Méridas Park): A small park that commemorates the three cities in the world named Mérida (in Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela). It features architectural elements typical of each city. Parque Zoológico los Chorros de Milla: A small zoo situated in the extreme north of the city where the Milla waterfalls once flowed, it contains species indigenous to Venezuela and the Andes region.Parque la Marina (Park of the Navy): Located in Belensate, it has a large water pool surrounding a submarine fin, an underwater clock, and a children's play area in the shape of a boat. Parque Tibisay: This park is dedicated to Tibisay, princess of the original dwellers of the region, the tribe Mucujún. According to legend, she still laments the death of her fiancé Chief Murachí, who died bravely fighting the Spanish conquistadors. This park is located at the north end of Urdaneta avenue. Plaza Belén: A small plaza, located to the northeast of the city center, in a neighbourhood of the same name. Its design, like that of most of the other plazas described here, follows the prototypical Spanish colonial style. Plaza Bolívar: The past and present main square of Mérida, surrounded by the most important public and historical buildings of the city.
Plaza Glorias Patrias: Consists of twin plazas constructed in honor of the independence leaders Vicente Campo Elías and José Antonio Páez. Plaza Las Heroínas (Plaza of the Heroines): A plaza constructed to honor five women from Mérida who fought for independence. It is surrounded by various markets and artisans shops, and the first Cable Car station.Plaza de Milla: The actual name of this square is Plaza Sucre. It is located in front the Iglesia de Milla and near the army headquarters, northeast of the city center. It is dedicated to the independence hero Antonio José de Sucre, and it is frequently visited by locals and tourists alike, due to its convenient location amongst hotels, pensions, restaurants, stores, and ice cream parlors.
Mérida is a student city with a large percentage of its population found in classrooms, especially in the university area, where 20-30% of the population consists of students, and has a 0% illiteracy rate. It is the home of the University of the Andes, one of the most respected universities in the country, and the second to oldest. Mérida also contains various institutions of higher educations such as universities, university centers, polytechnic institutes, and university colleges, among others.
Two other more recently founded universities are based in Mérida: the Universidad Nacional Abierta (UNA), which offers undergraduate distance-learning courses; and, from 2006, the UNEFA, which is a military university specializing in Engineering for undergraduates. The main university centers to be found in the city are given below:
Primary and Secondary Education There are many institutions dedicated to primary and secondary education, most of which are public, under the control of the national or regional governments. Of particular note is the Liceo Libertador. The largest education centers in the city can be found among the many private Catholic schools. Colegio La Salle de Mérida and Colegio San Luis are among the largest with several hundred pupils each. These are run by governing bodies Fundación La Salle and Fundación Don Bosco, repectively. However, all schools come ultimately under the auspices of The Venezuelan Ministry of Education.
Other educational institutions worth mentioning are the schools dedicated to languages, sport and music. There are important conservatories, orchestras and choirs based in the city. Most are linked to the universities and specialize in many kinds of instruments, as well as lyrical interpretation and the deveopment of the singing voice. Amongst the language schools, of predominance are those that teach English, though French and Italian schools can also be found.
Besides the university libraries, Mérida has the Biblioteca Bolivariana (Bolivarian Library), which is also an area of exhibits and historical displays, a branch of the National Library of Venezuela, and the public library Simón Bolívar, subsidized by the government. Other public and private institutions such as schools, churches, and language institutes have their own minor libraries to be used by their members.
Additionally, land originally set aside for a metropolitan library in 2006 was reallocated for the use of UNEFA, and a new site for the proposed library has yet to be granted.
The city's culture closely resembles that of Andean Folklore and is in fact the main, if not defining, example of this folklore. Inhabitants of Mérida, with deep connections to their culture, are characterized by their well-preserved traditions and slow, unhurried way of life. The city itself can be recognized by its many well-preserved colonial parks and buildings, in addition to its famous social scene, the local art and craftwork, and the unique regional cuisine.
Not many know that the Archdiocesan Museum of Mérida houses the second and third oldest bells in the world, the so called Ave María bell from the year 909 and San Pedro of 912.
|1–February 2||Christ Child's Standing|
|February 2||Candelaria Virgin Feasts|
|Holy Week||Christ's Living Passion|
|May-June||Corpus Christi Feasts|
|August 8||Coronation of Our Lady of the Snows|
|December 8||Immaculate Conception Feasts|
|December 31||Burning of the Past Year|
In addition to national holidays and events, several festivals take pace and have origins in Mérida. Most are religious celebrations, and a few - such as the city's famous "Feria del Sol" or "Sun Fair" that takes place in the beginning of February - are of an international scale.
For Mérida, the most important and famous religious traditions are those celebrated by the city's Christian devotees during Christmas and Holy Week. These festivities include La Quema del Año Viejo (Burning of the Past Year), La Pasión Viviente de Cristo (Christ's Living Passion) and La Paradura del Niño (Christ Child's Standing) celebrated with prayers, song, fireworks, wine and cake.
Another of the more popular local customs (those without official government sanction) are the Caravanas Estudiantiles, student processionals organized by and for high school or university graduates upon earning their degree. In recent years, this tradition has been extended to include younger students who have completed their primary or elementary education. Such celebrations usually occur during the first days of June for high school graduates, and throughout nearly the entire year for college graduates. Similar festivities can be found in other parts of the country, but the Caravanas of Mérida have a special relevance and importance given the city's large student population.
Other customs firmly rooted in the Méridan tradition, usually associated with fixed dates, include Patinatas Navideñas or "Christmas skating," which occurs in the city streets throughout the month of December; the Fiesta de las Velas in December 7 when in the evening all the electricity is turned off and some 18,000 candles are lit; the Fiesta de San Benito between January 12 and 31 celebrated with a drummers processions and street dancing; or the Vasallos de la Candelaria, another typical festivity with children and street dancing.
The city's typical brightened sweets, made from a base of milk and other ingredients, are also notable. There is a historical tradition of such sweets, which are said to originate in the convents where they were prepared in the 19th century. Also, one can find alfajores, aliados, and almojabanas. Popular drinks include corn liquor, mistella, and "donkey's milk", which is known as "Andean punch."
The stations are:
Mérida has a strong athletic infrastructure; noteworthy among others is the Guillermo Soto Rosa Stadium, an important soccer facility and the old headquarters of the local soccer team. During the last month of 2005, the city was host to the 2005 Andean National Games, an event for which numerous athletic facilities were built, including the Cinco Águilas Blancas (Five White Eagles) Sports Complex--a 42 000-seat stadium and the current home stadium of the local team, Estudiantes de Mérida F. C.. Soccer is the most popular and widely-supported sport, but given the city's location, a variety of extreme sports are also practiced as well.
In addition to the aforementioned soccer, the current athletic infrastructure also supports a wide array of other traditional sports, including tennis, basketball, baseball, and Venezuelan sports such as bolas criollas.
As in other respects, the Universidad de Los Andes and its buildings are closely tied to the city; the health care infrastructure is comprised largely of medical centers belonging to the former, in addition to private health centers. Notable among the public hospitals that offer free services is the Instituto Autónomo Hospital Universitario de Los Andes (IHULA), the largest in the region, as well as two smaller hospitals and a chapter of the Venezuelan Red Cross. The larger private hospitals (commonly referred to as "clinics") are the Clinical Hospital of Mérida, the Clinical Center, the Mérida Clinic, and the Albarregas Clinic. There are also another dozen smaller clinics.
In spite of the precarious public health situation in the rest of the country, the city of Mérida has been affected the least, thanks to IHULA, for which the loss of patients to private health centers has been less extreme than in other Venezuelan municipalities.