Yesterday I joined my sister Kaaren and her friend Deb and their husbands on a house tour in downtown Merida. I had heard that behind the closed doors and rather modest exteriors of many homes in the area there were grand residences. We were off to see three of them.
We met first in the courtyard at the English Library just down the street from my sister’s house. The library runs house tours every Tuesday morning as a fundraiser. Brent Marsh a local realtor and house renovator gave us a very interesting thirty minute talk about how the architecture of homes in Merida has been impacted by history, trade and climate.
The first home we visited belonged to an artist. We saw his sunny studio which I thought would also be a perfect spot for writing. Some of the home owner’s work hung on the walls. The kitchen and bathrooms were decorated with these old tiles that were originally imported to Merida from Europe in the late 1800s. The artist who renovated the house sourced them from many different places and then worked hard to fit them together to form some kind of design. The owner had spent almost two years redoing the home and it was absolutely beautiful. It would be a wonderful place to stay during a holiday in Merida.
Every home we toured had a pool and the second house we visited was no exception. The inside of the front door was painted in an unusual and interesting way. It had a couple of beautifully appointed bedroomsAnd the kitchen counters were made of concrete speckled with different kinds of blue glass the owners had picked up on the beach. The third home we toured was the most impressive. It had a diningroom that could have accommodated a large group of guests. My sister was taken with the stylish kitchen and the long walk in pantry attached to it. The home owner told us she had been collecting gallery worthy Haitian art for years and many very interesting pieces adorned her home. There were three spacious and colorful bedroomsand the home featured five bathrooms each with a little garden incorporated into it in some way. A long narrow pool was part of the main floor of the house andthe expansive rooftop space had gardens and several different comfortable sitting areas. The house was enormous and beautifully kept and as I walked through it I wondered how many people the elderly woman who owned it employed to maintain it so well.
The homes we saw were all quite marvelous but our guide Brent Marsh reminded us that keeping a house in good repair in Mexico is an ongoing struggle and very hard work- the heat, the humidity and the insects play havoc with buildings. All the homes we looked at were owned by people from countries other than Mexico. I wondered how the local Mexican people felt about expatriates coming in from other countries to take over their city’s historic homes. Perhaps they are fine with this because the expatriates have the money to restore the homes but might they be reminded as they visit these homes, and work in these homes, of how the Spanish once came and built many of these mansions using the cheap and sometimes slave labor of the local people ?
The English library in Merida hosts house tours every Tuesday and they are very popular. Well over a hundred people divided into three groups were part of the tour we did yesterday. Reviews on Trip Advisor are mixed as would have been the response of various members of our group of five.