Yucatán Magazine: at Home / No. 3 / The Color Issue

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Greg Casini Deborah LaChapelle Jorge Gastelum Rosy Peraza Arkilätt Estudio

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índice 6

Q&A: Jorge Gastelum

Just Asking


8 10

EN LAS CALLES Espita unfolds Pink mystery: El Pinar



Adventure and intrigue for your reading room

BUILDING 14 5 newbie mistakes, illustrated





Deborah LaChapelle’s liquid colors


Casa Oliva: A home for travelers


SoHo Galleries: An ethereal exhibit


Benjamín and Ross in tune


En Studio: Rosy Peraza and her riveting art


The home that became a museum Valladolid


Greg Casini: The angels are in the details

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND Get to know properties and professionals

FRAMED 64 Fabrizio Simoneen



Editor’s Letter

I’ve always had a strange relationship with color. It’s not a thing our family embraced when I was growing up outside Philadelphia.

Color converts

Even now, I love grays and I marvel at how many shades of whites exist. I inherited this colorphobia. Mom’s favorite color is beige. Every seven years, she bought a new car and if the lot had something in a neutral tone, the deal was practically done. She thought it matched the house, which was brown. We felt those were tasteful colors. Mom’s living with us now in Mérida, and wow has she changed her ways. She’s over 90 now, and her nurses are polishing her nails all kinds of hot pink and jungle red. And she approves heartily. She proudly sports orange shorts and aquawith-jewel-tone sandals. She’s never looked more adorable! She loves living here because there are brightly hued flowers year-round. Back in the northeast, we never even had a patio to enjoy lilacs and tiger lilies — sources of the meager and fleeting color we had worked into our landscape. Now she sits on the terrace at every meal and marvels at the kaleidoscope of color on the other side of the arches. I’ve worked in publishing all my adult life, but my first jobs were in periodicals that printed in mainly black-and-white. And my bosses were also color averse. Anything too lively make them think of a comic book, unfortunately. Were we tasteful or just timid? I opened up to more space on the color wheel when I started to travel more: to the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, to Murano and Burano in Italy, and finally to Mexico. Each trip was a lesson in embracing pinks, oranges and greens — the brighter the better. Of course, many of you dive fearlessly into the rainbow right away. Talavera tiles from Puebla and some regional Mexican handicrafts are the easiest way to start. Pasta tiles, which are more true to the Yucatecan aesthetic, can also be as bold as you wish. Paint choices are endless. No one will judge you for being flamboyant. To paraphrase fellow Yankee transplant Craig Saunders in Issue 2, hot pink is the new neutral. 

Lee Steele Director, Yucatán at Home lee@roofcatmedia.com



Just Asking “If you are coming because you think it’s a cheap version of your home country, think again.” “Leave your existing cultural ideology at the border.”

“Learn Spanish. Learn to live with less. Don’t expect things to be like back home. Nothing is the same. Not the culture, the way things are built, the government, nothing.”

How to adapt: We asked expats for advice they’d give anyone planning a move here from abroad. New questions are posed monthly on Yucatán Magazine’s Facebook page

“If you’re a Type-A person, you might be unhappy here in Yucatán.”

“Bring only what you need/want in one or two suitcases! Sell all your stuff ... you’ll never miss it. Simplify your life. You can get anything you need in Mexico!”

“Less is more in Mexico. Sell most things and start fresh.”

“Secure an online job or make sure you have stable earnings before moving. The job market here is very, very tough.”


Jorge Gastelum Yucatán’s YouTube sensation has design advice and forecasts some post-pandemic trends INTERVIEW BY VERÓNICA GARIBAY



Can you give us a brief definition of your personal style philosophy?

A: I would describe my style as “contemporary.” I’ve learned to adapt it to as many different budgets as possible because I want my content to be accessible for everyone. My philosophy is a reflection of that, and it also aims at creating serenity in every space. I want to offer comfort and security in each of my projects. And a touch of green with an unmissable pothos plant.


Q: How do you feel about the use of color, where do you recommend it and how do you incorporate it into your designs? A: I am currently integrating a lot of different color palettes that I did not use before. Usually, people do not dare to use colors in their homes for fear of making a mistake or creating something that clashes with the room. Color has the ability to modify a space, and I think the main thing is understanding what we want the color to do, and choosing accordingly. Do we want the room to feel bigger? Brighter? Cozier? The right palette can

help create those sensations. Q: What design trends do you see for the coming year? A: A trend I’m excited about is interiors with curved lines. We will see it in structures, decor, and furniture. The year 2021 was all about straight lines, as there was a lot of influence by minimalism and the feelings of uncertainty over the pandemic. Now that life is changing again we’re turning towards organic shapes, openness, and nature.


Q: Do details define the style of a room?

Q: Do you have some universal tips for creating a top-tier space?

A: If we were to make the breakdown of a room, around 60% of its character and style come from the base color, 30% of it comes from the furniture’s tones, and around 10% are accent colors. We could focus on that 10% and find interesting decor pieces such as pictures, vases, or plants. Depending on the style we’re after we could define different shapes, materials, and textures that accentuate the rest of our design choices. So I wouldn’t say details are everything, but they are certainly necessary to bring a room together.

A: I always recommend measuring the space before anything else. This is the first mistake most people make, and it causes us to lose time and money. And I do not recommend using more than three main colors when decorating our house. Choose a color palette and stick to it! Q: How do we get started in the world of interior design?

Q: Would you tell us a little about your creative process? A: It consists of a few small steps. First, I try to think of three keywords that are completely unrelated to the project. For example, if I’m designing a room I might write “hospital,” “box,” and “fence.” From these words, I try to find related qualities that I might want to add to the space: for this selection maybe something clean, square, full of straight lines with cold and warm lighting. This is how I visualize a space through words. It is a very helpful exercise to visualize a space out of nothing and polish it later.

“I do not recommend using more than three main colors when decorating our house. Choose a color palette and stick to it!” JORGE GASTELUM

A: I think the main thing is the desire to learn. Nowadays we’re interested in materials that don’t harm our planet. Learning about style and composition is important, but I also encourage people to become responsible creators. Practice using what you already have in a space, rescuing old furniture pieces, thrifting. This also helps us become designers for all kinds of budgets. We all deserve to live happily in a space we enjoy. Jorge Gastelum, 26, is a Mérida-based interior designer and the creator of the “Inspira tu estilo,” a YouTube channel with more than 300,000 subscribers. Read more about him at Yucatán Magazine, yucatanmagazine.com.









En las Calles

A trendy restaurant and guesthouse has attracted curious visitors to Espita. Opposite: The church of San José is named for the community’s patron saint.

Espita unfolds International residents are discovering and investing in a historically peaceful refuge TEXT AND PHOTOS BY VERÓNICA GARIBAY


ot far from Valladolid and Tizimín, Espita is slowly becoming a popular destination for people looking to experience the wonders of colonial

Yucatán. Its location makes it a convenient base from which to visit Chichén Itzá, one of the region’s many amazing cenotes, or even the famous pink lakes of Las Coloradas. Espita is particularly appealing for anyone looking to live in Yucatán, far from the hustle and bustle of larger centers such as Mérida, about two hours away. And international residents are slowly discovering Espita. The market for colonial homes has grown considerably in the past 10 years. Europeans, Americans, and Canadians have begun buying up properties, especially in the Centro, to make a home, rent out for income, and in a few cases to



start new businesses. Ranchland is also for sale with prices all over the map. With more people arriving, good deals are becoming more scarce, local experts tell us. It’s best to hunt on foot rather than search on the Internet. The town, whose name means “poca agua” — scarce water — is mainly known for its storied haciendas and a traditional fair held every December. Espita bore witness to many essential chapters in Yucatecan history, from the heyday of its great haciendas to the arrival of the railroad and printing press. The beginning of the 17th century saw the erection of the church of San José in the center of town — its namesake being the patron saint of the community since 1568. In 1738, the church burned down and was rebuilt in 1755, when a south tower was added. In the early 19th century, Mérida’s growing demand for agricultural products led haciendas in Espita to specialize in corn and sugarcane crops. During the Caste War in the second half of the century, Espita became a refuge for families, which in turn significantly increased production at local haciendas. These economic and demographic developments gave way to the city’s cultural and artistic boom and people to call it “the Athens of Yucatán.” Espita remains a small and quiet community. The town is best explored by foot, walking through its wide streets, markets, and stunning colonial homes. Espita’s grand old houses are representative of late 19-century, early 20-century Yucatecan architecture, complete with double-height ceilings, brightly colored facades, and pasta floors with unique designs. These buildings now house schools, government offices, and art centers. Some notable buildings to look out for are the Palacio Municipal, the Casa de la Cultura, the headquarters of the Sociedad Progreso y Recreo, and the old railroad station. 


Name That House! It’s not a quiz show —its a phenomenon that occurs a lot around here. Ralf Hollmann wonders why.


hat is it about expats and naming their houses? A brief look at two streets alone, calles 52 and 54 which run north and south through Mérida’s centro, provide a few excellent examples:

• Casa Flor de Mayo (named after the flower frangipani-plumeria rubra probably found or planted in the garden) • Casa Tatich (The Mayan name for the leader or main man) • Casa Chelita (a chela is a blonde person of the female persuasion and the “ita” diminutive) • Casa Linda del Pozo (pretty house of the well) • Casa Ana (Ana’s house, plain and simple) • Casa Chukum (a tree with bark used to waterproof walls, cisterns, pools) Bookshop owner and long-time Yucatán Today editor Juanita Stein, who has been living in the Yucatán for decades, said she wasn’t sure. “Maybe it’s a carryover from the beach house idea — a lot of people name their beach houses both here and along the coasts in North America.” Another well-known local magazine editor and publisher, who restored and renovated after coming to Mérida from Connecticut, owns a house that he has called Casa Nana. I asked if his house back in the U.S. had a name and he stated, “No! That would be pretentious!” There seems to be a special kind of affection reserved for a newly acquired, repaired, and restored home in a new country. That and the learning of a new language, a new culture, and how much to pay a housekeeper without upsetting the local economies makes for the perfect storm. And while I have only seen this in Mérida, conflicting reports indicate that this happens — and doesn’t happen, depending on

whom you ask — in San Miguel, Ajijic, and other places where expats move. Oaxaca? The greater consensus seems to suggest that, given real estate prices, not so much. No one wants to call attention to themselves. This is assuming that the reason to name a house is to call attention to oneself, which I don’t think is exactly it. Longtime Mérida resident Steven Fry, a veritable fountain of knowledge regarding everything from local history to the correct mask to wear during a pandemic, posits that people moving to Mérida to start a new life are reinventing themselves. This rebirth is announced to all with their new digs being christened by something relevant, whether it is simply the color of the house or something more meaningful. And so the pink house becomes a whimsical Casa Rosada and the bright yellow Casa del Sol is more philosophical: it’s all about the sun, sunshine, a new day, a sparkling new beginning. All this got me thinking: what about the reverse? What happens when Mexicans move to Canada, say. Why do they not feel the urge to come up with a name and have it engraved on a plaque? And while it is hard to imagine walking down a leafy residential street in Toronto and see markers for Blue House (on a blue house) or Bear House (where a bear came onto the site and ate a contractor) here in sunny Mérida, coming across a green house with a ceramic plaque called Casa Verde would not warrant even a second glance.  Ralf Hollmann is the author of The Modern Yucatán Dictionary (Hamaca Press) and owner of Lawson’s Original Yucatán Excursions (lawsonsyucatanexcursions.com). Raised in Canada, Hollmann has lived in Yucatán with his Mérida-born wife for 30 years.


En las Calles

Enigma in pink The mystery behind one of Mérida’s most photographed mansions BY VERÓNICA GARIBAY


ucatán’s pink mansion is one of the most popular spots for photo enthusiasts visiting the capital. Located in the busy hotel zone on Calle 60, the old mansion arouses intrigue behind its pastel pink walls. After being seemingly abandoned for some time, its 2020 for-sale announcement reawakened curiosity for the building. This mansion was built in 1915 and belonged to Humberto Peón. It was later acquired and restored by Alberto Bulnes Guedea and then sold to José Trinidad Molina Castellanos, whose family still owns the property. Apart from its iconic color and long-standing lifetime, it is locally known for an interesting urban legend. The myth goes that as recently as 30-something years ago, the mansion was home to a young couple from Portugal who were in the henequen industry. During their relatively short stay, the wife was bitten by a bat and after a few days became ill with rabies. The woman’s case quickly became severe. Rumor has it that after the husband exhausted all available treatment, he locked his wife in one of the rooms of the mansion until her death. It is said that the neighbors in the surrounding areas could hear her cries coming through the walls. After becoming a widower, the man abandoned the house and is believed to have returned to his home country. The legend has long influenced the image of the property, although it is not necessarily regarded as factual. The home later began a slow process of restoration. Despite its long period of abandonment, the house maintains the original ornaments and furniture from the time it was built. El Pinar has mainly an Italian neo-Renaissance architectural style with some characteristic features of French neo-Renaissance. It is one of the few colonial homes that remains intact today in Mérida, including its 10 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms, four half bathrooms, and a garage for eight cars. El Pinar was the entrance point to the ancient town of Itzimná during the henequén boom. This makes it one of the most representative mansions of old Mérida, one directly resulting from the latter part of the “green gold era.” Most tourists photograph it from the street. But in 2019, El Pinar started offering private tours at elpinar.com.mx, where the owners show the original details of the building built during the Porfiriato period. In 2020, the mansion was offered for sale at a price of $US7 million, although details of change of owners have not been publicly shared. Today, El Pinar remains popular among locals and tourists alike and is one Mérida’s most Instagrammed houses. 









Teotihuacán is an New data shows enigma at the center growth in Mexico’s of the universe jaguar population

A new direct flight connects Mérida and colonial Antigua

The grandeur of Teotihuacán is hard to overstate. It is easy to understand why their cultural descendants, the famed Aztecs, thought the great city lay at the center of the universe itself. Teotihuacán is an ancient Mesoamerican metropolis in the Valley of Mexico, in what today is the State of Mexico, roughly 40 kilometers from Mexico City. Archaeological evidence suggests that Teotihuacán was first settled as early as 600 BCE. With the passage of the centuries the city’s population ballooned to well over 100,000 — making it one of the largest urban centers of antiquity.

Travelers in Yucatán will soon have a new convenient destination for their getaways: Guatemala City. The new flight by TAG Airlines and operate four times a week beginning in March 2022. Despite their geographical proximity, flights between Mérida and Central America have been historically infrequent. Though Guatemala City has not historically been much of a tourist attraction, it is just one hour by car or bus from the colonial city of Antigua. That city is famous for its thriving art scene, traditional markets, splendid architecture, and natural beauty.

A census of Mexico’s jaguars shows an increase in the population of 20% over the past couple of years. The news is being celebrated by conservationists who see evidence that conservation strategies to protect the giant felines are working. The numbers are even more encouraging as a similar positive trend was reported back in 2018 in the pages of the scientific journal PLOS One. It is estimated that Mexico’s jaguar population is of approximately 5,000 specimens, most of which are concentrated in the south of the country.

Find relevant news, more topics, more ideas online at Yucatán Magazine Click the Free Newsletter link on the top of our home page to get the Yucatán Roundup in your inbox.

This place was perfect. Very beautiful home, super clean, amazing court yard. The pictures don’t do justice, you will not be disappointed. The host were very helpful and very fast with response. I would highly recommend and would love to stay again! - TASHITA, 2021.

For the bookshelf Juanita Stein »  When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

»  A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Paula McLain’s new book — a suspenseful thriller — is something of a departure for the author known for her riveting historical fiction novels. But if you love a mystery that keeps you guessing, with a heart-pounding conclusion, this book is for you. Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When unspeakable tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the northern California village of Mendocino, where she spent summers as a child. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. Anna is in no condition to become involved with the search until a childhood friend, now the village sheriff, pleads for her help. Interwoven with real-life northern California kidnapping cases of several young girls in the 1990s. Hardcover, 370 pages, 709 pesos

Critically acclaimed best-selling author Isabel Allende’s most recent historical fiction novel transports us to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. To survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires. Together with 2,000 other refugees, Roser and Victor embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” Starting over on a new continent, they face trial after trial, but they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they might go home. Paperback, 368 pages, 408 pesos 

Juanita Stein owns the bookstore Between the Lines, on the corner of Calle 62 and 53 in the Centro. Visit facebook.com/BetweenTheLinesMerida


5 rookie moves Building a house in Yucatán? Congratulations. Now learn from others’ mistakes. BY LEE STEELE ILLUSTRATIONS GINA OSORNO



Interior rooms in townhouses and colonial homes can get dark, so it’s natural to cut in a skylight or two to brighten some rooms. In the bedroom, you might imagine how nice it would be to look up and see the sky, but when you’re sleeping late, that beam of light might not be so welcome.. Solution: Plan for hidden clerestory windows above ceiling level angled so the light hits the wall. They’re visible only from the roof, and can also be a fresh-air source if they can open and be screened.

A messy tree over the pool Whether you dug a pool under a messy tree or planted said tree, you made a big booboo pairing them together. The tree-over-pool vignette looks inviting on your Airbnb thumbnail, but it’s a maintenance nightmare. Plus, in the winter, you’ll need lots of sun to warm the water. Believe it or not, it can get too cool to swim by December or January, and shade is not your friend. Solution: Place your pool and your leaf-dropping, fruit-bearing, seed-scattering arboles far apart. If you can’t bear to part with your greenery, a sail shade will shield your space.



A skylight over the bed

Building from a faraway You haven’t moved here yet but want to build now while you still have access to credit. Or you’re just anxious to get going. So you OK the project, ask for a photo report once a week, you agree to wire funds down once a month, and the runaway train begins. Solution: Once you break ground, you’ll have to schedule regular trips here. See what’s going on, and don’t just walk through to admire the construction. Check for adequately sized pipes, spots where electric outlets belong, even the size of the screws holding up large, heavy objects. You might even spot a design flaw that’s not too late to revise.


5 4

Skipping bug and moisture prevention Termites are a plague on all our houses, even with very little wood to chomp on. Known in Yucatán as comején, these buggers feed on the cellulose found in wood and are adept at invading nooks and crannies in cement and concrete. The main solution to eradicate them is drilling small holes along the perimeter of your rooms to insert poison. The process scars your floors and can cost thousands of dollars. Solution: Insist your grounds be chemically treated for pests to postpone the inevitable infestation as long as possible. Also, get a moisture barrier placed under the floor. Termites thrive on moisture. Be there to make sure it’s actually installed (see No. 3).

Crowdsourcing opinions Avoid shopping for an answer or taking time for strangers holding forth on whether tile or concrete is better. Our dozen or so Facebook groups are mostly helpful but be prepared for the snarky, belligerent answer designed to make you feel stupid — or worse. Apparently, it’s never too early in the day for character assassination just because you asked where to find Twizzlers. And the fact there are a dozen or so breakaway expat Facebook groups tells you something about how often feelings get out of joint on social media. Solution: Avoid the vitriol and get to know experts you can trust. 

Cover Story

Details, details

Greg Casini: The owner of one of Mérida’s most famous homes takes an encore BY LEE STEELE YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 3 PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT


Cover Story

“Most people put art on their walls, and my walls really are the art.” GREG CASINI


fter renting it for years as a bodega, Greg Casini bought an adjoining property to expand the richly fanciful Casa de las Torres. The elaborate details on every square inch of floor, wall, and ceiling continues. But perhaps its highlight is the rear garden, which is being used to host events such as weddings and birthday parties. The new home strikes a clear family resemblance to the original, which debuted in the 2014 Showcase of Homes after three years’ work with a local architect. Visitors were amazed at the level of ornate embellishment — particularly the countless decorative paintings — throughout the home. Over the next several years, Casini regularly invited guests in for fundraisers to benefit local nonprofits, including the Merida English Library, of which he is Board President. “I didn’t build Casa de las Torres with the idea of being an event place,” he says. But its large rooms, all of which converted easily into a dining space, and a flexible chef’s kitchen, made it a natural. “I didn’t think about events, but I can tell you there was a certain point when I realized that I had the opportunity to build something grand rather than just restore a home. When I walked into the courtyard, they were building the doorway into the kitchen, you know, that very tall arched doorway. It wasn’t like that, it was a normal rectangular door when I bought the house. And I just realized this could be a grand home. That was the moment I realized I could go above and beyond and create something really special. And after that I did.” The house, three blocks from Parque La Ermita, was originally constructed in the 1880s by a hacienda owner. “A lot of people ask, why did you pick that particular house?” says Casini. “And the answer is, the layout. I know a lot of people care about the streets around it or the neighborhood. I picked it for the layout. I loved that I could stand in the middle of the front and look all the way to the back wall. I like a wider lot. And no other property I looked at was really like this at all.” He also rejected modern trends, choos-





Cover Story

Casa de las Torres’ new courtyard features a facsimile of two churches facing each other. The pool converts into a stage for ceremonies and presentations. Right, a pink dome tops a fantasy bedroom suite, pictured from the inside on the previous page. Opposite: A cozy lounge takes on a subdued color scheme.


ing instead to be inspired by centuries past, particularly from haciendas and churches. “I really like to be surrounded by color. Most people put art on their walls, and my walls really are the art,” says Casini. That idea extended to his new renovation next door, in particular the fantasy courtyard. On one end, the wall is constructed to resemble a ruined church. Its opposite wall appears to be the facade of a chapel still very much in operation. The swimming pool can be capped off to transform it into a stage for live music or a platform to perform a wedding. The existing home is filled with design elements from haciendas and churches, but Casini also had a bigger picture in mind when he first walked in with Architect Juan Carlos Alonso. “I told him two things: When you walk in, I want you to think you’re in a 200-yearold ex-convent. And when I walk in, I never want to leave. That’s what I literally told him, and he did it!” Casini’s professional background explains his acuity with details and organization. And no, his background is not in architecture or design, as some people have assumed. “First I was a volunteer with the Sierra Club,” Casini says. “I’ve had a lot of volunteer roles from being state chair in Colorado to serving on the national Board of DirecISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

tors. Then I joined the staff, and I was the Director of Chapter Support, training and supporting all the volunteer leaders across the country.” There is also a science chapter in his history. “I did basic biological research. Specifically, I was studying the structure and assembly of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Basic biological research, though, not clinical applications,” Casini says. “I guess one of the things that you could say applies is the level of detail that I’ve had in my careers. So that when you are building or renovating a home, there’s a very long list of things that have to get done. It’s good if you are detail-oriented.” His experience with the first house informed his next project. His architect had the same crew lined up, ready with ironwork, stone, metal, and flooring. And with one home under his belt, “I had a better sense of what I like and what’s architecturally possible.” Having two adjoining homes offers flexibility. He can live in either while the other is rented. Casini has also led over 100 Airbnb Experience tours for people interested in home renovation.  Casa de las Torres offers space for everything from an intimate dinner for six to a wedding for 120. Visit casadelastorresyucatan.com or facebook.com/CasadelasTorresYucatan to plan your next celebration or event.

En Casa

Liquid colors

d’LaChapelle A designer masters the art of conjuring cloud-like hues that look ready to float away BY LEE STEELE PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT

En Casa




t almost seems like a natural that someone like Deborah LaChapelle would end up building, restoring and designing homes in Mérida. She would have inherited an affinity with historic properties from her grandfather, who was a Boston antiques dealer. In her youth, she grew up in US border states and was educated in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City, another connection to her current vocation. But LaChapelle, who possesses no formal art training and says she never took to classrooms, says she wasn’t always considered just so capable. “Nobody thought I was artistic or interesting or anything, least of all me,” LaChapelle says, adding that she was a bit of rebel, dropping of school on numerous occasions. After two decades in Mérida, LaChapelle’s homes are among the most distinctive around. They are richly styled, embrace available materials and connect to their surroundings. Her path here was filled with obstacles before she made it to the airport. “I woke up that morning, I had a B&B in Tucson where I was living, and my assistant — who was going to stay in my home while I was gone — said, you gotta turn on the TV,” LaChapelle recalls. “Why would I turn on the TV at 6 in the morning?” she asked herself. It was 9/11, and all air travel had halted for obvious reasons. “I eventually took a bus down to the border to Nogales and I made my way on another flight to Mérida. So I bought a home in Santa Ana. It was a complete ruin, I could hardly see the house,” LaChapelle remembers.


Deborah LaChapelle’s latest house also has paintings for sale by French-Canadian artist Martine Janser, who divides her time between Montreal and Mérida. The home mixes what LaChapelle refers to as a mix of modern, industrial and Mexican romantic, and special attention is given to the soft but rich colors on the walls.


En Casa

“People say, is it chukum? It is not. I just have fabulous finishers.” “I’m a real detail fanatic, so the finishes always stress me out — even though I have an exemplary crew.” 28

“I am handy with tools but my workers won’t let me pick up anything heavier than a pencil.”

Building on the experience she already had restoring a farmhouse and a barn in Maine, an adobe in Tucson, a Victorian in Los Angeles, she turned that property into a bed and breakfast. “I’m not an architect, I’m a designer and I’ve become a builder since I’ve been here,” LaChapelle says. Years later, she sold it and decided to keep buying and restoring buildings. “I’ve worked with a really wonderful crew of Mayans,” she says. “It’s almost one family, father, brothers, a son, a couple of uncles, and so on. And they have been with me for at least 10 years.” Together, they have consistently built and sold houses that reflect her concepts that “mush things together,” as she puts it. “I like old and new, kind of Mexican modern meets romantic rustic Mexican hacienda. I like modern lighting, modern kitchens…” But what stands out first is her use of color. Her palette isn’t necessarily bright or forceful, but rather deep and textured. “I like to juxtapose colors that seem odd together. I like to do very deep colors, like in the bedroom which is a martini-olive green. “I like to do washes,” she says, pointing to a wall in a recently completed house she has listed with Robert Abuda at Mérida Living Real Estate,” like turquoise — eight layers of paint. It’s paint dropped in a bucket of water.” On another wall: “This is a color that not dark and triste as my guys would say, it’s just deep. And deep colors make things look ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

“I think in Yucatán we should be outdoors. A signature of my house is that when you open the front door, you can see — usually — to the back wall.”

bigger. It pushes it back.” “All the tile in the house is the tile that was originally here,” says LaChapelle. The new section raises the roof four feet and incorporates original pieces or older elements found in salvage shops she routinely scours. “I like to work with what’s here, and then build new. So new doors, old doors,” we admire another wall with rich yet mellow hues. “Deep colors are not dark, they’re just wonderful in my opinion. And I like surprising combinations, like ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ I like patina, I like juxtaposed mixed-together stuff.” 

Casa Quadro

Best location: Santa Ana Close to Paseo Montejo


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“Know what you’re good at. I also allow myself three mistakes. ‘Oh, that didn’t work’ … and I laugh.”

2 bedrooms, 2 bath and a garage large enough for a small SUV 2,400 square feet and large swimming pool Featured on TV’s House Hunters International Solar panels for maximum efficiency  Stainless-steel appliances

Contact Robert Abuda at Merida Living robabuda@gmail.com / 999-261-6001 meridalivingrealestate.com

En Casa

Worldly renovation Casa Oliva in San Sebastián is a travelers’ delight BY VERÓNICA GARIBAY PHOTOS COURTESY COBALTOESAZUL


nside and out, Casa Oliva — just around the corner from Mérida’s San Sebastian park — is a celebration of the colors of the world. The original facade is currently covered in a lilac tone, which the first owners chose to preserve. When architectural firm Arkilätt first arrived, the house belonged to a couple from the U.S. and Canada. Kimberly Harris and Tyler Melmoth were drawn to loud, shiny patterns. “They met while traveling,” says Mariana Martín, an architect at Arkilätt. “They first found each other in Turkey and started wandering together. After some time trotting they found Mérida, and Casa Oliva, which they chose as their new retreat.” The couple got referred to the architects by a friend, and they got started on a large renovation project together. When they first arrived on the property, the design was heavily influenced by the 1970s. The tall walls had no windows or views to the street, only a large atrium in the back of the land. Because of INAH restrictions, they couldn’t really change the structure of the building, which meant they couldn’t add windows to aerate the space. Instead, they chose to work around the atrium. “We had to find alternative ways to create a flowy environment,” says Mariana. “We worked around the ceiling slabs to create high connection windows. And opened the space to the backyard in order to illuminate and ventilate the space.” Growing from the main atrium, the home is comprised of two axes. The first axis holds the dining room and kitchen, and the second is made up of a studio and the master bedroom. Strong color became a theme in the project. Mariana says that Casa Oliva is one of the most colorful homes they’ve done, and notes that most of the inspiration came from the owners themselves. “They had a very colorful selection of objects from their trips and


Before and after


En Casa

wanted to incorporate that feeling into the design,” says Mariana. “Kimberly had made a previous selection of pasta tiles she liked, and we worked around them in specific parts of the home.” The first axis became the blue section. The calming scheme from the kitchen grows out into the breakfast area and into a lounge that communicates with the master bedroom. From there, in the second axis, the green section begins. “Her time in Turkey was a big influence,” remembers Mariana, “so they chose mosaics inspired by Moorish designs, with colors that matched her decor. She brought handles, keys, lamps, and all kinds of pieces from her journeys. Despite the bright colors, everything had an organic feel, which was really the intention of the space.” Other parts of the home have their own particular hue, which sets them apart from the rest of the space. “They were very colorful people, from the walls to their pieces of furniture. She knew she wanted a girly bathroom from the beginning, and so we designed this pink room together.” 32

Once the project was finished, in late 2020, the couple spent a short stay in the home and quickly passed the baton to an American couple. Arkilätt is now working with the new owners on some minor alterations. “We are working with the blueprints from the redesign we created for the property. We’re mostly doing changes in the backyard and some technical enhancements in the electric framework. But we’re very happy that they’re choosing to maintain the colorful vibe that represents the home.” Casa Oliva is a colorful conjunction of history, modernity, and diversity. Mariana excitedly reveals that the lilac paint in the original facade will soon turn back to its original light blue color with a renewed style on the inside. “Color is the defining aspect of the home. We have loved discovering its different layers through time. And there’s something really exciting about having the original color coming back. It’s the same building, but with a lot more light on the inside.” ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

En Casa

Renovación global Casa Oliva en San Sebastián es una delicia para los viajeros POR VERÓNICA GARIBAY FOTOS CORTESÍA COBALTOESAZUL

Mariana Martín y Edgar Solís de Arkilätt. FOTO: FERNANDO DUARTE MONTERO


asa Oliva, a la vuelta del parque de San Sebastián, es una celebración de los colores del mundo. La fachada está cubierta de un tono lila, que los propietarios del momento decidieron conservar. Cuando llegó el estudio de arquitectura Arkilätt, la casa pertenecía a una pareja de Estados Unidos. Kimberly Harris y Tyler Melmoth quienes estaban acostumbrados a los diseños llamativos y brillantes. “Se conocieron viajando”, dice Mariana Martín, arquitecta de Arkilätt. “Se encontraron por primera vez en Turquía y comenzaron a deambular juntos. Después de un tiempo encontraron Mérida, y Casa Oliva, que eligieron como su nuevo refugio”. La pareja llegó a los arquitectos remitidos por un amigo, y empezaron juntos el importante proyecto de renovación. Cuando llegaron a la propiedad por primera vez, notaron la fuerte influencia que los 70 tuvo en el diseño. Los altos muros no tenían ventanas ni vistas a la calle, sólo un gran atrio en la parte trasera del terreno. Debido a las restricciones del INAH, no podían cambiar la estructura del edificio, lo que significaba que no podían añadir ventanas para airear el espacio. En su



En Casa

“Eran personas muy coloridas, desde las paredes hasta sus muebles. Ella sabía que quería un baño femenino desde el principio, y por eso diseñamos esta habitación color de rosa”. MARIANA MARTÍN

lugar, optaron por trabajar alrededor del atrio. “Tuvimos que encontrar formas alternativas de crear un entorno fluido”, dice Mariana. “Trabajamos junto con las losas del techo para crear ventanas de alta conexión. Y abrimos el espacio al patio trasero para iluminar y ventilar”. Partiendo del atrio principal, la vivienda se compone de dos ejes separados. El primer eje alberga el comedor y la cocina, y el segundo está formado por un estudio y el dormitorio principal. Desde el principio, el color se convirtió en un tema central. Mariana dice que Casa Oliva es una de las casas más coloridas que han hecho, y señala que la mayor parte de la inspiración vino de los propietarios. “Tenían una selección de objetos muy coloridos de sus viajes y querían incorporar esa sensación al diseño”, dice Mariana. “Kimberly había hecho una selección previa de azulejos de pasta que le gustaban, y trabajamos en torno a ellos en partes específicas de la casa”.


El primer eje se convirtió en la sección azul. El esquema tranquilizador de la cocina crece hacia la zona de desayuno y hacia un salón que se comunica con el dormitorio principal. A partir de ahí, en el segundo eje, comienza la sección verde. “Su estancia en Turquía fue una gran influencia”, recuerda Mariana, “por lo que eligieron mosaicos inspirados en diseños moriscos, con colores que encajaban con su decoración. Ella traía cerraduras, llaves, lámparas y todo tipo de piezas de sus viajes. A pesar de los colores vivos, todo tenía un aire orgánico, que era realmente la intención del espacio”. Otras partes de la casa tienen su propio tono particular, que las diferencia del resto del espacio. “Eran personas muy coloridas, desde las paredes hasta sus muebles. Ella sabía que quería un baño femenino desde el principio, y por eso diseñamos esta habitación color de rosa”. Una vez terminado el proyecto, a finales del 2020, la pareja pasó ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

una breve estancia en la casa y rápidamente la cedió a otra pareja estadounidense. Arkilätt se encuentra nuevamente con los actuales propietarios, realizando algunas pequeñas modificaciones. “Estamos trabajando con los planos del rediseño original que creamos para la propiedad. Estamos especialmente enfocados en el patio trasero, y haremos algunas mejoras técnicas en el cuadro eléctrico. Pero estamos muy contentos de que hayan decidido mantener el ambiente brillante que distingue la casa.” Casa Oliva es una colorida conjunción de historia, modernidad y diversidad. Mariana revela emocionada que la pintura lila de la fachada volverá pronto a su azul claro original, con un estilo renovado en el interior. “El color es el aspecto que define la casa. Nos ha encantado descubrir sus diferentes capas a través del tiempo. Y hay algo realmente emocionante en el regreso del color original. Es el mismo edificio, pero con mucha más luz en el interior”.  YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 3


Together with SoHo Galleries

Angels on view Adele Aguirre reflects on the past few years and a highly cathartic art exhibit she curated when the dust began to settle


t’s no accident that SoHo Gallery’s “Angels” exhibit follows a tumultuous couple of years. “Angels” also follows the gallery owner’s own loss. The death of Adele Aguirre’s beloved Marc Bruce Dragul is directly connected to this winter-long exhibit, and she has dedicated it to him. “My partner passed away and it had a profound effect on me,” Adele confides. “It changed my life completely.” The pain led to a time of personal research, along with visits to spiritualists such as Manuel Couoh, who has provided insight. Life change was seemingly everywhere. Across the street from her gallery, fashion designer Billy Manolo opened Corazón de Ixchel. They quickly formed a friendship and Billy was also struggling with loss — shortly after Marc’s demise, Manolo’s 20-year-old sister perished after a battle with COVID-19. When Billy remarked to Adele that his sister was “an angelito,” an idea already swirling in her head took hold. “That was very profound for me,” says Adele. “I’d like to do something to celebrate Marc’s life and where he is now because I do believe there’s something afterwards.” This extensive and ambitious multi-artist ethereal exhibition would be a tribute to Marc



and catharsis for everyone dealing with loss and life change. That’s pretty much all of us. After 13 years on Calle 60, this is Adele’s most personal show. Her time with Marc was relatively short, but profound. “He was the first man in my life to show me what love really is. We didn’t have enough time,” Adele laments. Marc struggled with cancer for two-and-ahalf years. He was 66 when he succumbed. “He was a trouper. He always smiled. I’m telling you, Marc always smiled.” Adele grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and eventually owned her own home in Putnam County, N.Y., that was often observed to resemble an art gallery. Until two years ago, she balanced running the gallery here in Merida and her US business — a software company that designed employee engagement and incentive programs. “I was running the business from here in Mérida, with people working there. It became competitive and I didn’t have a life. I wanted to have a life with Marc and he had just been diagnosed. He saw the stress I was under, it was a constant. He encouraged my decision to sell my US business and I’m glad I did. I got to spend those years with Marc,” Adele says. “I don’t think there’s any difference between religions. I think people make the difference. We all really pretty much believe

“Call them angels, call them spirits, or light beings, they are everywhere.” ADELE AGUIRRE

the same thing, give or take a little bit.” Adele met Manuel Couoh even before she met Marc. “He knows angels I never even heard of,” Adele says. “And I was very impressed with him so when this all happened I called him.” “Call them angels, call them spirits, or light beings, they are everywhere,” she says. SoHo has typically featured Latin American artists, but for this show she invited in artists who connected with the theme. One is Marilyn Kalish, whom she noticed while browsing a gallery in Massachusetts. “I was smitten.” The pieces will include paintings, sculptures, photography and objects d’art in the Art Shoppe. Each piece is the artists’ own unique representation and interpretation of angels, which range from traditional to

avant-garde. Ihovany Abreau from Cuba, Kresco from Canada, Lisa G from France, and Mexican artist JAAR are also part of the group show. In all, the show comprises representations and interpretations of angels by over 14 local and international artists. Adele calls it “an exhibition in honor of hope, love and the guardians that look after us.” We encourage you to see the works of Angels. SoHo Galleries is practicing health protocols and has limited space. Exhibit opens 6:30-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 at Calle 60 #400A x 43 y 41 Centro, Mérida. The show runs through January 2022. Contact info@sohogalleriesmx.com or WhatsApp 999-344-7463 to attend the opening.

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En Casa

In tune An international couple finds harmony through color, symmetry, and art TEXT AND PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT



En Casa


or 15 years, Benjamín Ramírez and Ross Russell have been enjoying life in their spacious Mérida home. Like many properties in Mérida, the home’s unassuming facade gives little of the dazzling interior within. Both Benjamín and Ross, originally from Mexico City and Pennsylvania respectively, are great art lovers, a fact that is immediately evident when entering their foyer. “We have pieces from all over the world, but I am particularly fond of Mexican religious art,” says Benjamin, who is an accomplished artist himself — having presented art shows in Mexico, the United States, and Europe. Ross explains that as he was not yet retired by the time they moved to Mérida he became an early telecommuter — and with a smile says he is now grateful for those circumstances because that at that time, video conferencing was not yet all that common.


Benjamín and Ross’s home exudes color but is much more subdued than what we have come to expect when we hear the words “traditional Mexican house.” Blue and yellow walls contrast with the many sculptures and paintings throughout the home and are further accentuated by carefully placed lighting. The most overtly Mexican part of the house is its kitchen, with its many pieces of traditional Talavera. The classic white-and-blue motif also extends to the kitchen’s stovetop chimney and tiled table. Another of the home’s stylistic themes is symmetry — a choice that is particularly obvious when visible from the couple’s pool-facing terrace. Everything here comes in twos, starting with the palm trees on either side of the pool and the matching ironwork doors framing of Benjamín’s art studio. This sense of symmetry seamlessly guides one’s eye to the very back of the property and two stone busts representing ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

A pair of stone busts visible from the terrace represents the owners (below, from left) Benjamín Ramírez and Ross Russell. Opposite, art abounds in the front rooms of the main house.

Benjamín and Ross, perfectly framed by a bright blue wall. The outside terrace has also on several occasions become a venue for some of Yucatán’s most accomplished musicians, who delight the hosts as well as their guests during their famous soirées. Being the art lovers that they are, Benjamín and Ross are also patrons of the arts and have long supported Yucatán’s state symphony. After retiring from DuPont and his life as a medical doctor, Benjamín decided to formally pursue what he describes as his second career, art. In his studio, Benjamín shows us pieces for an upcoming exhibition based on the poem “Dos Cuerpos,” by Octavio Paz. “The poem is about two people, a couple, their love, but also intense conflict,” he says. Benjamín’s art is abstract in nature and favors the use of blue — a choice mirrored throughout the household. 



En Casa

Una pareja internacional encuentra la armonía a través del color, simetría y arte TEXTO Y FOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT




esde hace ya 15 años, Benjamín Ramírez y Ross Russel han disfrutado de la vida en su espacioso hogar en Mérida. Como muchas de las casonas de la ciudad, su relativamente sencilla fachada no da indicios de su espectacular interior. Benjamín y Ross, originarios de la Ciudad de México y Pennsylvania respectivamente, son grandes amantes del arte, una realidad la cual es inmediatamente evidente desde el momento de entrar a su antesala. “Tenemos piezas de todo el mundo, pero soy muy afecto al arte religioso Mexicano”, nos cuenta Benjamín quien es también un artista con una larga trayectoria — habiendo presentado exhibiciones en México, los Estados Unidos y Europa. Ross nos explica que cuando decidieron mudarse a Mérida aún era algo joven para jubilarse. Por lo tanto se convirtió en un pionero del trabajo remoto. Nos cuenta con una sonrisa agradecida de que en aquel YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 3

entonces las videoconferencias aún eran poco comunes. El hogar de Benjamín y Ross esta lleno de color, pero es más sutil que lo que hemos llegado a pensar cuando escuchamos las palabras “casa tradicional mexicana”. Los muros azules y amarillos hacen contraste con las muchas esculturas y pinturas en la casa — efecto que es acentuado aun más por el cuidadoso diseño de la iluminación La parte más “Mexicana” de la casa es la cocina con sus muchas piezas de Talavera tradicional. Este estilo blanco y azul también se extiende a la chimenea de la estufa y una hermosa mesa de azulejos. Otro aspecto muy importante de la propiedad es la atención a la simetría. Esta decisión es particularmente obvia desde la vista de la terraza hacia la alberca. En este espacio todo está en pares, empezando por las palmeras que enmarcan la alberca a los portones del estudio de arte de Benjamín. Esta simetría guía la vista hacia el fondo de la propiedad en donde se pueden ver dos bustos, representando a Benjamín


En Casa y Ross — los cuales están perfectamente enmarcados por un muro azul. La terraza exterior ha servido, en múltiples ocasiones, como escenario para algunos de los más reconocidos músicos de Yucatán — quienes deleitan a Benjamín y Ross, así como a sus invitados, durante sus famosas fiestas. Su gran amor por el arte ha llevado a la pareja a apoyar las artes en el estado a través del patronato de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Yucatán. Después de jubilarse de DuPont y su vida como médico, Benjamín decidió emprender lo que describe como su segunda gran carrera, el arte. En su estudio, Benjamín nos muestra algunas piezas de su próxima exhibición basada en un poema de Octavio Paz, que lleva por título “Dos Cuerpos”. “El poema trata acerca de una pareja, su amor, pero también del conflicto”, nos cuenta Benjamín. La obra artística de Benjamín es mayormente abstracta y favorece el uso del azul — color que es ampliamente visible en toda la casa. 



En Studio


En Studio


cobalt blue building with electric pink trim is neatly tucked between a leafy plaza and Santiago’s bustling neighborhood market. “La Casa Azul De Rosa” reads a sign tacked onto the front. A woman wearing an embroidered blouse with a flowing skirt appears at the entrance, smiles broadly and beckons me inside. Crossing the threshold, I feel as though I’m in the garden from “Alice in Wonderland” and I find myself moving toward flowers like the ones this artist must have seen. “I’m Rosy Peraza Rios,” the woman says, “and this is my studio.” The color, texture, and nuance of her work are overwhelming. There’s so much to take in, and my eyes start flitting about like two birds looking for a place to land. Rosy tells me that as a young girl, she studied painting with her father, a versatile artist, musician, photographer, and bon-vivant. During his daughter’s formative years,


he showed her that all living beings, especially artists, are happiest if they follow their natural inclinations. He urged the young Rosy to attend Centro Estatal de Bellas Artes, Mérida’s School of Fine Arts. There she would learn useful skills. She did so and when she’d acquired what she needed, she began pursuing her own path. The decision to paint full-time is never an easy one, but with her father’s guiding truth, her partner’s loving support, and the goal of setting a stellar example for her daughter, Rosy has thrived. She sells work at her studio while also participating in group and solo shows. She is also active on social media and benefits from good word of mouth. Most of her canvases are acrylics, and she’s also well-known for her murals. She says that Frida Kahlo, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, and Chagall are among her favorite artists. Her style does have commonalities with these masters, but also with indigenous artisans. Her whimsical touch and use of color give birth to paintings that are purely her own. Her tropical flowers, parrots, mot-mot birds,


Photos on this spread by Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

“Art is everywhere in Yucatán On walls, stenciled around doorways, suspended from ceilings.” ROSY PERAZA RIOS



En Casa

“When I start a new piece, I get so absorbed that I feel I’m part of it. As the images reveal themselves, I lose track of time. I gain more and more clarity.” ROSY PERAZA RIOS

dieffenbachia, ferns, and swaying palms are in high demand. Flirtatious females and loving mamas are two more of the artist’s favorite themes. The women Rosy paints seem to be saying “be gentle with yourself.” Rosy’s curvy beach beauties are playful and apparently not obsessed with body image. The maternal faces she portrays look serene. Over the years, the refinement of her talent is clear to see. But whether they are this year’s work or that of a decade ago, they are all unmistakably recognizable as hers. She regrets that she has sold off very few of her early paintings and none of her masterworks. She shrugs her shoulders. “Well, we all need to pay our bills, and my best canvases cover the biggest ones.” Now though, she saves some of her favorites. “I want to leave a legacy for my little girl, for Frida.” When she speaks of her daughter, her eyes grow soft, and she shows me a few of her 6-year-old’s paintings. They look way beyond the skills of other children her age. Rosy says that she sees her child has talent but at the same time, she wants Frida to be



the one who chooses what she will do with her life. She strives to give Frida the same freedom her father gave her. At one point I ask her about the artistic community in Mérida. She says that many creative people have moved to Yucatán in the last few years. She hopes that they’ll all learn from one another yet respect the style of each individual. For artists, imitation is not the highest form of flattery. Rosy admits that she fantasizes about fame and having plenty of money. “But that’s just wishful thinking,” she adds. I ask her to explain her process. “When I start a new piece, I get so absorbed that I feel I’m part of it. As the images reveal themselves, I lose track of time. I gain more and more clarity. I get more and more joyful as my painting progresses.” Even though she’s whispering, I hear the passion in her voice. She caresses her easel. “Art is everywhere in Yucatán. On walls, stenciled around doorways, suspended from ceilings.” Her hand moves upward and comes to rest over her heart. “I live with my family in this amazing place, and we are doing what we love. I feel blessed – every single day.” 

Photos on this spread by Mary Elizabeth Walberg

Visit Rosy Peraza’s art studio, in Mérida’s Santiago neighborhood, by appointment: 999-256-1923





En Casa

Exploring Casa de los Venados


ts name is not to be taken too literally. Its English translation is House of the Deer, but there are no live animals except for an adorable terrier. And Casa de los Venados is grand enough to be more accurately described as casona. Of course, it’s what’s inside the casona that has attracted the world’s attention for over 10 years. Casa de los Venados is home to the largest-ever private collection of Mexican folk and contemporary art. And it’s open for guided tours by appointment. Over 3,000 pieces, mostly wood and clay and all museum quality, are placed throughout the giant home, not far from Valladolid’s main square.


En Casa

“We never intended this place to be holding concerts and having groups for fundraisers and giving tours. The house made that happen.” JOHN VENATOR

“We acquired most of our collection directly from the artists,” says John Venator, a retired executive from Chicago who with his wife has spent over 35 years collecting pieces. The Venators found their home here over 20 years ago after years of searching both Valladolid and Mérida. It was Valladolid’s lack of diesel-belching buses that drove them to the much smaller, more laid-back colonial city. He still remembers first noticing the property. On the way to a late lunch, they passed the building which they suddenly noticed had a sign, casa se vende, and a Mérida phone number. They called and reached “an aged lawyer for an even more aged client who had inherited this house,” John recalls. Soon after touring the 18,000-squarefoot ruin, he called home to Chicago to tell his wife: “It’s big, it’s wonderful, the footprint is fabulous, there’s a huge central patio, all three rooms are five meters wide, the ceilings are eight meters. She said: ‘From what you tell me, we both like it, make an offer.’ That night we made an offer.” For an architect, the Venators looked up William Ramirez Pizarro after learning he was involved with restoring Hacienda Xcanatún — a plantation-turned-resort north of Mérida. “My fear it was some big expensive architect in Mexico City. Turns out to be a very young couple, William Ramírez and his wife,” John recalls. Ramirez agreed, following John’s guidance that they wanted it to look like “Luis Barragán bought it and simply remodeled it.” The project took eight years — partly because it was “pay as you go” and partly because the Venators were still busy in 52

Chicago, only occasionally traveling to their vacation home in Cancún. “The rest was just a damn big project, it took a lot longer than we thought,” says John. But the house was slowly evolving as an escape route for a busy career as president and CEO of an international trade association. “I spent much of my life on airplanes for almost 20 years. I missed anniversaries, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, my wife’s birthday…” John says. The Venators have left the United States completely — as well as Cancún. But their lives haven’t stopped being busy. “We never intended this place to be holding concerts and having groups for fundraisers and giving tours,” John says. “The house made that happen.” Casa de los Venados asks visitors to make a donation of at least 100 pesos for local charities. It is also equipped with a professional kitchen and is available for private events. Tours are in English and Spanish. Calle 40, 204 near 41. 985-856 2289, javenator1@gmail.com. ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

En Casa

Explorando Casa de los Venados


l nombre Casa de los Venados no debe tomarse literalmente. Aunque hace referencia a estos hermosos animales, el único animal en casa es un adorable terrier. Además, lejos de ser una simple casa, sería más acertado describirla como una casona. Pero claro, es lo que está en el interior de esta casona lo que ha capturado la atención del mundo por más de 10 años. Esto es porque la Casa de los Venados alberga la más grande colección privada de arte popular mexicano y contemporáneo de todos los tiempos. La colección está abierta al público y se ofrecen tours privados con previa reservación. Más de 3,000 piezas, principalmente de madera y barro, todas de calidad museo, están colocadas alrededor de la gran casona la cual se encuentra a la vuelta de la plaza principal de Valladolid.



En Casa “Compramos la mayoría de nuestra colección directamente con los artistas”, dice John Venator, un ejecutivo jubilado de Chicago, quien junto con su esposa ha coleccionado piezas por más de 35 años. Los Venator encontraron su hogar en Yucatán hace más de 20 años, después de una prolongada búsqueda en Mérida y Valladolid. Fue la ausencia de ruidosos autobuses lo que los llevó a elegir finalmente a Valladolid, una ciudad mucho más pequeña y tranquila. Aún recuerda la primera vez que vio la propiedad. En el camino a un almuerzo pasó junto a la casa la cual portaba un gran letrero de “se vende” y un número de teléfono con lada de Mérida. Llamó y les contestó “un abogado de avanzada edad de una cliente de aún más avanzada edad que había heredado la casa”, recuerda John. Después de recorrer el gran terreno de 1,700 metros cuadrados el cual se encontraba en ruinas, llamó para decirle a su esposa: “Es grande, maravillosa y muy espaciosa. Tiene un patio central enorme, los tres cuartos tienen cinco metros de ancho y los techos tienen ocho de alto. Ella dijo: “Por lo que me dices, me parece que a los dos nos encanta, haz una oferta”. Los Venator contrataron a William Ramirez Pizarro como arquitecto, después de saber que él había estado involucrado en la restauración de la Hacienda Xcanatún, un hermoso resort al norte de Mérida. “Me temía que sería un carísimo arquitecto de la Ciudad de México. Pero resultó ser una joven pareja conformada por William Ramirez y su esposa”, recuerda John. Bajo instrucciones de John, Ramirez estuvo de acuerdo con la idea de que la casa pareciera “como si fuera una remodelación de una casa de Luis Barragán”. El proyecto tardó ocho años — en parte porque la realizaron a pagos por destajo, y en

Casa de los Venados tiene mucho espacio para entretener multitudes.

parte también porque los Venator aún estaban muy ocupados en Chicago, solo viajando de vez en cuando a su casa vacacional en Cancún. “Fue un proyecto verdaderamente enorme, tomó mucho más tiempo de lo que pensamos”, comenta John. Pero la casa pasó lentamente a ser una válvula de escape para su atareada carrera como presidente y CEO de una asociación de comercio internacional. “Pasé gran parte de mi vida, casi 20 años en aviones. Me perdí de aniversarios, navidades, pascuas, días de acción de gracias y cumpleaños de mi esposa…” dice John. Los Venator han dejado atrás completa-

mente Estados Unidos y Cancún. Pero sus vidas no han dejado de estar ocupadas. “Nunca fue nuestra intención que este lugar se volviera un escenario para conciertos o recinto para recaudar fondos para caridades,” dice John “La casa lo hizo por sí misma”. La Casa de los Venados solicita a sus visitantes realizar una donación de al menos 100 pesos, los cuales se destinan a caridades locales. También está equipada con una cocina profesional y está disponible para eventos privados. Los tours son en inglés y español. Calle 40, 204. Teléfono: 985-856 2289, correo electrónico: javenator1@ gmail.com.


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Yucatán Retirement Guide What you need to know

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Luxury listings  Tips for buyers  Protecting your investment

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Protecting Your Investments CARSA INSURANCE

Home and auto insurance for expats in Mexico: What you should know By Ricardo D. Castilla, LUTCF


omeowners insurance in Yucatán is mostly chosen in two ways: with or without hurricane coverage. Why? Simply because Yucatán is considered a high-risk hurricane zone. Even when we don’t get hurricanes often, we are continuously hit with storms that cause flooding and physical damage. For those who own a home at the beach, however, it is a very different story. For beach residents, home insurance is practically a requirement with hurricane coverage. There are important issues to consider before contracting house insurance such as the construction type, number of stories, and proximity to the shore. Deductibles and co-pays will also be different depending the contracted zone. In Mérida the deductibles will be less than beach properties.

Car insurance Car insurance is probably the easiest insurance to obtain in Mexico. If you have a US or Canadian vehicle, you should have bought auto insurance when you entered Mexico. If you are driving into Mexico, you can buy your car insurance for a day, a month or a year through the internet, print your insurance policy, pay by credit card and you’re ready to go. There are only three options to get your car insured: Full coverage: collision (material damages to your car), total theft, third-party liability, medical assistance for the occupants, roadside assistance and legal advisory and bail. Limited coverage: all of the full coverage minus collision. Basic coverage: all of the limited coverage minus collision and total theft.

»  »  »

Most insurance policies will consider the following deductibles: For material damages (collision): 5% over the commercial value of the vehicle at the moment of the accident For total theft: 10% over the commercial value of the vehicle at the moment of the accident For glass breakage: 20% over the replacement value

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In Mexico, there’s a blue book, the EBC Guide, that most insurance companies use to verify the commercial values of each type of vehicle. Car insurance is not mandatory except for the driver’s liability. It’s important to choose an insurance company with a good service structure and with their own adjusters. This will really make a difference when an accident occurs.

A quick guide Premiums vary a lot depending on the insurance company and also the type of package you want, but use the following table to have an idea: Properties in Merida Insurance policy without hurricane coverage

Insurance policy with hurricane coverage

Property valued at us$200,000

Property valued at US$200,000

Yearly cost for full package

Yearly cost for full package

US$350 US$1,500 Beach properties Insurance policy without hurricane coverage

Insurance policy with hurricane coverage

Property valued at US$200,000

Property valued at US$200,000

Yearly cost for full package:

Yearly cost for full package:

US$390 US$1,700

If you are involved in an accident, try to avoid moving your vehicle from the site of the accident unless you are really blocking the street or advised by a police officer. Try to take pictures of the damage before moving it. Consider the situation and analyze who was really the guilty party as this will result in paying or not paying a deductible. Immediately contact your insurance company and wait for your adjuster to arrive and ask the other party to also contact theirs. Do not make any private arrangements with the other party or your insurance will not cover anything. You should expect your adjuster to deal with the other party’s adjusters and give you a service sheet with the name and location of the repair shop where your vehicle will be taken to be repaired. If the other party was the guilty party and they don’t have a valid insurance policy, then prepare yourself to spend an entire day at the police station placing a civil demand. Both vehicles will be impounded while you wait for the other party to resolve the problem. If they can’t or won’t guarantee the repair of your vehicle, then you must pay your deductible, leave the civil demand and know they will go to jail. An insurance agent will be able to help you get several options for car insurance and help you with the claims after the vehicle is taken to the workshop. But insurance agents are not allowed to visit the site of the accident or interfere, although some agents do this as “part” of their service. This is not recommended. Just let the experts — the adjusters — do their job. Reach insurance expert Ricardo Castilla, LUTCF, at yucataninsurance@ gmail.com or 999-129-9740. Learn more at Carsa Insurance Broker, www.yucatan-insurance.com.



Hot Properties


A private paradise at your Yucatán country estate Ideal for those who want to live surrounded by the biodiversity that Yucatán offers, here is 13,936 square meters of land, 450 square meters of construction. Fruit-bearing and ornamental trees and plants; large areas to have an organic garden, melipona bees; fenced livestock area with capacity for 30 cage-free hens; plus three warehouses with electrical installations and easy access to water.

Get to know Eric Partney

Eric Partney’s experience as a broker dates back to his youth. He started his property-selling journey back in the US. After a very successful run, he sold his Atlanta real estate company in 1995 and decided to take a year off. Eric arrived in Mérida in 2004 and immediately committed to being fluent in Spanish. “We really committed to becoming fluent. Five hours a week for five years. We wanted to experience life here, and we knew that in order to do so we had to learn

Español.” Eric also took advantage of his expertise when he arrived in Yucatán “Lots of buyers — both from the US and Mexico — feel that they can trust my background. That created lots of referrals and eventually, I had more buyers than sellers. Becoming specialized in what I do means understanding and helping people. I could never be pushy — I share the facts and they make their own decisions.” Even though he mainly operates in Yucatán, he still holds an active Texas Real Estate Broker’s license — a great credential for anyone looking for an experienced agent. Today, and for as long as he has lived in Mérida, Eric has worked with Mexico International Real Estate. The company was founded by Mitch Keenan, and it was one of the first real estate companies in Mérida handling expat clients, as well as doing anything in the Centro. “When we arrived, people were looking all over. Nobody knew anything about the city. I sold properties in the north and south of Mérida, at the beach, even haciendas. But today I work almost exclusively at Centro. I’ve gotten to know the area so well I’ve sold some of these houses three times over the years.” Eric says that even after all his experience, he still greatly enjoys the real estate market. He continues selling properties he enjoys for fun, and is even known around the business as a “Realtor for the stars.”

Buying —Selling —Ask Agent Eric


The Agent Eric Team

AskAgentEric@gmail.com  Eric Partney Cel / WhatsApp 52 999 127 7798  Ivan Luis Martinez Cel / WhatsApp 52 999 322 2262


Property Professionals PROFILE

The many careers of Robert Abuda (and how each job prepared him for what he’s doing right now!)

By Lee Steele


ountless homeowners here first found their way to Mérida after watching a 2009 “House Hunters International” episode in which Robert Abuda appeared. But how did Abuda learn about the magic of Yucatán? It turns out he was way ahead of his time. “I actually just did a Google search for ‘Mexico real estate’ and Mérida was the first city that popped up,” says Rob, who as it happens is now a sales agent at Mérida Living. “After doing some research and looking into the colonial city, it looked like a place that I would want to live and had a lot of potential for opportunity,” Abuda says. “With the architecture, weather, and stories of the local people, it seemed like it would be a great fit for a kid from Canada looking for a new adventure.” Mérida was only the latest adventure for Robert Abuda. Rob was born and raised in Manitoba. “It was a great place to grow up, great friends, great family, small-town vibes,” he recalls. From there, Rob moved to Toronto — the ultimate Big City — and embarked on a varied career. Each step along the way has prepared him for what he’s doing right now, selling prime real estate. Rob studied fashion merchandising and marketing and worked in the executive offices of Club Monaco, a casual clothing line owned by Ralph Lauren. Meanwhile, for about six years, Rob was pursuing an acting career. After coming close to at least two huge parts — including the title role in an action-fantasy film called “Eragon” — he put those dreams on hold and moved on to an entirely different pursuit: executive headhunting. He also fulfilled a lifelong dream of experiencing life in Asia, and found opportunity in Tokyo, where he worked for three years.



Since arriving over 10 years ago, Rob Abuda has built two houses, appeared twice on the “House Hunters” and opened what became a successful hair salon on the Paseo de Montejo. Before that, he studied acting and merchandising and was an executive headhunter in Tokyo. Each step along the way provided an education that helped prepare him for selling properties and helping buyers find their dream homes.

Having lived in three countries after enjoying small-town life, Rob is here to stay. He has lived in Mérida longer than anywhere else, aside from where he grew up.

Valuable experiences Rob’s background has prepared him for working constructively with buyers and sellers. He could never have accomplished so much at a young age without focus and attention to detail. And he finds acting years serve him well now when making the videos that help sell the homes that he lists. If you want a real estate agent with “presence,” get one with acting chops. “I find it makes you more relaxed in front of the camera, it makes you more relaxed


meeting people, and it just kind of gives you the confidence to go and sell a million-dollar home,” says Rob. The Tokyo stint also informs his career today. “It’s similar to headhunting where you have a candidate, a job and a client, and in real estate, you have a buyer, a seller, and a home,” Rob notes. There’s one more role Rob played, and it’s one many Mérida residents know him for. He’s the proprietor of a highly successful business on the Paseo de Montejo. For several years his name has been emblazoned over the front door of his first big Mérida venture, the Robert Abuda Salon. When spending time with customers, the always-hot subject of real estate naturally came up. Often he was asked to recommend

an agent, and other types of professionals, in town. He had already built two homes — a colonial and a modern that was at the beginning of the trend — and had worked informally at supervising construction jobs. Rob clearly had the trust of the general public — much the way a bartender turns out to be a customer’s confidante. It finally dawned on him that after more than a dozen years in town, to finally join an agency and start representing buyers and sellers. Working with clients in the salon has led to bigger transactions. “I have sold homes in the chair, and I have gotten listings in the chair,” Rob exclaims. Contact Robert Abuda at robabuda@gmail.com or 999-261-6001.


House Hunting PRO TIPS

How to survive your first 30 days in Yucatán

By Melissa Adler


ou’ve made a big move and are ready to start a new life. Here are a few tips on navigating your first month in Yucatán.


going, you’ll want to make a conscious effort to slow your pace walking around town. Watch where you’re walking. The sidewalks can be brutal and unforgiving. They can also be narrow and stepping aside for the elderly is greatly appreciated.

Moving can be exhausting and stressful. Give yourself a few days to unwind. If your home is sparsely furnished until your belongings arrive, ask a friend or your real estate agent to Basically, pick up a small coffee pot, some inexpensive patio chairs, be patient, a few food items, cocktail fixings, and lots of bottled water. You’ll most probably need all of them as soon as you be supportive, arrive. Spend your first day relaxing. You’ll need it. be a human

Drink up — water, that is No matter what climate you come from, you will still feel the effects of the heat. Now’s the time to drink agua. Lots and lots of agua. It makes a world of difference. If you don’t, you may find yourself paying a visit to the emergency room.

Slow down. You move too fast If you come from a place where everyone rushes to get where they’re



Mind your manners I learned this years ago. When someone is walking toward you, the polite thing to do is acknowledge them with a brief buenos dias, tarde or noche. You will undoubtedly be greeted with a warm smile. If not, they’re probably from Mexico City.

Lo siento. Mi español no es bueno

I’m sorry. My Spanish is not good. When I first moved here, this was my opening line and I still use it occasionally. If you don’t speak Spanish, even the slightest effort on your part is greatly appreciated and will make life easier. Yucatecans are the most gracious folks I’ve ever met. They will go out of their way to help you. Obviously, a translation app helps but never underestimate the magic of pen and paper. Once, I needed a ball valve for a toilet and a quick ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME

Just 200 pesos is usually more than enough to get you through the month and that includes roaming. I use my phone to call the US and Canada often and rarely run out. If you haven’t before, install WhatsApp! Everyone uses it here. Businesses, doctors, friends and you can always copy and paste with Google Translate if you need.

Melissa Adler Buyer’s Agent

I made a list There are a million things you’ll need to get done when you first arrive. Accept the fact that if you’ve got eight things on your list and you only accomplished three, it’s a very good day.

Adventures in shopping I had the hardest time finding things in grocery stores. It took about a week before I realized that eggs are not refrigerated, milk comes in shelf-stable cartons and that I needed to learn the Spanish words for the cuts of meat I wanted (easily found online). Not familiar with Mexican brands? When in doubt, check the shelves. If there are 12 different deodorants on the shelf, and only a few left of a particular brand, go with that one. Odds are it’s the right one. People watch. Don’t know what breads or rolls to buy? Watch the women in the bakery. If they’re all putting the same items on the tray, give it a try. When all else fails, head to Walmart.

Don’t bug me

Photo: Getty

There are approximately 900 different species of ants in Mexico. Hormigas come and go depending on the weather. Pick up plastic bags and store your open food items in the fridge. Crackers and chips stay crispy if stored in the refrigerator. If you’ve got pets, invest in a container to store dry food.

The spit test sketch with an arrow pointing to the required part worked perfectly.

Support your local retailer Small, local hardware stores will usually have what you need, local markets the same … and save you a fortune.

Get a local phone number I know the thought of giving up your old phone number may feel like a difficult divorce, but sooner or later, you’ll need a local number. Mexico now uses 911 for emergencies but only if received from a Mexican number. You can go to any local Oxxo and buy both a phone and Telcel SIM card for about 800 pesos. In under 15 minutes, you’ll be good to go. The SIM card comes with prepaid minutes. When you want to recharge your phone, just pop by any Oxxo and recharge it.

Years ago, there was a great blog written by a woman who gave tremendous advice on adjusting to life here. This one will save you money and embarrassment. When shopping for clothes, discreetly wet your thumb and apply it to the fabric. If you see a dark spot, move on and keep looking. It will take time before your body adjusts to the heat and until then, accept that you may look wilted and damp. This leads us to this:

Only mad dogs and Englishmen Don’t even think of walking about in the afternoon. It’s usually hottest between 2 and 5 p.m. Embrace the beauty of an afternoon siesta and the wonder of an ice-cold Mexican beer. Melissa Adler is a buyer’s agent for Mérida Living Real Estate. Contact her at melissa.meridaliving@gmail.com.

Merida L i v i ng Beyond Rea l Est ate Cell: 999 118 9351 melissa.meridaliving@gmail.com meridalivingrealestate.com



Framed | Fabrizio Simoneen


Fabrizio Simoneen’s career as a photographer began nine years ago, and his specialization on events quickly followed. It was during this time that he grew particularly fond of flowers. Weddings took up most of his time until the pandemic halted all social events. Then, as most anxious personalities did, he turned back into his hobbies to find purpose and inspiration. “It meant a big change in my lifestyle, and feeling static is not something I enjoy. I’m a highly manual and visual person, and so I’m always looking for something new to learn. Around the beginning of lockdown, a friend of mine gave a floral design workshop and invited me to collaborate with the photos. I sat down and learned everything she taught and realized it was something I would love to do on my own. A way to brighten everyday life.” With the tools and information he picked up during the workshop, Fabrizio started creating his first flower bouquets. First, only to decorate his home in Colonia Alemán and then as gifts and details for his loved ones. In his experimentation, he has found he enjoys mixing elements outside of flowers, like glass sculptures and pottery vases. “The main thing is understanding visual composition,” says Fabrizio. “I’m guided by my instincts, and I think that is what helps you create a style truly of your own.” — Verónica Garibay 66

La carrera de Fabrizio Simoneen como fotógrafo comenzó hace nueve años, y rápidamente siguió su especialización en eventos. Durante este tiempo descubrió su afinidad por las flores. Las bodas ocuparon la mayor parte del tiempo de Fabrizio hasta que la pandemia pausó todos los eventos sociales. Entonces, como muchas personalidades ansiosas, recurrió a sus aficiones para encontrar propósito e inspiración. “Supuso un gran cambio en mi estilo de vida, y sentirme estático no es algo que me guste. Soy una persona muy manual y visual, así que siempre busco algo nuevo que aprender”. Al principio del confinamiento, una amiga dio un taller de diseño floral y me invitó a colaborar con las fotos. Me senté a aprender lo que enseñaba y me di cuenta de que era algo que me encantaría hacer por mi cuenta. Una forma de alegrar el día a día”. Con las herramientas y la información que recogió durante el taller, Fabrizio empezó a crear sus primeros ramos florales, primero sólo para decorar su casa en la Colonia Alemán y luego como regalos y detalles para sus seres queridos. En su experimentación ha descubierto que le gusta mezclar elementos fuera de las flores, como esculturas de vidrio y jarrones de cerámica. “Lo principal es entender la composición visual”, dice Fabrizio. “Me guío por mis instintos, y creo que eso es lo que te ayuda a crear un estilo verdaderamente propio”.  — Veronica Garibay Instagram: @fabriziosimoneen ISSUE 3 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


/ flamanteburgers

Calle 64 x 47 Centro, Merida