As I’ve previously written about here, I’m currently building a house in Merida, Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula.
I haven’t posted in three months so I’m sorry if this one is really long, lots to catch up on…
In the fall of 2020, after visiting Merida multiple times in the last several years, I found an amazing property online in the neighborhood of Jesus Carranza, just a few blocks from the city’s main thoroughfare, Paseo Montejo. It’s nearly 50 feet wide on the main entrance side, 100 feet deep with a separate street entrance around the corner, with a 30 x 40 foot “bonus lot”.
Over the past year two years I’ve been working long distance with my friend, architect Erik Gonzales of Gonzales Estudio on a plan for the main house remodel with an addition of a new facade, courtyard, parking area, office with a 3 bedroom, 2 bath guest “casita” (little house) with its own kitchen next to the 11 meter lap pool at the rear of the property.
On February 28, I arrived in sunny Merida from frozen upstate New York to move into the casita. It was not quite ready to stay in that first night, so I stayed in an airbnb and moved in the next night, March 1. That felt like some sort of accomplishment.
It’s been a challenging and fun process, one that as an artist, former art director and sometimes interior, one that I have experience at –although not in another language and culture – but it requires diligence, constant recalibration and patience.
People continually ask me if I’m “excited”…
I am, really. But this is a job and I’m overseeing every aspect (as well as paying for it) from planning to final execution and if I take my eye off the ball, by getting too “excited” with any stage, that’s when something slips through the cracks.
So, I’ve been living in a construction site. Letting the workers in at 7, and locking the gate behind them. They work hard every day and the ethic is impressive. We say little except, “Hola”, “Buen dia” and “Hasta Luego”… god knows what they think of me, but I so appreciate their hard work. A dumb cliché, but true, it could never happen without their dedication to the craft.
Everything is made by hand, mixed by hand. If they don’t have something they need, they make it. When the wall dividing my property from a lot I own that has another street entrance, to build it 20 feet tall, they needed scaffolding, right? No. They punched holes in the cinder block, put wood slats in and built a scaffold out of the wall they were erecting.
I go up and down the concrete spiral staircase 20 times a day and marvel every step –smooth, cool, sculptural, functional and beautiful –I can’t believe such a thing is part of my property.
The roof has been off the house since last June and it was finally put back on a month ago. 25 guys did it one day. (See Instagram @casacisternamerida)Since then, the work inside has moved quickly.
They finished half of my wing, more or less; my office, painting studio, bathroom and bedroom, minus the floors and wall finish, plumbing and built-ins.
On Saturdays, they work half a day and usually hang out for a few hours drinking beer and laughing. Yesterday their talented friend came and sang with his guitar, while windows and skylights were being installed. AND while another pile of my thing came over from my contractors storage.
I am now a permanent resident of Mexico (which is different than being a Mexican citizen) It means I can stay in the country more than 180 days and I was allowed my one shipment from the states without paying duty. I can open a bank account, get license plates and get a PO Box. I remain a US Citizen and will divide my time more or less evenly between Merida & upstate New York.
Three weeks ago my shipment arrived from New York via Tucson and and was partially unloaded into the casita. So, I began a bit of unpacking and padded out my sparse living quarters with my king size bed, TV clothes, and tons of other household items.
This last Thursday was the one year anniversary (on Cinco de Mayo) of closing on the house when I pinched a nerve in my lower back (sweeping the floor!?) which was/ is still pretty painful. Now I need to move boxes, carry stuff and unpack, which I am doing in a bit of pain.
Anyway, such is life. I know. Shut up. I have a house in Mexico that someday (July? August?) will be finished.
In between construction, has been living in Merida, a city of a million people. The longest I stayed here before was 1 month and I’ll be here nearly 3 months before I go home to install a solo show at Catskill Arts Society that opens on Memorial Day.
I’ve met so many great people added to the ones I knew before. It’s a great community of like-minded individuals that are all smart, funny, fun and generous. I had my first cocktail party, celebrated my birthday at Salon Gallos, had a tequila tasting at the new La Botelleria, been to 5 dinner parties (the most in 3 years!) made lots of new friends, been to the beach in Progreso twice, but sadly have been without a pool. It was 104 today.
I know, shut up.
To be continued…
Merida was named the #6 Best Large City in the world by Condé Nast Traveler in their 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards. (1-5 were Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Singapore & Istanbul)
6. Mérida, Mexico
The streets of Mérida are bursting with the colorful facades of Spanish colonial architecture, but the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state is also steeped in Mayanhistory. Centrally located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the city is an easy day trip to UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the ancient cities of Uxmal and Chichen Itza, and the beaches on the Gulf shore in Progreso. Locals recommend visiting Fundación de Artistas, a nonprofit featuring art exhibits in a 19th-century home; Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a modern cultural museum; and the traditional Yucatecan food at the super casual Manjar Blanco. –Condé Nast Traveler, Reader’s Choice Awards, 2021
Vogue put Merida at the top of their “8 Places to Visit in 2022” list:
“Merida, Mexico still manages to fly under the radar, despite its proximity to incredible Mayan ruins and neon-blue cenotes. Plus, it has a unique culinary scene that runs the gamut from perfectly fried street cart churros to haute takes on traditional dishes by chefs like Pedro Evia, whose restaurant Kuuk is a critical darling. Look around for some excellent lodging options, including rooms in sprawling historic haciendas and sleek little city apartments.” –Laura Motta, Senior Director of Content at Lonely Planet