If you drive almost anywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula right now, you will be greeted by yellow flowers along the roadsides as far as the eye can see, signaling the end of the “rainy season” and that the tajonal is in bloom. The state of Yucatan is famous for its honey and the honey made from the tajonal flowers is the first major Yucatan honey crop of the year. Our local Yucatan honey is strong and sweet, and is usually bought in bulk to blend with more neutral flavored European honey. I try to keep honey in stock at the office at all times. I recently purchased honey from my Maya friends at Hacienda Tabi. They live there and are certified organic honey producers. Come by the Merida office of Tierra Yucatan on Calle 66 at Calle 49 and pick up a bottle. Take some of the Yucatan home in your suitcase! It is easy to do and it is permitted through customs without a problem. There’s nothing that warms you on a cold winter day like a cup of tea sweetened with Yucatan honey!
Many new changes are coming up in 2014! One which affects us already as realtors is the Ley Contra El Lavado de Dinero or the anti-money laundering law. More paperwork is being required by the Mexican government, more identification from buyers and there are specific rules governing the transfer of funds. As always, we at Tierra Yucatan are ready and have taken a number of steps to make sure your real estate buying or selling transaction goes smoothly.
Rather than hold escrow in the USA ourselves, for your security we are now using Stewart Title Latin America to do this for us. This provides both seller and buyer with an added layer of protection for your funds. Stewart can also offer title insurance and full closing services should you wish. Otherwise they will act simply as an escrow agent, disbursing the deposits according to instructions at the closing by wire transfer. Here at Tierra Yucatan, we are all happy about the new arrangement. So far, Tierra Yucatan is the only real estate agency in Merida that is protecting your transaction in this way!
As the year of 2013 comes to a close, we find ourselves thankful for the business we conducted this year, the many wonderful people we met in the process and for all the new and interesting residents, both part and full time, that have been added to the population of Merida through our agency. We look forward to a great 2014!
Jose Fernandez and his partner Richard Fuller purchased the ruins of an old hacienda near the village of Kinchil on the way to Celestun, and with love and care have created a hidden treasure.
With a group of friends I recently spent a very special afternoon. Together, we enjoyed a leisurely, six-course gourmet lunch created by Jose, where each dish was created from locally-grown ingredients. Jose has a very special touch and the hacienda itself is magical. The old and renovated hacienda buildings are set in beautiful tropical gardens that were designed and are cared for by Richard. There are two luxurious guest rooms, one in old hacienda style. The other guest room is modern and light, and both are large, very private and so relaxing! The rooms are blessed with private patios and everything you can imagine is provided to the guests.
It is definitely worth making time on your busy schedule for a visit to Hacienda San Jose Pachul. Whether you stay overnight or book ahead for a gourmet lunch experience in unique surroundings, consider visiting this magical place. Jose tells me they are planning spa get-away days that will be presented hand-in-hand with a well-known Merida spa. Then guests will be able to enjoy a massage, facial, pedicure, spa lunch and some time by the pool. I can’t wait! Look them up at www.haciendasanjosepachul.com, but book ahead as dining is by reservation only. Be sure to get directions, as the hacienda is kept hidden by design, to protect its privacy and that of the guests. If you take the time to visit, you won’t be sorry!
Rain, rain and more rain! This has been one wet September. Everything is green and lush, butterflies fill the air and we are so fortunate here in Yucatan! We get to enjoy all this beauty, and we’re safe too. While much of Central Mexico has experienced flooding, we have no such worries in Yucatan.
The Yucatan Peninsula is one big limestone shelf, shot through with holes like a big English muffin. The entire peninsula stays dry despite the torrential rains. The water soaks into the limestone and there are no rivers above ground here. Underground, the water is everywhere and we have a wonderland to explore… underground lakes and rivers of clear, unpolluted transparent water, always at an even temperature (in the high 70′s F). These cenotes (pronounced suh-NO-tays) are now famous with cave divers from around the world. Our hundreds of cenotes are an attraction for all visitors, as many of them are now prepared with easy access and facilities for you to spend the day with your family. As the Maya have known for centuries, a cenote is a cool getaway when the weather heats up.
So we can look at all this rain as a way to keep the cenotes filled with water from the heavens. And the rain has another blessing: cool evenings to enjoy a walk or dinner al fresco.
Nighttime temperature lows this week have been 66 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit! That’s pretty close to perfect evening weather for enjoying Merida and any of the hundreds of small towns on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Though Merida is my home, I have been traveling a lot lately to other countries, visiting and caring for family and exploring the world.
When I’m gone for any length of time, I find I start missing my adopted home. (Yes, I was not born here… I was born in England, but I’ve been traveling through and living in Mexico for over 25 years now).
It’s interesting to me what I miss when I miss Merida. Because what I miss is not what a person might see or experience who has only been in the Yucatan for a short time.
To start, I miss waking up here. After years of living in the centro historico of Merida, I purchased and live in a home about an hour outside of Merida in a pueblo called Tepakan. When I wake up, I don’t hear much at all. I hear a few dogs barking, and far-off children playing or calling to each other. I might hear a car or truck going by once every five or ten minutes in the morning, though there are stretches of up to an hour during the day when I won’t hear anything with a motor. When I wake up, I hear birds… all sorts of birds. And not just any birds… these are the raucous calls of tropical birds that sound like screams and cries and laughter. At home in the Yucatan, I wake up to a cacophony of birds that is unique to this part of the world… and I miss it when I’m not here.
I miss the long, quiet drives with no traffic. In so many parts of the world, commuting to work involves driving in traffic. I have my own business and I do a lot of driving here in Merida and around the Yucatan Peninsula. But I am almost never stopped at a stoplight for more than a minute, and I have practically forgotten the experience of driving on a highway in traffic. That kind of thing just doesn’t exist in my world now.
I miss the food, too. Not just the panuchos and sopa de lima that I can get on almost any street corner in Merida, or the great lunches at my favorite cocina economicas. But I also miss the food my neighbors in Tepekan share with me. During the Day of the Dead season, my neighbors will bring over a homemade pib or two… a Yucatan-style chicken pot pie that is traditional during that time of year. Every Sunday, I can just walk out my door and down the street for a homemade dish of cochinita, probably the Yucatan’s most famous and most delicious dish… and very hard to reproduce in other parts of the world.
I miss the colors. Have you ever noticed how drab most first world cities can be? In Mexico, and certainly in and around Merida, if houses are painted, they are often painted in bright colors. It costs just as much to buy a can of brown paint as it does a can of purple paint… so why not paint my house purple? All the better if my purple contrasts with my neighbor’s blue house, don’t you think? I love that about this area (and the rest of Mexico).
If you come to live here, you already have probably fallen in love with many things about Merida and the Yucatan. You probably have lots of reasons why you moved here or want to move here. But sometimes the things you grow to love about a place are not the things you first fell in love with… but those are the things you miss when you are away.
What do you miss when you aren’t in Merida?
No short blog post could begin to talk about everything that is going on in the art world in Merida. Merida has never been the seat of art in Mexico (that would have to be Mexico City…), but in the last ten years, the art world in Merida has continued to expand, encompassing more and more artists from around the world, different kinds of art and an ever-expanding audience of art patrons.
Art in Merida initially centered around the MACAY, Merida’s contemporary art museum just off the Plaza Grande, and the Archaeological Museum on Paseo de Montejo. There were various artists in Merida, such as Fernando Castro Pacheco and Alberto Castillo (now both deceased), who studied abroad and in Mexico City and then returned to paint in Merida. Pacheco became famous around Mexico for his unique and colorful style, examples of which can be seen in the murals in the Governor’s Palace on the Plaza Grande in Merida. Alberto Castillo, a less recognized painter, was a favorite among visitors and locals alike for his more naive but no less colorful style.
Over the last ten or so years, many artists have converged on Merida, attracted by the same set of amenities that the rest of us are drawn to: inexpensive living, laid back life style, large houses to be renovated, access to modern amenities and great food, to name a few! People like Melva Medina and Abel Vazquez came to Merida from Morelia and Oaxaca respectively. Other artists have come from places like New York City, such as fabric designer Luli Sanchez or Harold McAnaney… not to exhibit or sell their art, but to have a quiet and inspirational place to create their art. Some of the most exciting art comes from street artists that may or may not be selling their works on any given night on the streets outside the Peon Contreras Theater, and from some of the fine graffiti artists who have taken their art to new and beautiful works on walls throughout the city.
Also over the last ten years, art museums and art galleries have proliferated in Merida, ranging from the City Art Museum in the old and renovated Post Office to the Soho Galleries and others in Santa Ana and Santiago, which sell art from local artists as well as from artists in Cuba and other nearby Latin American countries.
Art is everywhere in Merida now… from the ESAY art school in the old Railroad Station to the art market on Paseo de Montejo every Sunday morning. If you love art, come to Merida!
Merida is lucky to have a growing and active art community, and the central location for that community is called the MACAY, the Museo Arte Contemporaneo al Yucatán. Housed within a very large building that used to act as the arsenal for the city, the MACAY’s entrance is from a covered passage between the museum and the main Merida cathedral on the Plaza Grande.
On the ground floor of the museum is the entrance, which is reached by walking through the covered passageway, itself an exhibit area for outdoor sculptures. The ground floor also has a small gift shop, children’s art workshop areas and a lovely garden with a central fountain… a great place to sit and get away from the crowds, if you need that. Some of the most interesting art is exhibited in the atrium area, where a high ceiling and skylights flood the room with light. Everything else about the MACAY is upstairs… and no, there is no elevator.
The MACAY museum has a few rooms that have installations from the permanent collection, and these rooms never change. But out of about 20 rooms, these are only three or four rooms. The rest of the museum is dedicated to showing the population of Merida new and interesting art from around the world. In the last few years, the management of this museum has stepped up their game and has begun sourcing art exhibits from around the world. Most recently, during the summer of 2013, an entire exhibit was dedicated to art from Argentina.
The MACAY changes their temporary exhibit quarterly, with an opening night open to the public at the start of each exhibit. The museum also conducts various children’s programs at different times during the year, and has a weekly local radio show (in Spanish). Installation and performance art pieces are also a part of this museum’s offerings.
Living in Merida provides many amenities, and the continually changing art exhibits at the MACAY museum are an amenity those who live here treasure greatly.
I can’t count how many times now I have helped someone buy their first home in the Yucatan… hundreds? thousands? I’ve been selling homes to extranjeros (foreigners) here for almost fifteen years.
Most of the time, when people first get here, they are in the process of falling in love with Merida and the Yucatan. They love the old homes, the opportunities for renovation and for creating something beautiful they can call their own. They love the vibrancy and culture of the city, or they love the chance they have to afford something at the beach. They love how close Merida is to their home in the States or how wonderful the weather is here when it is cold back home in Canada. If they come from a big city in North America or Europe, they love how relaxed this city is… Merida, after all, is the city of tranquilo. If they are from the US or Canada, they love the European influence in the architecture, the stately mansions on Paseo de Montejo, the soaring cathedral on the Plaza Grande. If they are from Europe, they love the affordability of beautiful old homes and haciendas. And everyone loves the mystery of the Maya culture, the adventure of Yucatecan cuisine and the chance to learn or practice their Spanish.
What most people do not think about when they buy their first home is what it is really like to live here. I think they underestimate both the beauty and the beast.
Most people are not thinking about how they will deal with the inevitable paint, plumbing or electrical issues that are just part and parcel of living in a home in the tropics. A house in a warm climate with hard water has issues with corrosion, paint peeling, humidity, etc. One day you’ll find that ants have eaten through your electrical wire. Another time it will be humidity in the walls causing the paint to peel. Maybe your flotador in your tinaco will stop working. Before this, you didn’t even HAVE a flotador, did you? So how could you have anticipated that it might not work?
Luckily, you are not alone in dealing with these house maintenance issues. And wherever you are in the Yucatan, somewhere near by is a man or woman who makes it their job to fix people’s plumbing, or rewire their electrical or repaint their walls. Your home maintenance issues are easily solved with 100 pesos here or 100 pesos there, and they help keep all those local business people in business.
What most people ALSO don’t understand fully when they purchase their first home here is how lovely it really is going to be to have a home here. If you come from the Great White North, there is nothing that quite prepares you for the pure pleasure of walking around your house, barefoot and wrapped in a sarong early in the morning or late at night. It is hard to really understand, until you’ve been there, the complete luxury of swimming naked in your own pool in the middle of the day, serenaded by birds and the wind in the palm trees. Until you have lived through an afternoon thunder storm in your own home, warm and dry, watching sheets of water wash down your walls and into your courtyard or your garden, you just cannot quite appreciate how lovely it will be.
I know probably hundreds of people who came to Merida, fell in love with it, and bought a house here on their first trip. I know hundreds more who took their time, making multiple trips and waiting until they were very sure. Either way you do it, you’ll never be fully prepared… because that is how Life is, right? But whatever way you choose to buy your first home in Merida, I think you’ll be glad you did.
Another Great Sporting Event in the Yucatan or Why You Might Want to Go To Bacalar
You might remember our article about the race across the Yucatan Channel, from Cancun to Cozumel. You probably will not be surprised to hear that there is another popular water race held in the Yucatan. The VIII Open-Water Marathon Bacalar was held on the 22nd and 23rd of June at the beautiful lagoon of seven colors in the magical town of Bacalar.
This event broke all previous attendance records. Over one thousand two hundred swimmers in various categories came to swim in these beautiful waters, exceeding by far previous entries in other years.
Among the most prominent participants this year were four Olympic swimmers from the Republic of Chile, and of course Tierra Yucatan’s Ricardo Hassey. I could not miss this event! I entered in the 5 Kilometer category, finishing the swimming event with a time of 1 hour 42 minutes.
If you don’t know anything about Bacalar, you should! Bacalar, the town, is located 38 kilometers northwest of Chetumal, on the banks of a lagoon. Bacalar is in the state of Quintana Roo. It was named a pueblo mágico in 2006. The name Bacalar is derived from the Mayan word Halal Bak, which means “place surrounded by reeds”. Just knowing that, however, does not prepare you for the beauty of this place.
The Laguna Bacalar or Lagoon of Seven Colors, is a huge expanse of shallow water with very soft white sand. The various tones of the sand beneath and the sky above create an everchanging panoply of blue shades in the water, a fascinating show even without all those swimmers.
On one side of this lagoon, clearly identifiable by the substantially darker tones, you can find the natural wonder that is called the Blue Hole, a magical place very attractive for divers. The Blue Hole is a deeper part of the lagoon, which of course creates a deeper blue color on the surface. The entire lagoon is a lovely place for swimming and other non-invasive water sports. The waters are beautiful, Caribbean-clear and calmer than the ocean just a few miles away.
There are hotels and B&B’s in Bacalar, as well as houses and property for sale in that area. Bacalar is an up-and-coming area, and not just for swimming races!
In Yucatan they say that we have four seasons… two dry seasons and two rainy seasons. But if you look at the average rainfall, almost all the rain comes in the summertime. The beginning of summer (and of hurricane season) brings the big rains… usually, those sweet afternoon tropical thundershowers that provide relief from the build up of heat throughout the earlier part of the day. To my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than the sight of those towering thunderheads on a hot Yucatan afternoon and the downpours that follow are a blessing for people and plants alike.
This year it seems we have had more rain than usual at the beginning of the season… and rain that continues throughout the day. This is a bit unusual but not altogether unwelcome, as in recent years we have had a few summers with less rain than usual. Given the choice, I’ll take more rain over less rain every time. Rain brings out the best in a tropical garden, giving the ground a good soak to prepare it for the next dry season.
According to the weather websites, the most rain falls in Yucatan in September. But June, July and August are full of rain as well. Yucatan is in what they call a tropical desert, because when it gets dry, it gets very dry. And in April and May, and towards the end of the summer, it will get very hot and very dry, providing quite a challenge to many plants in your garden if they are not watered regularly.
Hurricane season isn’t over until November 1, and that’s about when Yucatan experiences a colder rain which is usually associated with nortes, cold north winds that blow the rain down from Texas and across the Yucatan Peninsula. Those rain experiences are not the kind you associate with a tropical environment. They are colder and windier. For rain in October, November or December, you usually need a sweater. Nortes are a part of life here, and are usually numbered by the local press, as in “Here Comes Norte #18!” in the headlines of the daily paper.
But the summer rains are different! Those are warm and full of excitement… and usually over as quickly as they began. Most people come to the Yucatan in the winter months to enjoy the sunshine they cannot get at home in the North. But for my money, summer in the Yucatan is wonderful because of the rains. The gardens are green and growing out of control. The afternoons are hot… all the better for enjoying your swimming pool, the beach or a siesta in your hammock. And the relief brought on by the afternoon summer rains is a tropical experience not to be missed! After all that drama during the day, summer nights in this part of the world are a time to be outside, socialize and enjoy the stars. Come to Yucatan in the summer for the rains and the heat… you won’t be sorry!