Baile Santiago2

Barrio de Santiago / Santiago neighborhood at night

In our continuing series featuring the unique homes and neighborhoods of Mérida, Yucatán, we are proud to present Barrio de Santiago neighborhood. Our host is Keith Heitke, a senior sales agent for Mexico International Real Estate.

Each video episode on our website features a different residential neighborhood of this interesting and beautiful city, focusing on a home which exemplifies the best of that neighborhood. While we’ll give you lots of great footage and design ideas, we hope it only whets your appetite to see more, and of course nothing beats experiencing these amazing homes in person. Yucatan Today operates a series of House & Garden tours every Wednesday from November through March as a fundraising project for three different non-profit organizations.

If you would like to savor the details about the neighborhood of Santiago, and the house itself, scroll down for a written summary. And if you would like to post a comment, you can do so at the end of the article.

Now, let’s have a look! Video by our friends at intheyucatan.com:

Just a few hundred feet from Parque Santiago is where we find ourselves for this episode, and for a twist we’ll see the house first and then head over to the Park to see what happens there on Tuesday evenings.

This elegant and sophisticated old home has a very familiar story… like so many homes in the centro historico of Merida, Yucatan, it was built for a wealthy family to very high standards in the Spanish style, and since fell into bad disrepair, and was even abandoned.  Hard to imagine nowadays since the owners, a young couple with a small child, worked with talented architect Salvador Reyes to totally transform it.  Let’s take a look inside.

Typical of so many houses downtown, it was very formal and grand at the front, and had a rather large piece of land behind it where the outbuildings such as kitchen and bath would have been, but by the time these intrepid homeowners took a look the house was a wreck and the big yard was just a sad and overgrown junk pile. Still, both the homeowners and their architect could see the great bones and interesting opportunity with all that open land for creating a perfect home for them.

There are almost two distinct sections to the home even now, the original part in the front transitioning as you pass through, ending in an almost completely modern family room and pool area at the back, all the while utilizing the traditional building materials but in new and interesting ways for a logical sense of cohesiveness.

Tall rooms at the front are open to interpretation, they can each be closed off and private, or all the tall doors can be opened for an enfilade effect, facilitating airflow, light, and openness.

A small wooden bridge literally links the old and new sections, under the bridge is a tranquil fish and lily pond with the master bedroom overlooking this central courtyard area, open to the sky.

Located at the center of the house, usually the quietest portion of any downtown lot, the master suite features a dramatic set of windows to the courtyard, and behind that a huge and luxurious master bath looking at more garden terrace. A sunken bathtub, a real rarity in an old house, is centered in this bright and open room.

From here we go through another small vestibule into the wide open and dramatic kitchen with another open air patio just outside.  Modern appliances and lots of counter space confirm it as a kitchen of today, not the tiny dark room that would have been used ages ago.  Lots of light and openness are the key here, with more pasta tile floors and solid hardwoods giving a sense of the old materials but used in non-fussy and ingenious ways.

A bright family room opens on both sides for airflow and a true feeling of living indoor-outdoor, with all doors open it basically becomes a sort of modern beach pavilion overlooking the infinity pool… impossible to imagine this would be here looking at the blank façade on the street!

Above all of this is yet another area to relax, an open air roof deck, and above that a lookout tower to survey all of the Santiago neighborhood, speaking of which, now we’ll head just a few steps away to check out Parque Santiago on this Tuesday night, with all its neighborly festivities.

Parque Santiago, located at the corner of Calle 72 and Calle 59 is just a few blocks west and north of the main square, still well within Merida’s Centro Historico.

The church of the same name was founded in 1637, and of course there is the obligatory park in front of the church and a bustling market next door selling, with fruits and vegetables, meats, and a rather nice selection of decorative flowers.

Like all bustling city squares, there are a variety of diversions and shaded benches and folks of all ages. There is a very well used children’s playground, and in this particular park Tuesday evenings bring out the big band music and dancers from all walks of life. Everybody leaves their homes and gathers to either sit and watch the dancing or to actually take part… all are welcome and everybody has a great time.

Besides this, there’s a first-run movie theatre, and even Merida’s branch of Mexico’s famous pawn shop chain, Nacional Monte de Piedad.

Facing the huge block square on all sides are stores of all types: hardware, paint, bicycles, restaurant, cafe, barber, and the great aroma of a bakery.  two grand Porfiriato style schools from the very early 1900s face the square as well.

Because of its compact size and vast offerings, there is probably a higher concentration of foreigners living and investing in the Santiago area than any other, drawn by its proximity to the main square, but smaller, more intimate neighborhood feel.

So much has changed in the over 100 years since this home was built, including the house’s new inhabitants and the transformation of the house, but surprisingly, many of the neighborhood traditions would make people from the old days feel right at home today!

Click here to see more of Keith’s house tour videos.

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