Paseo de Montejo is brimming with history, beauty, and architectural wonders that reflect the grandeur and splendor that the sisal era meant for Yucatán. The global demand for this natural fiber and the major production capacity of local hacienda owners reportedly made Mérida home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the world.
The majestic mansions on Paseo de Montejo stand as testaments to that bygone wealth. Constructed with plans designed by Europe’s most renowned architects and using materials imported from around the world, without concern for cost, it’s no wonder they remain impressive after so many decades. Although many houses have been beautifully restored to their original glory, few stand out like the Casas Gemelas (twin houses), officially known as Casas Cámara (Cámara Houses).
The Casas Cámara on Paseo de Montejo
The name, of course, comes from its original owners, brothers Ernesto and Camilo Cámara Zavala. Belonging to one of the most notable Henequén hacienda-owning families, they commissioned the plans from the French architect Gustave Umbdenstock. Gustave Umbdenstock had been responsible for creating the French pavilion at the St. Louis World’s Fair, which was a recreation of the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles; at the request of the Cámara brothers, he was in charge of the entire design, including the interiors and furniture, which were crafted by renowned Parisian cabinetmakers. All of these elements are preserved and can be visited in the residence that belonged to Ernesto, now functioning as a House Museum: Montejo 495.
Montejo 495, Casa Museo
The house located at 495 Paseo de Montejo has only belonged to two families. With the commercialization of synthetic fibers, the demand for Henequén fiber plummeted. In 1964, the heir of the house, Camilo Cámara Vales, sold the property to Fernando Barbachano Gómez Rul and his wife, Doña Maruja Herrero García. Fernando and Maruja were passionate about showcasing Yucatecan and Maya culture to the world and took great care not only in preserving and enhancing the house but also in sharing it with distinguished guests such as Jackie Kennedy, Prince Rainier, and Princess Grace of Monaco, and King Umberto II of Italy, among others. Starting in 2021, the Barbachano Herrero sisters opened the doors of their residence, allowing everyone to embark on a journey through the history of Yucatán.
What you will see at Montejo 495, Casa Museo
Currently, the visit includes only the ground floor and the basement (as the upper floors are still the family’s home), but those two levels are enough to make a truly memorable visit. There is so much to see in such a beautiful, historic, and monumental house like this that it would be impossible to mention every aspect here, but please know that the guides who will accompany you are prepared to give you a general tour or focus on the topic that interests you the most: the outstanding architecture, the exquisite furniture, the vast breadth of exhibited art (which, even if you are not an art enthusiast, is worth the visit in itself), the history of the state… no matter what questions arise, your guides will know the answer; and, if she’s home, you can take a few minutes to chat with Doña Maruja Barbachano, Fernando’s daughter, at the end of the visit.
Montejo 495, Casa Museo, is much more than a Historical Monument of México (and a Cultural Heritage of France Abroad); it is a journey through time and a unique opportunity to explore the interior of one of México’s most iconic houses.
Montejo 495, Casa Museo
Paseo de Montejo #495 x 45, Centro
IG & FB: montejo495
Guided Tours: Tue. – Sun., 10 am – 5 pm
General Admission: $250 pesos
With Mexican ID: $150 pesos
INAPAM, students, teachers, and children over 11 years old: $100 pesos
Children aged 4 to 11: $50 pesos
Free admission for children under 4 years old.
By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in México City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live
Photography by Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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