Baile Santiago2

Barrio de Santiago / Santiago neighborhood

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

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!


Lovely Parque Santiago is located at the corner of Calle 72 and wide Calle 59, west and north of the main square completely contained 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. 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.

It’s Santiago where we find ourselves for this episode, let’s take a look inside.

This old home is nicknamed “La Cochera” since an old carriage entrance to a garage/stable was and remains a prominent aspect of the property.  It presented its own special challenges from a design perspective, like so many in Mérida’s Centro Histórico.

During its century-and-a-half of life, the house had been divided in half, then further subdivided into a warren of apartments and rooms rented to working class men. These men had families in outlying pueblos and worked in Merida during the week, and looked for inexpensive accommodations before returning home for the weekend with the family.

The entire center section of the old home had been virtually destroyed by the construction of a second floor which was achieved by slicing the ceiling height in half.  A steep and narrow stairway led to tiny bedrooms. This meant that the original colonial rooms at the front and back were interrupted and separated by this more recent and ill-planned addition – an unfortunate schizophrenia of grand, high ceilinged rooms and tiny sleeping quarters.

As frequently happens with Worldstudio International projects, the challenge was embraced as an opportunity. The central addition was completely demolished, and a new, modernist section was inserted. The new section includes a sunny and spacious up-to-date kitchen, a guest bath/powder room, and a pantry. A dramatic slanting greenhouse-type roof maintains an indoor/outdoor feeling, opens up a space that before was cramped and dark.  This area serves as a unifying bridge between the two older sections of the house. Now the nearly 20 foot tall ceilings extend from the front of the house all the way to the back, adding to the sense of space and drama.

The kitchen is wide open, both to the dramatic tall hallway and to the breakfast patio just outside.  Modern appliances and lots of counter space confirm it as a kitchen of today, not the tiny dark room it might have been decades ago.

The huge old cochera itself was preserved, half of it now serving as a guest bedroom that looks onto a charming courtyard with a splashing fountain. The attached bathroom opens to this room as well as opening to the hallway.  It is bright and light and really brings the outdoors in.

The master suite, located at the back of the house features a dramatic split glass archway that provides views both into the master bath and to the garden terrace. A sunken bathtub, private pocket garden and column storage towers are unique touches that serve to visually enlarge the relatively narrow space in the master bath. And the large infinity pool – visible when one first enters the home – features a broad cascade that serves as a charming water feature on the terrace.

Throughout the house are the ubiquitous “pasta tiles” one finds all over Yucatan. Some, such as at the two ends of the house are worn from use over 160 years, but only serve to add character and charm to the house.  Since these tiles are still being manufactured, in places where the floors were ruined were added new tiles inset as “rugs” into new cement floors.

Click here to see the rest of the videos in Keith’s house series.


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