If there is a collective dream for both Yucatecans and visitors alike, it is to discover the enigma of what lies inside house number 495 on Paseo de Montejo. Of course, this is not a desire from which I’m exempt. Since I can remember, my dad would tell me about his visits to the Barbachano Herrero family home, today known as Montejo 495. But the hopes of one day visiting the house, and every image I created in my years of dreaming, fall short compared to the beauty that lies within this majestic residence.
The house was inaugurated in 1911 and since that date, it has conserved its original design in its entirety. Visitors will see exquisite architectural and decorative details, such as sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows, and tapestries from all over the world; Chinese, Japanese, and French porcelain; stuccos featuring herons, ducks, dragons, muses, flowers, crowns, musical instruments, and cameos; 16 single-piece columns made of Carrara marble; wide, open spaces, and natural lighting that streams through the wide windows and illuminates each room. The result? A day has passed since my visit and I’m still trying to assimilate everything so I can translate it into words, and believe me, it’s not easy. The house is divine, you’ll need to see it with your own eyes to understand what I’m talking about.
It’s a house that proudly exhibits the Yucatecan aesthetic of Don Ernesto and Doña María Cámara Zavala, who lived at a time when communication and commercial and cultural exchange with Europe – specifically with France – was vibrant. As Montejo 495 moved from one family to another, sets of Asian, Turkish, and locally-made objets d’art were added to the collection; as well as perhaps the most intimate pieces found in the house: oil paintings of the four Barbachano sisters, their parents, and family photographs.
The house may be cool, but it’s not cold. In its essence, it’s a place that has been home to two families during its 110 years of history. First, the Cámara Zavala family, and later the Barbachano Herrero family. Maruja and Cristina Barbachano recall the experiences of a house full of joy, memories, youthful parties, warm Christmases, and even times of great sadness.
It’s easy to evoke the family life of Montejo 495, which since 1964 – when they first moved into the house – was always open to the whole family. “It’s a house that in itself contains an intimate relationship with everyone; it was the preferred place for family gatherings,” said Cristina Barbachano.
And now this icon of Yucatecan history, and of the two families that have inhabited it, opens its doors for the first time so that the public – especially people who have wanted to see it for many years, like me – can have the opportunity to discover its interior.
Why Montejo 495?
Montejo 495 is the name that connects two families with the subject – the house. As Maruja Barbachano shares with us, “it is admiration for the beauty selected by the Cámara Zavala family, appreciated, maintained, and respected by the Barbachano Herrero family. In its interior it brings together the history of two emblematic industries in Yucatán: Henequén and Tourism.”
Montejo 495 Casa Museo
Opening: January 14, 2021.
Thu. – Sun. 9 am – 5 pm
General entry: $250 pesos. With ID from the State of Yucatán: $125 pesos
INAPAM, students, and kids under 12 years: $50 pesos. Free to kids under 3 years
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Photography by Olivia Camarena and Yucatán Today for use in Yucatán Today.
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