The increasing impact of novelists, poets and memoirists on the Mérida social scene has made Grant Spradling happy he reconsidered moving away from there a decade ago.
Grant and his partner Clifford Ames have been part of the Mérida expat scene since the 1980s. And to the envy of many newcomers to this Colonial city on the Yucatán Peninsula, they purchased their beautiful Centro home about 25 years ago when grand properties like theirs were cheap and plentiful.
So the U.S.-born author has seen a lot of changes, for better or for worse, in his adopted southeast Mexican community. Over time, rapid population growth and the advent of “go-getter” speculators dampened his enthusiasm for Mérida. At one point, about 11 years ago, he told the Los Angeles Times that he was ready to start “packing it in” and move back to the States.
But friends convinced him to change his mind, and Grant hasn’t looked back.
Today, living on the peninsula affords him a sprawling city home as well as a secluded place on the coast. His beach house happens to be in a wireless dead zone, and Grant isn’t rushing to complain to the cellphone company. He gets much more writing done this way.
Also today, Grant has noticed that not all expats are here for fooling around, mindless fun or flipping properties.
“Mérida itself has great cultural roots,” says Spradling. “In the expat community, there seems to be a rich literary firmament.”
Spradling is the author of several books, and is working on his next.
“I came to Mérida to write and of course I find many writers here now,” says Grant. “When I gave up my position as Arts Council Director in Key West, that was my goal.”
He finds peer support at the Mérida English Library, which happens to maintain its headquarters on the other side of his rear wall. MEL has a full schedule of events for English-speaking expats and snowbirds, including regular meet-ups for writers of all levels who want to read their own passages at “open-mic” events.
Based on reality, to a point
Grant’s most recent novel, “David Goes Home,” follows two other mysteries with the same core cast of characters, “Palenque Murder” and “Maya Sacrifice.” The middle book is actually based in fact, when an author en route to visit Grant was slain among the Maya ruins.
The protagonist in all three is loosely based on the writer, a young, gay, semi-closeted Oklahoma-born clergyman meeting people and finding himself on adventures between Boston and Key West in the 1960s and ‘70s.
His next work, “The Chelem Papers,” is named for the beach town where Grant gets his creative juices flowing.
“Weekly, I go to Chelem Beach in search of my muse. Sometimes, in my solitude, the pelicans even speak,” says Grant. “The stories that come to me are as wide ranging as meditations on pulling crabgrass, raking leaves on an alfalfa field, as a story about a zany bunch of characters, much like some Mérida expats, on an Amazon cruise which is nearly blown up by terrorists.”
But for now, Grant’s previous books — as are books written by other expats like Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado — are available at the Mérida English Library.
Read more about Grant and his books at the Hamaca Press website.
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