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70 days after fire, no progress restoring Teatro Peón Contreras

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Mérida’s Teatro José Peón Contreras, in better days. Photo: Courtesy

For culture lovers, this has been the season without the Teatro Peón Contreras, the historic opera house that was badly damaged in a fire on Nov. 1.

While early on, officials had hoped that Mérida’s most historic performance venue would re-open by spring 2023, now they say that restoration work won’t even begin until June — over 200 days after the fire.

There was no word on how long they will need before inviting back the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra, which moved its performances to the much-smaller Palacio de la Música.

The structure and foundation of the stately 114-year-old building are sound, but flames and smoke damaged the north side of the central hall, and furniture and equipment were lost on four floors, said Arturo Chab Cárdenas, head of INAH in Yucatán. The first was traced to an electrical short in a sound booth behind one of the upper box seats.

Newly released photos show more clearly the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

Experts have had difficulty assessing how to repair its central dome with the 1907 fresco “Las Musas” depicting the nine muses of Apollo, said Chab Cárdenas.

The theater is a national treasure, officially considered a cultural and historical site.

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