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A closer look at the new U.S. Consulate in Mérida

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Some of its steel framing already erected, Mérida’s new U.S. Consulate was finally given its celebratory groundbreaking on a 7.4-acre parcel near the Periférico.

Consul General Courtney Beale led the ceremony to announce the new United States Consulate General, serving all three states on the Peninsula.

The modern US$210-million complex — designed to include sly visual references to cenotes, haciendas and the Mayan world — is directly behind The Harbor mall and is one of several commercial and residential high-rises in various stages of completion in the Via Montejo development north of the city. It will be a larger, more efficient building than the smaller one still in use on Calle 60, officials said. It is also near the highway, making it easier to access for out-of-towners.

At first glance, visitors may see only a sleek office building, but on closer examination, the Consulate complex is imbued with symbolism. A low wall of local stone leading to the entrance runs alongside a water feature that represents the troughs found at haciendas outside the city. The complex itself is a blend of modern forms, such as an atrium, and natural elements, such as the stone walls, native plants and a reflecting pool evoking the region’s cenotes.

The glass-clad upper floors comprise a floating volume over the limestone base, surrounded by gardens. “The resulting effect is reminiscent of the Mayan ruins, which hover above lush jungle and provide views of the trees across the Peninsula,” the document states. The Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle is the design architect, Muñoz Arquitectos is the local architect and BL Harbert of Birmingham, Alabama, is the general contractor.

A permanent exhibit highlighting American and Mexican artists will be curated by the Office of Art in Embassies, a State Department document explains.

Describing the complex as a “showcase of our nations’ cultures,” Beale stressed the importance of the friendly relationship between the United States and the Yucatan Peninsula.

“Mexico is one of the closest and most valuable partners of the United States,” said Beale, in Spanish. “We are neighbors with a deep history and a shared future. Today we celebrate the beginning of the construction of a building that will serve as a testimony to celebrate our friendship and strengthen our diplomacy in the years to come.”

The United States has dispatched a consul in Yucatán since 1843. The ceremony blended two traditions: the American custom of a “groundbreaking” with shovels and dirt, and a Mayan ritual officiated by a shaman priest who asked the gods for permission to build on the land.

A consulate is an official representative of its government, assisting and protecting the citizens of the consul’s own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the two countries. It provides assistance both Mexican citizens wishing to work or study in the U.S., and to Americans requiring a passport, birth certificates or other documents.

Mérida Mayor Renán Barrera noted that of the 20,000 Americans who live temporarily or permanently on the Yucatán Peninsula, 2,000 live in Mérida and 1,300 have permanent resident card immigration status

Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

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