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A walk through the Minaret — Moorish and French-style highlight the glamour of the Henequen era

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Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Among the iconic buildings standing along Paseo de Montejo, marked with the number 473, is the French-style Mansion “The Minaret”.

Known today as the site of evening events, bazaars, weddings, and even small concerts, it has become a popular event venue a tad different from traditional haciendas found throughout Yucatán.

Sideview of the Minaret, located over Paseo de Montejo. Photo: Courtesy

Built at the end of the Porfiriato period, the property was formerly known as “Casa del Minarete.” It was dedicated to being a dwelling house whose distinctive element — the Minaret, was taken from the Arab influences in vogue in the peninsula during the era of its construction. Today, it still stands as the eternal watchtower of Mérida’s Centro.

The property gets its name from the Minaret, a tower that overlooks the property, of Moorish influence. Photo: Courtesy

In 1908 it was built by Dr. Alvaro Medina Ayora and his brother, Miguel Medina Ayora, who served as Director of Public Works of the State and directed the construction of the building.

The property is an obvious nod to the neoclassical architectural style typical of the 19th century and is another example of the few mansions that have survived the modernization of the urban landscape of the avenue in Mérida. 

The ground floor is a popular spot for large and crowded events, as it holds around 700 people. The rest of the property holds around 200 people indoors and 300 people on the terrace. Photo: Courtesy

The residence has a portico delimited by Ionic-style columns and a high bay window of Moorish influence. Although it was not the only mansion with this Moorish characteristic, at the north end of Paseo de Montejo there was a mansion called “la Casa de la Reina de Montejo”, a property that no longer exists.

A photo from the 20th century, when the property was first built. Photo: Courtesy

During this time period, many large properties were built throughout Paseo de Montejo, the main avenue of the city, including the Casas Gemelas, which were built only a couple of years later.

The splendor and flare of the mansions became a symbol of the economic success brought to the state by the “green gold era” — the henequén times, which coincided with the Porfiriato. 

The interior of the property, particularly the moldings in the walls, are still the original designs. Photo: Courtesy

In 1971, the heirs of Dr. Medina remodeled the property, adding paint, further plaster decor and structural changes.

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Yet they maintained the plaster decorations on the interior ceilings, which call attention to the agricultural theme of flowers and corn in allusion to an era that reached such splendor thanks to cultivation. The porcelain bathrooms and the spiral staircase leading to the viewpoint were also preserved.

The building was used for a while as administrative offices, a common occurrence among colonial homes in downtown Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

Once remodeled, it escaped the destruction which many Mérida casonas suffered and served as the administrative offices of corporations for a while. Where originally there must have been a garden with a fountain over a cenote, like a few houses on Paseo Montejo, there is now a parking lot which used to belong to the regional headquarters of administrative offices.

Yet in another round of restorations, in 2017 a group of businessmen purchased the property and turned it into a colonial building offered as a social center for banquets, dinners, and social receptions. In 2018 it was one of the properties one could visit with “Montejo, Past Splendor” — guided tours of the Paseo de Montejo.

As events slowly return, The Minaret has started hosting private parties, as well as bazaars open to the public. Photo: Courtesy

Grupo Lahe — led by architect Enrique Hernández Moreno, invested in the property to become a new premium venue. Hernández Moreno said that he was interested in the potential of congresses and destination weddings around the peninsula, and wanted to take the opportunity to restore some of the city’s old glamour.

The Minaret is now owned by Luis Adrián Álvarez Ponce de León and Hernández Moreno, both members of the group, and has seen many events through its few years as a venue.

The property lit during the night, for a private wedding. Photo: Courtesy

Today, embodying the style and flair of the henequen times, the Minaret opens its doors for social and private events throughout the year, adding a colonial Casona to the long list of options from which to choose.

In Yucatán Magazine: Casas Gemelas — French legacy on the Paseo Montejo

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