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Friday, December 3, 2021

Cantina El Pocito reopens, blending past and present

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El Pocito’s windmill is a reminder of the cantina’s rich heritage. Photo: Courtesy

Mérida, Yucatán — When Jose D. Lopez y Lopez opened El Pocito in 1921, he could not have anticipated how enduring, and famous, his cantina would become. 

A stopover for iconic figures from Cantinflas to Castro, El Pocito was a happening place in its prime. 

Gearing for a reopening, Lopez’s grandson has built a modernized restaurant and bar on the very same spot. Although designed to appeal to a younger generation, the grandfather would certainly feel at home in the watering hole he built.

A re-imagined El Pocito is about to open on the Itzimná-Jesús Carranza line. Photo: Courtesy

Grandson Joaquin Lopez-Vargas is now in charge of his family’s business, and he has ensured that the past and present are woven together. 

A replica of the cantina’s old well and windmill — emblematic of the city’s bygone years — anchors a thoroughly modern restaurant and pub. Portraits of long-gone celebrities and political figures are a reminder of El Pocito’s place in history.

El Pocito in Itzimná has entered the modern age while staying in the same family since 1921. Photo: Courtesy

The updated El Pocito is fresh and colorful while maintaining its roots as a friendly corner bar that’s been serving customers for generations. A large windmill anchors the spot, a reminder of the pub’s historic roots.

El Pocito is named for the water well that once stood in the cantina’s place. By its side was a windmill and henequen plants, and today remain a part of its logo.

Powered by the windmill, the well served thirsty travelers under the tropical hot weather of Yucatán.

The “historic cantina” part of El Pocito. Photo: Courtesy

“Its interesting to mention that this water was very clean and pristine because it came from an underground cenote that still exists, but is not visible, though,” says Lopez-Vargas. “My grandfather saw a business opportunity here with the thirsty travelers and built the cantina in 1921. It was an immediate success and with time El Pocito became very famous, and was once considered a necessary stop while visiting Mérida.”

In its prime, El Pocito not only had its regular customers, but was a stopover for some famous patrons.

“Many important people and celebrities used to come here, such as the likes of Pedro Infante,” says Lopez-Vargas, referring to the iconic Mexican movie actor who had a house in Merida.

El Pocito’s terrace. Photo: Courtesy

Cantinflas, Octavio Paz and singer Agustín Lara were among other well-known regulars. Even Fidel Castro — while planning the Cuban Revolution — would down a rum at El Pocito when visiting Mérida, says Lopez-Vargas, regretting that their visits were well before “selfies” were invented. 

“But their portraits will be there as legendary patrons of El Pocito on the walls of the original building,” says Lopez-Vargas.

“For me this is a rescue of one of the most important, venerable, and representative cantinas of Mérida,” says Lopez-Vargas. “El Pocito also represents a return to a bygone era and real — and delicious — Yucatecan botanas.”

The new cantina will have capacity for 200 to 230 people in three distinct dining areas: Cantina Histórica, Terreza Itzimna and Salon Bacara, the latter including a second level for smokers. The music will be different in each zone. El Pocito also has two cocktail bars and a high-capacity kitchen for botanas and Yucatecan food. Both private parking and valet service are offered.

If you go

The grand re-opening is estimated between Feb. 15 and 21 at No. 500, Calle 23 at Avenida Alemán, Itzimná/Jesús Carranza. Call 999-970-0616.

Twitter: @elpocitocantina

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