Laura Lecué and Alan Montfort traveled the world before settling in the tiny town of Espita, Yucatán. The couple knew the Peninsula fairly well, but when they arrived in Espita, they were sure they’d found a special place.
“Espita had that feeling of somewhere different, authentic,” says Laura. “Far from major cities but centrally located at the same time. It felt like a place where life could happen.”
Laura studied architecture in Paris, where she worked for a local firm for about four years. But she was well aware that she wanted to venture off on her own.
“After my time in Paris, I moved to a small town in northwest France. Then started traveling, and eventually arrived here, to Mexico with Alan.”
She started working with an architect in Yucatán, which eventually brought her to a remodeling project in Espita. The couple discovered the town and soon became enamored.
“It had that feeling I loved about small towns. Of tranquility and community. People were so welcoming and warm, it became a good reason to stay.”
Laura and Alan bought a home a couple of blocks from the main square and started remodeling it to their liking. In 2019, it became a bar where people could stop by on the weekends, or after the December vaquería— a yearly traditional festival.
“It had a very whimsical air to it. People would travel from all over, like Europe, Mérida, and Tizimin to the Espita vaquería, and they would all join here. We would see horses grazing next to convertibles. That only happens in magical places,” says Laura.
In the early months of 2020, the bar expanded into a boutique hotel and became Casona Los Cedros. Today, it is a restaurant, bar and hotel.
Laura was the architect of the project, which maintains its classic colonial look with a modern minimalist style. The couple operates the boutique, which has opened them to a new world of challenges.
“We were both beginners in the hotel world. Neither one of us worked in the area. But we love to travel and learn. It became a personal project, a way to share what we enjoy with other travelers.”
Laura and Alan operated for the first months of 2020, but the pandemic halted their plans.
“Visitors were scarce for a while, with travel restrictions and all,” says Laura “But we slowly picked up momentum, and soon we were welcoming visitors, booking all our tables and planning for events. People have really enjoyed their time with us, and that means everything.”
She notes that the intention of the Casona is to highlight the value of Espita, both the people that inhabit it, and what they produce.
“It’s very important for us that Espiteños feel part of this space. We’re so happy to have worked with local craftsmen when remodeling. All the materials are from here. The lamps, doors, furniture, everything was made in Espita. We wanted to work with the region, showcase it to the world.”
The restaurant in Casona Los Cedros shows the same approach in its cooking.
“Chef Jorge Ildefonso wanted to ensure a local concept, and use up what we could find in the region,” Laura says. “Everything comes from different towns in the state, like the cheeses and dairy that we bring from Sucilá, or the vegetables that we grow in our garden.”
Laura says that gastronomy is a central aspect of the project, but they are excited to combine it with art and culture. In June they inaugurated the first edition of “Taste of Espita,” a festival that offered a curated menu by Chef Ildefonso, wine pairings, and a DJ to enliven the evenings.
“Our intention is to make these events a regular occurrence. We want to offer something different for our guests. This time, it was delicious food and dancing,” Laura says.
Today, visitors of Casona Los Cedros come mostly from Mérida and nearby towns, but Laura excitedly shares that international travelers are becoming abundant, too.
“We look forward to welcoming people who miss traveling. After all, this is what this space is about. Enjoying your stay in a beautiful town.”
In Yucatán at Home: Espita— A Yucatecan hidden gem