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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Entertaining at home: Simple and festive Yucatán-inspired tablescapes

Here are some nearby shops to make your tabletop pop

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Maggie Cale
Maggie Cale was born in the United States and has lived most of her life in Pennsylvania. She has a social work degree from Penn State University and finished her career in Washington, D.C. working with families. She moved to Yucatán in 2017 and has worked part-time ghostwriting for bloggers. She lives in Itzimná with her two dogs.

When entertaining at home with Yucatán flare, the focal point of your party should start on your table. 

All the local, bright colors in linens, fruits, flowers, and dishes make any affair festive. 

So where to begin: Night or day? Elegant or simple? All things to consider.

Embroidered napkins Maquech in Merida, Yucatán. Photo: Maggie Cale

First, I started simply with items already in my house and yard for a coffee get-together. I utilized a colorful tablecloth, flowers, succulents, white coffee cups, and my own baked goods. Then I went shopping.

“The art of home entertaining is still going strong but maybe in smaller groups,” said Juanita Stein, the owner of Between the Lines, where I found two helpful books, Rena Kirdar’s “How to ‘Party’ Chic” and “Dinner Parties: Reviving the Art of the Hostess Book,” by Daniel Cappello. The store also carries a selection of ceramic face masks that would be a great accent for a party table.

Básica Sociedad in Mérida has unique, hand-crafted things for your tablescape. Photo: Courtesy

The bookstore is part of Plaza Carmesí, on the corner of Calle 62 and 53, where the shops Úumbah and Básica Sociedad carried more striking items like hand-carved wooden plates and cutlery and simple ceramics and some clay pieces.  I found some beautiful cement planters with skull motifs and wooden dishes that would be nice for earth tones brightened up by colorful table runners.

El Maquech in the Centro has lots of tablerunners for your Yucatán-inspired dinner party. Photo: Maggie Cale

I went to El Maquech on Calle 59 in the Centro and met with the proprietor, Jorge Fries. “My house here is your house!” he told me. “Look through it all and open what you want ” He proceeded to show me dozens of colorful table runners, napkins, coasters, and other decorative items that may be used to enhance a beautiful Mexican table. The combinations are endless. Colorful lizards and frogs can be decorative or hold place cards. Jorge also had some decorative plates. My advice is to shop around and decide on a budget.

Elements of a Yucatán-inspired table setting: Colorful plates from the Soriana supermarket and a table runner from El Maquech. Photos: Maggie Cale

After the table runners, napkins, and an assortment of decorations, it was time to move on to dishes. 

Soriana has a fun selection. I went with bright colors of orange, yellow, and lime green. This was another inexpensive way to decorate my table. The dishes alone set up a festive table.

Roasted stuffed peppers add color to any table. Photo: Lindsay Cale

Colorful foods also set your table off. A hot stuffed red pepper with a chilled soup or an appetizing dip with fried tortillas and salsa verde on the side would work. Utilize tropical fruit as a place card using a gold permanent marker. 

I moved on to flowers, which are one of my favorite things to decorate with. A simple runner down the middle of the table of ferns and baby’s breath is elegant. I found those two items at Floreria Las Gardenias at Calle 59, between 74 and 76, in Santiago. Then on to the Mercado Chen Bech on Calle 57 420 for my favorite sunflowers. They can be decorative in vases, down the table, or one on each plate. Having fun with them is the key.

Sunflowers at the Chen Bech market in Mérida. Photo: Maggie Cale

Candles and lighting add so much to your room or table. Lights can twinkle down the table or be draped from the ceiling. Simple votive candles down the table add charm and feel festive. Candles lit around the room at different heights and staggered on your table add a beautiful nighttime ambiance. Finding candles here took a little more legwork. I had to shop around and build up a supply as I found them. So Walmart had a few, Home Depot had a few, and others I ordered from Amazon Mexico, where a nice grouping of candles was about 500 pesos. I am still searching for that local candle shop — although Fantasías Miguel might do in a pinch.

Entertaining at home is an opportunity to express yourself, and believe me, it has not gone out of style. And of all the many ideas to decorate the table, there’s nothing that you can’t do yourself.

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