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Henry Ponce is 1st to renovate Merida’s Fiesta Americana since it opened

Porfirian gem gets 1st overhaul in nearly 24 years as hotel zone explodes with new competitors

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our top headlines will appear in your inbox each Monday and Thursday.

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Merida, Yucatan — The hotel zone’s Porfirian granddaddy was a little stuck in time.

The owners hired a Merida-born designer to correct that.

Well-known local architect and designer Henry Ponce was tasked with the job of updating the Fiesta Americana’s soaring atrium lobby, Los Almendros restaurant, Cafe Montejo, La Hatch sports bar and its adjacent shopping arcade.

Opening on Feb. 1, 1995 after a three-year project that extended a stately Belle Epoque mansion, the Fiesta Americana is at the intersection of Mérida’s two most important thoroughfares: Avenida Colon and Paseo de Montejo. Its an elegant six-story complex that faces two rivals, the Hyatt Regency and the Holiday Inn, both remodeled in the last four or five years.

But the Fiesta Americana hasn’t been updated since its grand inauguration that drew Mexico’s president and a host of dignitaries nearly 24 years ago.

The hotel is also facing increased competition. Down the road, the new Yucatan International Convention Center has triggered construction of several new hotels, most notably the ultra-modern Paseo 60 twin towers behind the Hyatt, on Calle 60.

“I feel very honored to be chosen for this work,” Ponce said, commenting on the hotel’s corporate owner. “Being from Merida, it is important that firms like Grupo Posadas chose my firm for this project. They see that being from here, I would understand their needs.”

As an architect, Ponce has long been a favorite of the expat community for both modern and colonial homes in the Centro. He has also branched out into home and commercial interior design as well as property management.

The assignment represents the opportunity to demonstrate local talent. Usually, large corporate chains work with bigger firms from Mexico City or the United States, the Merida native said.

The new design blends updated finishes with the hotel’s traditional architectural columns and arches. The stained glass roof remains in the atrium lobby. The plastic vines trailing the balconies are gone, and a heavy brown-and-putty palette is being replaced by neutrals and creamy whites with pops of bright colors. Modern light fixtures contrast with elaborate European-style moldings. Everything looks brighter and more crisp.

The hotel phase is 90 percent complete; next comes an overhaul to the Plaza Americana, the shopping mall that adjoins the hotel — also untouched since it opened, also nearly 24 years ago.

The Fiesta Americana has 350 rooms, including a presidential suite, two governor suites, two master suites and 22 executive suites. Below are 18 event rooms, the largest of which is El Gran Salón Yucatán, with room for 1,200 people. Since opening, it has hosted presidents, business icons and celebrities visiting Mérida.

Ponce is still working with the hotel’s owners on that phase of the design.

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