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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Issue 10 Editorial: Hi, culture (and good night, sleepy city)

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Casa Cascabel, a cultural hub in Mérida, is featured in Issue 10 of Yucatán Magazine. Photo: Courtesy Steve R. Garzo

Ten years ago, the New York Times’ T Magazine documented “a clutch of creative insiders (that) has transformed the faded colonial town into a sophisticated escapist retreat.” The feature went on the track some artistic “early adopters” found potential here. A cultural renaissance was underway in Yucatán’s capital city. (Read about some backlash at the time here.)

This was a break from the typical reports from Mérida. Usually, travel stories described the city as “sleepy” and where the best food is served in private homes. The city of a million people was positioned as a stopover before reaching someplace better. That’s changed. 

Art and music have always been Mérida’s strong points, but now the food scene was beginning to evolve. High-quality fashion shows were no longer astonishing to see. Active, respected artists were moving in from multiple countries to be part of a burgeoning community. Even in the middle of the Centro Histórico, abandoned colonial homes appeared to lend themselves to artistic and culinary pursuits.  

Design blogs regularly feature innovative feats of stylish, modern architecture that are cool spaces (in more ways than one) suited for this hot climate. It’s no longer unusual for news sites and magazines to recommend Yucatán to curious travelers. I’m not sure we’re even considered “off the beaten path” anymore.

Alfredo Romero and Trey Speegle present the Culture Issue cover. Photo: Nestor Herrera / Yucatán Magazine

The overall atmosphere isn’t quite as languid and low-key as it used to be, but anyone who came here to live in a cultural capital got what they asked for and then some. 

Issue 10 of Yucatán Magazine (see a digital edition here or subscribe to have the printed edition delivered) is dedicated to some of the people who can testify to this renaissance. We go for a stroll with famed chef Jeremiah Tower, who has been here for 19 years (page 16), and elsewhere in the Centro with a vibrant artist-in-residence program (page 38). An artist from Palm Springs arrived in Mérida to dig up a large-scale experimental project (see page 44). The Peninsula’s ancient heritage is honored with folk art (page 34), and a Maya rapper from Quintana Roo brings his ancestor’s language to the “Black Panther” franchise (page 42). (Links to these stories will be added once we post them online.)

The condescending tone travel writers used to take is gone when they’re writing about Mérida. Thank the cultural renaissance. 

Trey Speegle

PS: In this issue, we welcome our new art director, Trey Speegle, who has designed the pages of many magazines, such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Us Weekly. Trey is also a pop artist with an independent gallery in the Catskills region of New York and in Mérida. He now divides his time between Upstate and Mérida, where he recently completed Casa Cisterna, which will be among the homes featured in Issue 11. We are certain you will agree that Trey has immediately given YM a new energy and fresh perspective. 

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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