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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

In a restored Centro mansion, Lagalá lures artists, fashionistas and foodies

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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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Ana Carolina Leyva Peralta has come along way in the six years since she started the trendy and artistic El Mercadito Bazar.

Her new enterprise, Lagalá 56:426, is camera-ready, and ready for the public. When we visited on Saturday, her employees and a freelance photographer were taking photos of architectural details, plated food and bottled water. Its kitchen, visible through a window in the center hall, was filled with a chef’s uniformed staff rehearsing for the opening day of a small, stylish restaurant that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Today, it started a soft opening. It will officially open next month, but visitors have already begun arriving after learning about it on the grapevine.

Art is hung in its two galleries — three galleries, actually, if you count the wall adjoining the stunning staircase.

Upstairs, Imox, a super-chic boutique, appeared fully stocked. It’s named for the Mayan spirit that represents the collective consciousness. Mostly it offers women’s apparel and accessories, with two racks of very fashion-forward menswear. Up front are shelves with well-selected art books that round out the selection.

Named for Salvador Dalí’s muse, Lagalá has been a work in progress for so long — roughly 18 months — it already feels like part of the Santa Ana/Paseo Montejo neighborhood, in a restored Belle Époque mansion with a distinctive, ornate railing that overlooks Calle 56 just off 47.

Inside, the railing’s motif is repeated in a glamorous staircase that envelopes the entry room. Both railings are original; most everything else is brand new, designed throughout by Zaida Briceño and Orlando Franco of the design firm FMT estudio.

Chosen because Leyva felt an artistic bond with them, Briceño and Franco maintained a consistent theme of circular shapes, reflected in everything from custom bathroom mirrors to garment racks. A soft color palate is soothing and modern. It’s a self-contained world of food, art and fashion.

In an era of online shopping and isolation, Leyva wanted to create a place for not just shopping, but socializing and doing business. So in addition to the stores, there is a workroom with conference tables and chairs, and two terraces for fashion shows, pop-up shops and mingling.

Leyva’s entry into merchandising started in 2012 with El Mercadito Bazar, a pop-up bazaar with crafts and fashions, that announced its varied locations on Facebook.

That ended two years ago, and soon after she pursued a more permanent boutique space while taking part in a business incubator. She found a business partner who appreciated her connection to the world of art, she said.

“He told me, I want to do something with you,” said Leyva. “I know you do a lot of things with art and I want to do something new, and I told him I want to do a boutique.”

The property she fell in love with — found by a friend who saw a Facebook listing — “was huge, so we have the restaurant and the terrace, and the gallery.”

“It was love at first sight,” said Leyva. “They opened the door for me and I said, ‘this is the place.'”

The conference room is a nod to the business side of creativity.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for a young artist to mix that with business, so we wanted to put that together,” said Leyva.

But mainly, Lagalá is a place to connect with the outside world. Her customer is someone who is “looking for something different, something that will make them feel free,” said Leyva. “Mérida is a great city, but I have noticed that some people who are not from here have difficult times meeting people or getting to socialize, so this is a point of encounter for all different people.”

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