New Photos Show Little Progress at Peón Contreras

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Restoration efforts at Mérida’s Teatro Peón Contreras are well underway, but there is still no date for when music will return to the city’s most important concert venue. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Mérida’s Peón Contreras may be ready to reopen as early as this summer.

However, this does not necessarily mean it will be ready to host Yucatán’s Symphonic Orchestra. 

This is because the restoration efforts that are furthest along have focused on factors like safety and structural integrity.

The first step will likely be to open the theater’s lobby, where cultural activities such as art shows have often been held.

As all culture lovers in the city know, the theater suffered a devastating fire on Nov. 1. 2022, apparently caused by a faulty electrical installation. 

The 2022 Peón Contreras fire was a blow for Mérida, especially given the severity of the damage. Photo: Courtesy

“The government has been very tight-lipped on progress at the Peón Contreras, and while work has been quite slow, it’s important to remember that this is not just restoring a building, it’s literally restoring a major work of art,” said an anonymous source at city hall. 

The outward-facing balconies at the Peón Contreras remain in disrepair, with fire-damaged doors and windows still awaiting replacement. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Complicating things even further is the theater’s frescoes and central dome, painted in 1907, which were reportedly damaged nearly beyond recognition.

The state of the fesco-adorned dome at the Peón Contreras, known as “Las Musas,” was painted in 1907, but no images of its current state have been allowed to be published. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The restoration effort, spearheaded by INAH, has come under criticism for its lack of transparency and slowness to act.

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There is also the fact that the fire could have been avoided entirely if a sprinkler system had been installed within the theater, a feature that has long been standard in venues of this type. 

When asked why no sprinkler system was in place, Yucatán Magazine’s source sighed and said, “Probably because of budget.” 

When the state symphony does return to the Peón Contreras, it will be under the baton of José Areán, who officially replaced Juan Carlos Lomónaco in early 2023. This change has widely been speculated to have been the result of Lomónaco’s outspokenness regarding the government’s mishandling of resources, which led up to the fire in Nov. 2022. 

The official reason for the change was announced as a need for a new focus and a greater emphasis on featuring traditional Mexican music over the works of the European-centered programs for which the OSY had become known.

When the Peón Contreras eventually reopens, the music of Vivaldi and Brahms will likely be accompanied by arrangements of traditional Mexican composers like Manuel M. Ponce and Armando Manzanero. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Since the fire at the Peón Contreras, Yucatán’s Symphony Orchestra has temporarily taken on new venues, including Mérida’s Palacio de La Música and the theater at the Club Campestre. 

The Palació de la Música on the corner of Centros Calle 58 and 59 is located just one block away from the Péon Contreras. Photo: Courtesy

Aside from the reconstruction efforts within the Peón Contreras, its street, Calle 60, is currently the scene of significant works. 

A firm date for when construction on Calle 60 will wrap up will likely come before this summer’s elections in June. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The ongoing construction work is part of Mérida’s plan to beautify and improve the infrastructure of its historic downtown, which dates to the 16th century.  

Business owners on Calle 60 have been complaining for months about the slow pace of construction as it has severely affected their sales. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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