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 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.
Complicating things even further is the theater’s frescoes and central dome, painted in 1907, which were reportedly damaged nearly beyond recognition.
The restoration effort, spearheaded by INAH, has come under criticism for its lack of transparency and slowness to act.
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.
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.
Aside from the reconstruction efforts within the Peón Contreras, its street, Calle 60, is currently the scene of significant works.
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.