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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

NY Times revisits Merida, a work in progress

Why Yucatan's capital is seen as more than a place to retire

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Lee Steele
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 best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
The owners of Apoala in the Centro have opened Tatemar at Plaza La Isla, a modern complex north of Merida. Photo: NY Times

“There’s not much to shake a stick at here in this remote corner of the Yucatan.”

That was one New York Times reporter’s conclusion in 2013. How times have changed.

A decidedly less snarky article now takes note of how Merida has grown — for better or worse — from investment from both Carlos Slim-types and the artistic community.

Restaurants, previously dismissed as capable of maybe “a decent bowl of lime and tortilla soup,” are prominently featured in today’s New York Times story.

The story doesn’t forget Merida’s Mayan roots or colonial history, but it updates the narrative with a scene-setter one of the new shopping malls built north of the Periferico.

Two of Carlos Arnaud’s restaurants, Apoala and the new Tatemar, by the artificial lake at La Isla, are both featured prominently.

When the group finishes dining at La Isla, and the sun is setting, the writer notices the familiar “explosion” of chattering black birds from a stand of tamarind trees. It served as a reminder that “for all the golf courses and Porsche dealerships, we were still in the jungle.”

Arnaud measures Merida’s growth in terms of Starbucks — from seven to 18 in four years. His first restaurant opened just months before that earlier New York Times article.

But more than restaurants, it’s the depth and breadth of the community that impresses the reporter most.

“Expat colonies can be insular, but Mérida’s outlanders are establishing deep roots here,” notes Peter Haldeman, the writer, who provides a long but hardly comprehensive list of varied foreigners with notable accomplishments here.

It’s a “a good place to be creative,” Laura Kirar tells him, without contradiction, during a large gathering at Catrin.

“People go to San Miguel to retire,” says David Serrano, an artist who recently exhibited at La Cupula. “Here you come and work. I think the heat wakes you up.”

Read the entire story here.

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