Photos put Peón Contreras fire damage into focus

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Newly released photos show more clearly the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

Yucatán’s Attorney General’s Office ruled that, as suspected, a short circuit caused a fire that seriously damaged the José Peón Contreras theater.

Starting at the third-floor audio booth, the Péon Contreras fire rose to the top of the landmark building, blackening a 1907 fresco that graced the interior of the auditorium’s dome, said the Fiscalía General del Estado.

Clearer photos and a video were also released, putting the extent of the damage in focus. The theater still stands, but clearly, months if not years of restoration work lie ahead — if officials can gather the funds.

Photo: Frame from Yucatán Attorney General’s Office video

The chandelier was seen in the video lowered from the ceiling and apparently intact. But the dome’s fresco is blackened beyond recognition, as seen in the photo released by the FGE.

Newly released photos show more clearly the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

The third level of the theater, where flames were contained, took the brunt of the damage. The rest of the effect of heat, smoke, and rubble.

Newly released photos show more clearly the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

That means the central dome, the upper level of box seats to the right of the corridors, as well as some lamps above the lobby, were most affected.

The theater, about to mark its 114th anniversary, has a capacity of 1,000 spectators. In addition, it features three temporary art exhibition rooms, a library, offices, and a café, which appears unscathed.

Newly released photos show more clearly the extent of damage inside the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. Photo: Courtesy

The Peón Contreras is considered the state’s most prominent cultural site, home to national and international events, plays, opera, music, dance, children’s shows, festivals, and conferences.

But the fire puts a halt to this hub of cultural activity just as the fall and winter season approaches. Most affected is the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra, which will need a new home to stage the final five performances of its current program. Its next performance had been scheduled for Nov. 11.

Mexico’s first feminist conference was held at the Péon Contreras from January 13 to 16, 1916, bringing together 617 women from all over the state to discuss their rights.

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